How to Stop Being Influenced By Others
The Caring Generation® – Episode 164 April 5, 2023. Are family caregivers more easily influenced by others due to high-stress levels? If you are a caregiver, do you ever wonder how to stop being influenced so you can make your own decisions and live your life?
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Are family caregivers more easily influenced by others due to high-stress levels? If you are a caregiver, do you ever wonder how to stop being influenced so you can make your own decisions and live your life?
Caregivers: How to Think for Yourselves
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Human beings are easily susceptible to the influence of other people and the media. What does influence mean? Influence means being affected by another person, information, an event, or a situation to the degree that this interaction or experience causes you to take a particular action.
Influence can take many forms. By gaining insight into how people or situations exert influence, you can take steps to ensure the decisions you make are yours and that you understand the consequences.
If you have a job, let’s look at a situation you may have experienced. You resign from a job to accept another position or to take time off from work.
What or who influenced your decision to resign?
- You might resign because of health problems
- A parent or a spouse may be in poor health, and you resign to care for them
- Maybe you have children who need your attention, or you want to have children
- You wanted a promotion that you did not receive
- The company culture is not a good fit with your personal beliefs
- You do not feel that you fit in with your co-workers
- The work environment is toxic
There are so many factors that influence decision-making. For example, an excellent reason for changing jobs may be receiving an offer you cannot refuse with a higher wage, salary, or promotion.
People Are Influencers
The people you spend the most time with have the most significant influence over you. So, if you are not happy or satisfied with your life, look at the people surrounding you.
If you are a full-time family caregiver, the person who may have the most influence over you may be an elderly parent or spouse. If you work or attend school full-time, you may spend a lot of time with your co-workers or friends.
Additionally, social groups—in person or online—and our close family members have a significant influence on the decisions that we make.
Let’s look at two more common examples
1 You care for an elderly parent who is highly negative and complains all the time
You notice that your habits and behaviors are becoming more like mom or dad, and you do not like the changes you see in yourself. You are not the person you used to be.
You feel more depressed and pessimistic. In the past, you were optimistic. Now all you do is complain, and you’re feeling pretty hopeless.
In this case, the behaviors of the person you care for affect your mental state and actions. Your new behaviors may be driving other family members and friends away
2 Friends or others in your life constantly tell you what to do
The question to ask is—do you vent or complain and ask for suggestions? Or do you seek attention, and as a result, others tell you what to do because they’re tired of hearing you complaining?
It’s easy for other people to attempt to be helpful and make recommendations that do not affect their lives but significantly affect your life. However, if you rely too much on others, you lose the opportunity to learn, grow, and gain confidence.
You know yourself better than anyone else. So don’t be easily swayed to do something that is out of character for you. I think we’ve all taken recommendations from others that didn’t work out the way we expected and then had a regret or maybe two.
What Makes Some People More Easily Influenced?
So, what makes some people more easily influenced by others? For example, if you are a caregiver, you may lack self-confidence.
The role of a caregiver exposes individuals to a lot of stress and unfamiliar experiences.
- Attending doctor appointments with mom or dad
- Accompanying loved ones to the hospital emergency
- Calling health insurance companies to ask about claims, benefits, or pre-approvals
- Picking up medications from the pharmacy
Because you have never performed these activities before—or only on rare occasions—you rely on the people helping you to do the right thing in their interactions with you.
Influence in the Workplace
Let’s look at influence in the workplace. It is easy to be influenced, inspired, or demotivated by the behaviors of co-workers or supervisors.
If you like your supervisor, you may be motivated to model their behaviors and excel at your job. But, on the other hand, if you wanted a promotion that you didn’t receive—regardless of the reason—you may become the “rotten apple” that tries to divide the team.
We’ve all been in situations where the potential exists to be dragged into another person’s drama that really has nothing to do with us. In these situations, avoiding drama and crazy is the best course of action.
Avoid being influenced or manipulated by another person into a battle you are left to fight after they disappear. These mean or toxic people swoop in, disappear and leave a disaster behind them.
The other unintentional impact of influence in the workplace may be that you become someone with a bad attitude or who can’t get along with anyone.
Unfortunately, once you burn a bridge, you can’t turn back the clock on re-establishing trusting relationships.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
How you interact with others lets them know how you want to be treated. If you continually ask for help, others may view you as helpless or unable to manage your affairs.
If you are confident, others may see you as a leader or a person to admire. On the other hand, stress may have you crumbling into a million tiny pieces. If you blow up or respond negatively, others may run the other way so they do not have to be around to experience your emotional reactions.
Interactions with the health care system significantly impact older adults and their caregivers.
Experiencing health problems and being sick may be a first-time event for a spouse or an aging parent.
Becoming a caregiver often happens overnight. One day mom or dad are fine. The next day they are hospitalized. The cause could have been an accident or an unexpected heart attack.
The Health Care System is Influential
The lives of the caregiver and the person who needs care are affected by doctors, nurses, office staff, and other providers. Healthcare professionals can be caring and empathetic, while others are burned out and should not be treating patients.
Customer service may not be a high priority because health care is not a voluntary need. The doctor is the most logical person to see if you are sick. Your health insurance company has a list of in-network providers.
The bill is the bill. It’s not like healthcare consumers shop around for the lowest-cost doctor or procedures like you might do when shopping for things you purchase regularly. Most people do not have that kind of time. And if you did, would you have to worry about getting less attention or poor-quality care?
So you see, consumers and patients are subjected to great influence by the health care system. Learning how to navigate the system can be a stress-filled experience.
Considerations for Taking Control
The first consideration for how to stop being easily influenced by others is to realize that you are subjected to hundreds of influences every day. Some of these influences are in your mind.
The brain has a fight or flight mechanism that is affected by imagined or real fears. The mind reacts to mental or physical stress. You may notice that your heart begins to race or your skin feels cold or hot – flushed.
Your thoughts and emotions may go on high alert. If your feelings sway to the negative, you can create stress-induced inflammation in the body that results in allergies, stomach pain, high blood pressure, and other chronic illnesses.
You can also experience physical pain. The emotions that can be difficult to deal with influence our choices. Emotions can cause us to be impulsive.
For example, how many of you walk down an aisle at the grocery store, and something catches your attention? Like a box of Captain Crunch or a chocolate cake not on your grocery list, it looks delicious. You know you don’t need it but you want it. So you buy it.
The Mind is Bombarded by Noise and Distracted by Impulsivity
We are bombarded by experiences and temptations multiple times daily through television, radio, emails, internet advertising, or displays of products in stores. Actors or public figures on television or social media influence you into thinking you need what they have, right?
Impulse purchases result from outside influences that affect our minds and make us buy things we don’t need.
Then when the credit card bill shows up, we are shocked and wish we had more self-control. I this is a repeating behavior for you, put yourself on a cash-only diet. Pay your regular bills first.
Then if you want something else and don’t have the cash, you don’t buy it—you save for it. You will be surprised by the number of things you do not need.
Being influenced leads to unplanned actions. Bells should go off in your head anytime an unplanned thought about doing something arises. This isn’t to say that you have to plan everything and cannot respond on the spot. Just realize that Influence from others can have unintended consequences.
A lack of information or education on a particular topic may result in a Google search for how to do this or that. Sometimes we ask friends or colleagues at work for advice.
The responses and information we receive from friends, co-workers, family, and others are influential. How to stop being easily influenced by others means that you recognize information and data as an influence.
In a perfect world of emotional self-control, consciously evaluate the information against some criteria. Setting criteria to be crystal clear about what we want and limiting the decision to these parameters can ensure that your decision is a good decision not to be regretted later.
As caregivers, the added emotions and stress related to caregiving tasks, time constraints, dealing with other people, paying for care, holding down a job, and trying to maintain a social life add up. The result can be brain burnout and mental exhaustion.
When this happens, becoming more susceptible to influence occurs. The most straightforward answer or alternative is often the choice.
This danger zone of influence is the second consideration for how to avoid influence. Put a pause on decision-making when you feel uncertain, exhausted, or highly emotional.
Please realize that the decision you are about to make may be faulty, and sleeping on it for a day or two or more will work out better in the long run. In high-pressure, high-stress circumstances, a lack of education, time pressure, confusion, or fear influences decision-making.
Circumstances and Pressure Can Increase Influence
Circumstances are influential. As we discussed earlier, navigating the healthcare system can be intimidating.
You or a parent sees the doctor, a nurse, or someone else who makes a recommendation. The natural inclination is to make an on-the-spot decision.
Know that you do not have to decide immediately. If the situation is not life-threatening, it’s better to press the pause button and think about the recommendation.
- Is the doctor recommending medication?
- What are the potential side effects of the medication?
- Can you or your parent take a different course of action so that the medication will not be needed?
- What if the recommendation is a treatment that can’t be reversed?
- What is the cost?
The cost to the patient is invisible to the physician making the recommendation. However, the cost is the main reason that patients do not follow through.
Prescription medications may be unaffordable. The co-pay or deductible for a procedure may be too costly.
Health decisions should not be taken lightly. Become an advocate for yourself and research options.
Establish a Track Record for Decision-Making to Minimize Being Influenced by Others
Automatically accepting the recommendations of healthcare professionals can be highly problematic. How to stop being easily influenced by others means pausing to think about all recommendations or suggestions until you establish a track record.
While some decisions are easy, like what to eat if you have three choices, other decisions involving agreeing to take a medication or having surgery may have more significant consequences.
The third course of action is to evaluate your motivation or the motivation of the other side—the person or place—like a store.
Stores need to sell to stay in business. If you don’t need anything, avoid going to the store, looking through catalogs, or being tempted to buy online.
Want Vs. Need
The question to ask yourself is, do I really need this, or do I want it? And then wait a day or two or even a week and ask yourself the question again.
This time delay can ensure that you make a solid decision and not a decision based on impulsivity. For any buying decision, create a written list of criteria.
For example, does this item replace something that is broken or needs to be replaced that I currently use every day? This would be an item like a toothbrush used twice daily.
If the answer is yes, then it’s probably a—yes, buy it now. Or if this item duplicates something I already have—why do I need or want it?
The next question is, can I pay cash, or do I have to use credit? If you must use credit, can you wait until your next payday?
Another great exercise is going through your closet or house every six months and giving away things you don’t use.
Now that doesn’t mean you will replace them. For example, you may still have 20 t-shirts after giving 20 away.
Influence and Choices
Let’s look at the influence of obtaining information to make a choice. In this case, you must choose an assisted living community for mom or dad. Your parents are not thrilled with the idea of moving.
You accidentally registered on one of those online free housing referral sites without reading the fine print. So now you have salespeople from communities calling you every minute of the day, pressuring you to come for a tour.
Making this decision is a little trickier because a lot is weighing on this decision. Your parents will not let you live this down if you make a terrible choice.
The decision also requires that you believe the person providing the information has the skills or experience to help you make the best decision and they are not a dishonest or pushy salesperson.
You want a community that is a long-term solution so that your parents don’t have to move multiple times. So, what do you do?
Be Thorough In Evaluating Information
Start by being thorough. Make sure you understand your parent’s health conditions and how these might change over the next 3-5 years.
- Is the health of your parents stable enough so that they can live in this location and not need to move? If not, you may look at a community with different levels of care at the same location.
- Do your parents have enough money to pay the community fees and monthly expenses, and if so, how long?
There are a lot of considerations when planning to move a parent. This is not a decision you want to take lightly.
If you are considering moving a parent to a nursing home, listen to The Caring Generation Episode 85, Putting a Parent into a Nursing Home.
Giving and Receiving Advice
The best people in your life are the people who listen to you and only give advice IF you ask. But let’s say that this person you love really needs your help.
Mom or dad needs a caregiver. There’s no one else they trust. Your siblings have declined.
So rather than only being under the influence of this person who is your parent or spouse, you may also be the subject of a persuasive argument.
Your family member may have a list of reasons you should give up a part of your life to become their caregiver. So, like before, press the pause button.
Have an honest and realistic discussion about the effect of the decision on everyone involved. It is essential to look at the impact on the caregiver’s life and the life of the person who needs care.
Put the money discussion on the table. It can be uncomfortable to talk about money. But if you don’t, you, as the caregiver, may come out badly at the end of this deal.
Write down your goals. Maybe you want to get married and have children or fully commit to a career that may have you working 60 or 70 hours a week. Unfortunately, caregiving for aging parents may not fit with your goals.
Guilt is Influential
Guilt about prioritizing the caregiver’s life over a parent who needs care can be a major influence. How well do you know yourself?
If you will be miserable giving up your life, then do not. Say no to being the caregiver and investigate other options to discuss with your loved one.
Make a list of other relevant criteria. Few caregivers or families have these discussions out of the gate.
Instead, family caregivers jump feet first into a caregiving situation and then regret the commitment several months or a year down the road. Your siblings or other family members can also attempt to influence your decision or place the burden of guilt on you if you are single.
Being single means you are the obvious choice to be the caregiver. Not always.
Peer Pressure is Influential
Think back to grade school or high school. Did peer pressure significantly influence your actions because you wanted to be liked?
What will happen if mom or dad get mad at you or your siblings stop talking to you because you refuse to be the caregiver? Do not let fear or the negative behaviors of other people impact you.
It’s your life that you are giving up. However, the influencers are not giving up anything. In fact, they are probably gaining.
You may have everything to lose. And while we shouldn’t think of these situations as win or lose, we must be honest about the effect on everyone involved.
Caregiving Relationships Are Unbalanced
There is very little balance in caregiving situations. Alack of balance is a factor in increasing health problems, possibly even memory loss and physical disability. With age and growing health problems, the body becomes weak.
Do you see yourself lifting mom or dad when they cannot stand? Or bathing them? Or changing adult diapers? All of this can happen.
So, when committing to becoming a caregiver, give yourself time before you make a permanent commitment. As yourself, if I decide one way or another, how does this affect my life and their life, and how?
Time, money, relationships, health, work, care of children, social relationships, planning for your retirement, etc. It is also true that some people are not meant to be caregivers.
If your decision is no, then help the person who needs care create a plan so that they have access to care. You can remain in their life, but not as the primary caregiver.
Influence of Life-Changing Situations
Let’s look at the influence of friends and changing life situations. Decisions like having children, focusing on a career, or moving can impact relationships.
A friend may start a family and ask you why you haven’t. This difference in lifestyle may mean that you do not see each other as often because you do not have “children” as a common thread.
Maybe you work full time, and your friend does not, or maybe your friends are retired. You would love to spend time with them but must work because your vacation time is limited. Friends keep telling you to retire, but it’s not financially feasible.
Here is another situation. Your best friend is getting a divorce and wants you to be empathetic. She tells you that your husband is like hers and that you should get a divorce so that both of you can live together.
Again, think back to the motivation and change in life circumstances. Your friend may now be excluded from the circle of previously married friends and must start her life all over.
If you are happily married, there is no reason to give up your marriage to make life easier for her. The intentions of any person who attempts to disrupt your life significantly must be questioned.
Just because a friend makes a significant life change does not mean you must make a similar decision.
Make Different Choices
Remember what your parents probably said when you were young. Just because Sally gets her hair cut, pierces a body part, or gets a tattoo doesn’t mean you have to do the same.
You may have friends who spend all their money buying a new car every two years. So instead, you keep your car for ten years and choose to save and buy a house.
In these situations, you avoid influence because you have goals you want to meet. By having a solid sense of self and what you want out of life, you can stop being influenced by other people’s actions or emotions.
Influence is highly emotional. Others trying to influence our elderly loved ones can prey on a lack of knowledge, fear, and vulnerability, create conspiracy theories, compare you to other people or situations, drag you into commiserating with them, constantly complaining, or blaming other people.
Do not let yourself be hooked by influence. Instead, set aside emotions and bring out logic. Making your own choices and decisions benefits from education, time, and experience.
Much of this depends on the environment in which you grew up. Your neighborhood, the financial status of your family, where you went to school, maybe religion, and the social groups where you spent a lot of time.
Family Relationships Impact the Influence Parents Have Over Children
Childhood experiences and relationships with parents contribute to levels of independence or dependence on family. The more dependent you are upon parents to help you with aspects of your life, the more vulnerable you are to outside influences.
If you rely on others to help you make decisions, then learning to stop being easily influenced by others will probably be more challenging. But that does not mean you can’t get to a place of independence and confidence.
If you look to your parents or anyone for approval to do things in your life, you’ve given up control. If so, you may be highly susceptible to outside influence and what others expect of you.
You may not be good at setting boundaries or drawing a line in the sand past which you will not step.
So if you are in this situation, the first action you can take is to stop living your life on autopilot.
We’ve all lived on autopilot at one time or another because of stress or other events in our life. We stop paying attention and let things happen.
Living on autopilot or allowing things to happen without paying attention can result in feeling out of control or like a victim. You begin to believe that outside circumstances control every event in your life and that you are powerless to make a change.
Or you may be comfortable. You have a low sense of urgency to make changes. You feel like you can’t make your own decisions without others’ approval. To arrive at a stage where you feel you can make changes, you must investigate all the variables and options.
The challenge is you may not know where to turn. A sense of doubt or low self-esteem makes individuals more susceptible to being influenced by others.
If you feel you cannot make changes on your own, you may need a counselor or a coach to move you along.
If you make this choice be extremely careful not to be influenced or dependent on the counselor or coach, or you will be moving the problem to another relationship instead of solving the problem.
Change is hard. Gaining independence can be challenging if you have depended on others your entire life or are easily influenced.
Put yourself first. Create a clear picture of how you want your life to look and a plan to make it happen. Then, you can master how to stop being easily influenced by others.
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