You Can’t Make Me – Or Can You?

energy“You can’t change someone else.”

It’s a common piece of advice that few would argue the wisdom of.

(At least not anyone who’s tried to train a spouse to put dirty socks in the hamper or attempted to make a teenager respect curfew.)

But while I’ll agree we can’t create on another’s behalf, I’m also quick to point out we have a significant influence on those around us – an influence that many of us don’t acknowledge nor manage.

I’m talking about how my scary crackhead neighbor became the model of love and peace (for me, anyway), and how my boyfriend perfectly reflects my expectations of him (good, bad or ugly).

The fact is we flow an energy – all the time. It’s never shut off. The thoughts we think and the feelings we feel contribute to our ongoing vibration. And that vibration affects others.

Have you ever found yourself doing something out of character? It may have been you were responding to someone else’s vibe.

I love the example Laura shared in the New York Times about how she refused to buy into what her husband was selling (divorce). Her commitment to what she wanted overruled his passing fancy for a midlife crisis.

(I don’t mean to minimize what he was experiencing – but Laura’s grounding in love and support proved stronger than what he was temporarily flowing.)

The way I learned this in Landmark Education was that we “create” another person by how we “know them to be.”

So as I know you readers to be generous and wise and appreciative, you are.  (And man, am I grateful for that!) As I suspect President Obama to be wise and well-intentioned and capable, I see evidence of that. As I think of my mailman, my brother, my clients, my dogs, my fellow commuters in traffic .. whatever I’m thinking, that’s what I elicit from you.

In Landmark one of our homework assignments was to get others to attend our graduation (where they would be hard-pitched entrance into the program as well). Which is why I don’t recommend Landmark.

Anyway, a young man reported back the next day that he had done his homework and asked his girlfriend to come to the event, but she said no. He wasn’t surprised at her answer; after all, she’s pretty stubborn.

Our course leader, Barry Terry (an amazingly brilliant coach), asked him in front of 200 other course participants: “Who did you call to invite?”

“My girlfriend,” he replied politely to bring Barry up to speed, as if his attention had lapsed.  (Barry’s attention doesn’t lapse.  Ever.)

“Who did you call?” Barry asked again with a tougher tone this time.

“My girlfriend,” said the young man a little less confidently this time, as now he wasn’t sure what Barry was really after.

This time an intense and demanding tone: “WHO did you call?”

“I don’t know what you want me to say … I, I called my girlfriend.”  The young man was flustered now.

Barry addresses the rest of the audience and asks: “WHO did he call?”

In unison, an audience of 200 replied: “His stubborn girlfriend.”

He called his stubborn girlfriend. Now the kid gets it. Kudos to him for realizing so quickly that he thought of her as stubborn, and thus that’s what she must be for him.

Barry tells him to let her out of the “box” he’s put her in and to call her again, right now. Only this time to call his open girlfriend.

The young man returns ten minutes later with tears in his eyes. (He’s officially my hero at this point.)

She said yes.

Same request, same girl, the only difference was his expectation.

Powerful stuff, folks.

This is why they train salespeople to expect to get the sale, right? So they’ve at least got that going for them.

(Who here has never had the experience of buying something they didn’t really intend to purchase? Or sleeping with someone they were sure they wouldn’t?  ha)

If this post weren’t already this long, I’d love to explore how entrainment and that “like attracts like” thing contribute to this phenomenon – but, I’ve likely tested your patience already.

(Wait! Not that .. I expect you LOVE this topic and are eager to hear more later!  lol)

What I’m simply suggesting is to pay attention to what you’re flowing energetically and how that’s affecting others. And vice versa: pay attention to what’s affecting you and make sure it’s a trip you want to take.

You know I can’t wait to hear your stories about this in action!

  • August 7, 2009
  • Amy says:

    Amazingly timed post! Really! Thank you for the quote about changing the way you look at things- loved it.
    I have also been thinking a lot about the part acting out of character/ others pulling behavior out of you. I’ve heard Abe mention this and would love to learn more.
    I experience this with my customers, and while it’s nice to know it wasn’t the real me acting this way when it’s negative, I’d still rather be better about not being influenced this way. I am getting better, especially after having the awareness. It allows some self-forgiveness that opens up to letting it go.
    Love this blog!!!!!! Always reading, rarely commenting, but always loving it.

  • Carol L says:

    Thank you for providing another AHA moment for me, Jeannette! You rock!
    Cheri, I read the reviews of the book you recommended and already have it reserved at the library. Sounds intriguing. The library system I’m in doesn’t have a lot of metaphysical/spiritual books, so I buy most of the books I read. All of us in this wonderful community must vibrate similarly to have found each other, so the book recommendations on here hold more weight for me than anywhere else. Thank you for offering your recommendation . . . I appreciate it!
    And Erik, I LOVE the word “automagically!”

  • Erik says:

    Thanks Cheri, I quickly read the review on – it really seems to help people see their true motives and to ‘think outside the box’ – I guess this happens almost automagically when we stop judging (which is an act of thinking outside the box).

  • Cheri says:

    Erik – Your post made me think about the book “Leadership and Self Deception’. It’s all about being in a box. Have you read it? You would love it! (It’s fabulous!)

  • Erik says:

    tough topic 🙂 – it often seems to me, that I am greatly influenced by what others think of me.
    About your question “have you ever acted out of character”? Yes, totally … and it was pretty probably due to my girlfriend back then ;).
    Another thing is, one can see people as mirrors of oneself, helping you to know who you are. So if I complain about others influencing me much, then I should question myself if I am doing this likewise.
    I try to use non-judgementalism (as taught for example by Jesus) since I know, each and every judgement I pass on to others, is passed on to me. This is really powerful.
    Big plus: when I stop judging others, I can see the rest of their personality I so aptly ignored till then by putting them in a small frame that was my judgements.
    After all it makes you much calmer and more content if you stop judging, you can finally start seeing …
    Best regards, and yes, do write more about this topic 😉

  • Jeanne says:

    It’s kinda like “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” I love that quote, have no idea where I found it, but it seems to apply to things, events, people. Makes me feel like a magician waving my wand! Abacadabra, baby.

  • Well, Susan, next time I travel, I want to do it with you. Especially when Miraval is the destination. he he
    You go, girl!

  • PurePotential says:

    On the wavelength….am on vacation and it is fabulous as I knew it would be…speeding through airports and making all connections easily. Being treated with the exact vibe that I sent out to others. What positive reinforcement for expecting, seeing, knowing the best in myself and expecting, seeing, knowing, experiencing the best in others. If they show up with another attitude, it soon vanishes and is replaced with caring, positive, actions. Namaste, Jeannette

  • Diane, I don’t think you’re THAT new if you reached the insight long ago that perception is reality.
    You get more credit than you’re giving yourself!
    And you ask an excellent question.
    There are probably lots of good answers; the one that comes first to my mind is that we release attachment to it. When we don’t care so much, or we don’t need a certain outcome, then the obsession leaves and we’re in a much more open place to refocus.
    I’ve got a feeling you’ve got a good answer to your own excellent question, though.
    Thanks for posting, Diane!

  • Diane says:

    The thing is, though, even though we have this knowledge, how do we STOP obsessing about that which we DO NOT want to happen, especially if we’re used to a certain outcome? What do you do to stop those negatives from creeping into your mind when you’re focusing on a positive outcome? How do each of you just ‘let go and let God,’ or let the universe give you the outcome you want? I am pretty new to all this, as you can tell 🙂

  • Diane says:

    I came to the conclusion a long time ago that the perception of reality=reality. It was like a light had been turned on in my head!

  • Thanks for two things, Tiffany – wording this practice or habit so succinctly and powerfully, and for reminding that the results are INSTANT!
    Much appreciated. 🙂

  • Tiffany says:

    This is one way I can ALWAYS check my vibe. When people are responding to me in a negative way, I know I’m not in the right mindset, because I’m not expecting positive things out of them.
    I love having those days where I realize I need to change what I’m putting out there, and I instantly see results. I can complain about a friend being shallow and snobby, or I can embrace her interesting fashion taste and hilarious jokes.
    It’s all up to us, what you THINK will happen always DOES!

  • David Michaels says:

    So true. I have to agree. I started noticing this in my blog writing years ago. Or in how I’d talk to people in person. It’s like there’s subtle differences — what you say, how you say it, what you DON’T say, etc — that almost subconsciously tell the person what you’re expecting and how they should respond.
    And subconsciously, I’ve learned, in general we like to meet others’ expectations of ourselves. (That’s why it’s SUPER important to have a peer group that sees the best in you and has high expectations for you and your life.)
    Thanks for sharing these words of wisdom, Jeannette.

  • No WONDER I had such pleasure in meeting you by phone the other day, David!

  • Tammy – you’re funny. I prefer to think of it as a helpful hug with a little tap on the shoulder. lol
    Thanks for your post, sweetie. Made my day. 🙂

  • Tammy says:

    Thank you, that is all…just thank you. This is the slap in the back of the head I was needing!

  • Ooh, I HAVE heard of those studies, Cheri! That research is strong testimony to what we’re talking about here!
    What a blessing that you and your husband are great at balancing each other out, and especially that you’re so aware of all this.
    Lucky boys. 🙂
    Plus I think you’re right – I think children and animals are even more sensitive or responsive to the energy we flow than most adults. At least, that’s been my experience.
    Thanks for expanding this conversation, Cheri. Much appreciated!

  • Cheri says:

    What a great post! I really relate to this from a place of being a parent. My husband and I have two amazing boys. Both different, both wonderful.
    In the ‘perfect’ parent world I would love it if we always saw our kids in fantastic light. Most of the time, we do see their greatness. I feel it as seeing their heart.
    But sometimes one of us thinks of them in ways that don’t serve them. It rarely happens that we both do it at the same time. (I am so blessed to have a great partner as a husband!) One of us might be feeling that our son is disrespectful, the other one sees that he is tired or hurt.
    When I start thinking bad thoughts about a child or not expecting much or the worst, here it comes! I don’t know if kids are even more sensitive than adults, but they really give what you expect! Or maybe another way to say it is I see what I expect!
    Have you heard of the studies where some teachers were told that some students were brilliant and sure enough at that end of the year that’s how those children performed?
    I share my heart with my kids. That I love them and that they can do or be anything that they want. I see brilliant futures for them – carefree teenage years, many wonderful friends, great grades, fun in learning, excelling in sports….
    Now it’s time to turn my great expectations to other areas of my life. I know this works, I’m inspired to use it more consciously in my life!

  • Couldn’t agree more, Ms Nikki, that sometimes the best thing to do is not even challenge ourselves with “re-thinking” how we know them to be.
    I prefer to follow the path of least resistance, so when I can avoid this exercise, I do. When it doesn’t feel good to follow that path (like it’s a boss at a job I don’t want to quit), that’s when I invite myself to alter how I “know” them to be when that knowing doesn’t seem to serve either of us.
    Good point! Thanks for posting this, Ms Nikki!

  • MSNikki says:

    Another truism! For the most part, I do agree with the “you get what you expect” theory in regards to people.
    My ex was no “ex”ception to that rule. Towards the end, he acted in ways that I predicted he would. Down to the last no show-no phone call episode. Although we didn’t have Verizon, we both had reliable and stable cell phone coverages, employed postmen, and an ample supply of pigeons.
    But aren’t there some people who just aren’t good for you to be around? Being around a negaholic so much will turn me into an alcoholic. Or what about the people that you intuit may not be best suited to be in your company? Like the socially inept guy in one of my social groups (oxymoron, I know) who doesn’t seem to understand that we do *not* have scab picking in common. Just sayin’.

  • Ha! Dena – way to turn the spotlight within!
    Well said – and what a beautiful place to start, huh? (With how we think of ourSELVES.)
    Amen to that!
    Thanks for reading and especially for posting, my friend.

  • Dena says:

    Funny, I was reading your post and the comments and thinking how I can get tripped up on this one…it’s sooo true. Then I had the thought…more often than not-I have to “re-think” myself! LOL! I like the idea of letting go that it may be ‘tricky’.
    I have an incredible amount of appreciation for you all. Thank You.

  • So many wise words here, Flavia … including that it’s easier to do BEFORE we “know” them! ha ha
    And that improving a relationship with ONE person can definitely positively affect other relationships as well.
    I’m impressed you knew to practice this back when you were working as an au pair!
    Thanks for sharing here, and ps – I LOVE the Abe quotes you submit to the Yahoo group!

  • Flavia says:

    LOVE this post and I’m eager for more!
    I’m really good at expecting people to show me their best side because that’s what I look for! I think it’s a gift I was born with because I don’t ever remember to have chosen it deliberately.
    Plus now I like to leave room for people to surprise me by showing me a different part of them. And when they do- I really appreciate it! I’m dee-lighted by it! I’m delighted to see that I’ve taken them out of their box and that I don’t know everything-which allows me to live with openness and curiosity.
    I have lots of examples where people acted really nicely to me only to find out later that other people thought they were “awful” and recommended staying away from them.
    Years ago I was an au-pair. Since one of the parents were in Irak the grand-ma’s would come to fill that role. And they’d switch every month. Well the first grand-ma I didn’t jive with- she showed up in my experience as really controlling ( I know how and why I created that too). She had been there for a month- my 1st month and now the second one was coming and I had heard from friends of the previous au-pair that this grand-ma was not well linked by her, that she was this and that. She liked the first one much better. My 1st thought was, “Oh, no!! I didn’t even like this one” but then I pivoted saying I’m going to create her to be much better and way more fun. And when she arrived I made an extra effort to look for her positive aspect and it turned out amazing!!! I LOVED her and I laughed with her so much and she made my experience go smoother. I looked forward to her coming over! I really found an ally in her. I even stayed in touch with her afterwords. In fact I stayed in touch with both of them because my relationship with the first grand-ma improved a lot too.
    I think it works much better if we are aware of looking for the best in people even before we meet them. The second helpful thing to do is be aware and shift our focus immediately after the first time they show us something that is “less than pleasing” instead of waiting for it to pile up which will be much harder to pivot from.

  • Now that’s goose bump material there, Mary!!
    I LOVE LOVE LOVE this story – and you knew I would!!
    Thanks for sharing a real life example of how to turn it around when it’s especially challenging!
    You rock. 🙂

  • Jenny says:

    I would have continued reading your post if it were twice as long–until you told me it was long enough already. Ha!
    Thanks for pointing this out. When I take a few minutes at night to think of the things I appreciate about my husband, the next day he gives me many more reasons to appreciate him. When I get frustrated for “having to do it all myself,” he sure proves me right the next day!
    Where I get stuck is expecting things to be different than they have been in the past. I once had a boss who never showed an ounce of competence. I would have had a hard time meeting with him and expecting him to suddenly be competent. How do we get past those tricky ones?

  • I have this one covered!! 🙂
    One time I had this job where everyone loved me in the company EXCEPT the two people I was working with, my boss and my colleague in the same department… And let me tell you, when I started there they were not having ANY of me!! I even cried a few days in the bathroom it was so tough… I’m just not used to people not liking me in the workplace! (My expectation…)
    Anyway, because I know about the LOA and because I was DETERMINED to get these people to like me (mainly so I wouldn’t have to quit, like, immediately!), I changed my vibe towards them and stuck with it, even on those days where they were looking at me as if to say “Go to H*LL!!” Well, to make a long story short, it only took about two weeks before these people LOVED me!!! I’m talking 180 degree change! It was actually kind of off-putting at first because they had been so rude to me before, and now they were wanting to eat lunch with me, do special favors for me, etc. But it worked!! 🙂
    If you’re in a similar situation, try flowing love and positive feelings towards the other person or visualize yourself sending them pink or golden energy… It works!! Before long, you will be so happy you did:)

  • Well thanks for popping in, Diane!!
    And I already know you’ll have a BLAST with thinking of your guy as someone who, with his new understanding and wisdom and perspective in life, really enjoys being highly communicative with you and responsive in not just returning your calls, but in initiating them.

  • Diane says:

    Wow. Talk about serendipity! I was just thinking about this very same subject. I have had a 20-year on and off relationship with an older man. Two months ago, we rekindled things after not seeing each other for years — both of us older and wiser. This is currently a long-distance relationship. I have noticed that I become anxious after leaving him a phone message. Long story short, decades ago he never returned calls (or rarely), so I have been in that same mode ‘not expecting’ as I was years ago. You’re absolutely right in saying if we believe something to be true about someone, it will be the case. We’re sending out that vibration. I have decided to just let the anxiety go and allow the universe to work its magic. I love this man and I know he loves me. I am thinking positive things and I know they will be reflected back to both of us! I just happened upon your site while looking for something else. But, it was no accident! Thank you for your insight!

  • Oh Jenny, you are making me LAUGH – because I think it’s our HUSBANDS who are the tricky ones!! lol
    Well, it’s different for each of us, isn’t it? Who DOESN’T have someone in their life that is really challenging to drop what we “know” about them to make room for a new expectation?
    Perhaps it could start with us not thinking of this person as so tricky. That’s probably not a thought that’s helping, is it?
    Finding a new way to think about it might work … like, if I recognized that if I can “re-think” Russ, I can “re-think” ANYONE – that thought helps me there. Or replace Russ with whoever my biggest challenge has been (neighbor, Kymm, ex-husband – I got a nice list to choose from). ha
    Ooh, but I skipped a step, didn’t I? First making peace with how they are – or make peace with how we THINK they are … and that eases up some of the tension already.
    If I show up at work knowing my boss is a jerk and I’m okay with that (feeling peace about his jerkiness), I think it’s easier to find something to appreciate about him (which makes it easier to find a new expectation) because I’m not so hung up on how he shouldn’t be a jerk.
    Actually, Jenny, I’m feeling like your post deserves a post of its own – this is an important topic! It’s one thing to REALIZE we’re doing this (which this post intended to create the awareness around) – it’s another to start playing with that awareness.
    Thanks for the inspiration for a part two! 🙂

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