It’s sometimes called the “ripple effect” when something disturbs still water, and what had started as small systematically spreads outward.
Unfortunately, we have probably all been guilty of contributing to a verbal ripple effect at one time or another. Someone hurts or misunderstands us, maybe we are mad or extremely frustrated with someone, and before we know it, we are off and running….
But step back – there are two ways we can react:
- Quietly process the situation ourselves and maybe talk to one, and I mean one, trusted confidant…then regain our composure and move on.
- Pour our angst and frustration out to whomever will listen. This could be a co-worker, friend, friend of a friend, the mailman or the dry cleaning person. No matter whom the “whomever” is, once the words leave our mouth, we can never take them back and we have changed someone’s perception, intentionally or unintentionally, about someone else.
The second option can be deadly in organizations, but also in friendships and families.
So how do you stop yourself before you’ve negatively influenced someone’s perception of another?
- Take a moment, and I mean literally take a moment, before spilling your grievances.
- Pause and think about whatever story/juicy tidbit/total frustration you are going to tell someone and what influence your rant will have toward the absent person or situation. Are you sharing simply to make yourself look better or right?
- Identify one confidant – preferably someone removed from the situation who will impartially listen to you and, most importantly, help you see your part in the situation and also the other person’s perspective. This confidant can be a sounding board to help you decide how best to resolve any outstanding issues with the other person.
If you have ever experienced someone negatively influencing another’s perception of you, then you understand first-hand why paying attention to how we influence others (in our words and actions) is so important.
“It takes tremendous discipline to control the influence, the power you have over other people’s lives.” ?Clint Eastwood