How You Influence and Why You Should Take It Seriously

I came across an article last week that wasn’t as surprising as it maybe should have been but did reinforce a theory for me that is worth exploring.

screen-shot-2017-08-02-at-11-05-50-am
Members of an anti-immigrant in Norway mistook six empty bus seats for six women wearing burqas. Facebook/Sindre Beyer

The angle of this picture was posted in an anti-immigrant Facebook group and was considered “terrifying” and “proof of immigration nightmares” until one member pointed out the seats were empty.

That may seem silly to you, but if you pause for just a minute to consider how many of your current opinions have been developed in part because of those around you, I think you will have to admit that no one is exempt from being swayed by emotion over rational thought a time or two. Further, everyone is susceptible to developing an inaccurate opinion even when the facts are sitting right in front of them.

A recent study of the highest stress jobs included these factors:

• Travel
• Career Growth Potential
• Physical Demands
• Environmental Conditions
• Hazards Encountered
• Meeting the Public
• Competition
• Risk of Death or Grievous Injury
• Immediate Risk of Another’s Life
• Deadlines
• Working in the Public Eye

Coaching includes at least 6 of these factors for the majority of the year. As a wife, I have had to learn how to empathize without taking on the stress of the actual coaching job. It’s too much to carry the strain of both of the coach and wife roles. As I’ve worked on discerning what I need to focus on versus what I don’t, I’ve realized that many of those unneeded burdens were picked up because of the influence of others.

“Well it’s football season, guess that means your a widow again!”

“We interrupt this marriage to bring you football season.”

“Honey do you have anything to say before football season starts?”

“Oh, so you are a single parent now.”

Whether said jokingly or not, these phrases imply some pretty specific things about the life a coaching family. To be honest, if any of them were true I would never encourage anyone to pursue coaching.

Just like the photograph above, coaches’ wives can influence those around them to think specific things about the coaching life. Telling a new bride or a new mom they are about to become a widow or a single parent may seem like a cute way of saying hang on you are going to have to take on a lot of the responsibility around the house. But it could also encourage someone to disengage from their husband. 

Telling someone they are a single parent means they get to make all the decisions by themselves. While this may be true of many coaching couples, I have learned in our family that when I do that my kids lose out. If I look at life only from my perspective I may say no to something that my kids would really excel in. If I discuss it with my husband a new perspective may be offered and a different decision made. Further, this process reminds our sons that their dad loves them and cares about them as well as reinforcing that he is an important family member.

Here’s the thing, and it goes back to the picture above. Social media never tells the whole story. We are all pre-dispositioned to think a certain way.

Life is full of opportunities to influence people. Life is also full of people to be influenced by.  Ultimately, the truth of this picture was revealed by one person who was willing to speak out against the crowd. So fellow coaches’ wife, are you wrestling with how other’s words are shading your view? Here’s my encouragement:

Ask For Perspective

We all have those few people who are always on our team in life. Ask them what they observe. Do they see your stress level increase in certain situations? Do they watch you doing an amazing job with your kids when you are telling yourself you are failing? Find your people and let them cheer you on.

Timing Is Everything

You could be fortunate enough to enter a coaching staff with a head coach and his wife who are calm, encouraging and more in love than ever. You could also enter a staff when the exact opposite is true. Unfortunately, coaching is one of those professions where you can’t avoid each other all the time, and you might have to deal with a negative Nelly.

Remember that they may shift their attitudes and perspectives at any point, and you have permission to do so as well. If you don’t want to be called a widow then don’t let people do so. Don’t be bullied into buying in to agreeing with something you aren’t comfortable with. Someone else may think it’s funny. That doesn’t mean it is.

Weigh All Words

You may find that you are in a situation where you aren’t at the same stage of life as anyone else. That’s ok! Those further ahead of you in life may have maneuvered through some of the road bumps you are yet to encounter. Whether you approach things the same way or not, the perspective of those who have gone before you is always valuable.

Are you a veteran surrounded by newbies? No worries! Fresh eyes can be the healthiest thing to encounter when you are in a rut. Taking the time to listen to how a situation is viewed by others can give you a new perspective and even energy.

You Are An Influencer Whether You Choose So or Not

Many coaching families see themselves as team and community leaders. Other wives just expect that life will be all about fun. Coaching wives sometimes take the perspective that it is other people’s role to influence. The reality is that everyone is an influencer. Each person who commented on the photo of the empty bus seats reaffirmed the previous comments.

If you find yourself feeling isolated or sad when football is starting I encourage you to take some time to see where those thoughts originated. Maybe you will discover (just like I did) that your coaching life and marriage can be an amazing team effort, even if it’s not the popular quote.

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