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Our family members are the most difficult people to influence. They know our flaws, they have seen our bad behaviors, and they have been directly or indirectly affected by our actions. Nevertheless, we, as fathers, have to influence our families toward right conduct, character, and beliefs.
Every family is unique. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to the way we influence our own families. But would it be a ridiculous idea to follow a few guiding principles to help us become better influencers? What I am going to share in this post today is inspired by what I learned from the following books:
- How To Win Friends and Influence People — Dale Carnegie
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion — Robert Cialdini, PhD
- Never Split The Difference — Chris Voss
The 7 keys to influencing your family
- Start with yourself.
The common and overall premise of these books is that influence starts with ourselves. We can change other people’s behavior by changing our own. The truth is we are a product of another person’s influence. If we want to positively influence our families, we must be careful about whom we let influence us.
- Build strong and authentic relationships.
People tend to follow personalities they either like or respect. My wife likes BTS and that is why she became part of the Army. I respect Warren Buffett, so I listen to everything he teaches about business and investing. Being an influencer in a family setting is the same, but a hundred times more difficult. As mentioned earlier, it is easy to like to respect people who are not part of the family because we do not see their flaws.
It is not easy to like people who are in a bad mood. It is a challenge to respect people who have hurt you. The only way to build credibility in a family is by having authentic relationships. It is a relationship where we admit and accept each other’s imperfections, while we forgive and love one another continuously.
- Know what they want.
Why do you want to influence your family? The reality is that there are people who do it for their own gain. No one wants to be “influenced” or “sold to.” You will lose your audience the moment they feel like you are hard-selling, or being manipulative. Everyone has their own will and desires. Nobody cares about what you have to say unless it benefits them. The key is to let them talk about what they want, and show them how to get it. Active listening is one of the skills we should learn as leaders of our families.
Reciprocity is a powerful force. Humans have a natural urge to return a favor or pay back the gifts they received. As we make the first move to serve our family members, we do not only show how much we love them, but it also spurs them to do the same. Of course, we are not doing it for selfish reasons. It should not be an “I’ll scratch your back, and you scratch mine” kind of service. The goal is to simply present ourselves as a model of good behavior.
- Affirm every improvement.
Do not criticize, condemn, or complain. Instead, give honest and sincere appreciation when your relatives display proper actions. Always try to catch them doing good and praise them immediately (and appropriately). You can give a pat on the back, a compliment, or a small token to make it tangible. As for me, there are times when I even treat them to a nice dinner to celebrate the moment.
- Tell them what they’ll lose not what they’ll profit.
Have you ever wondered why limited-time offers and deadlines work so well? It is because the fear of loss is always greater than our desire for gain. People respond well to scarcity. If we want to become better influencers, we should learn how to speak in terms of what people will miss out instead of what they will obtain. This concept also applies to our presence. Family members tend to take us for granted if we always make ourselves available to them. Building a healthy boundary among relatives will encourage everyone to cherish the moment they’re together.
I know you have experienced “the pull” to do something — or at least check out — what the majority of people in your circle are doing. We tend to copy one another. When we see three to five people gazing at the sky, our tendency is to also look at where they are looking at. This is called herd behavior. Inviting our relatives to work with us in our office, home, or church can help us become better influencers. This allows them to see things from our perspective. But the same is true the other way around. We will get to know our family members more when we also help them with their affairs.
These are the principles I generally use to influence my family. Yet, the application for this varies from relationship to relationship, and person to person. Read on to learn the different approaches to influencing your spouse, children, and other relatives. Please note this post is for information purposes only. I do not intend to give professional advice.
How to influence your spouse?
Submit yourselves to one another.
Our spouse should be the easiest person to influence. They are the people we spend most of our time with, and the ones who should know us from the inside out. We must, naturally, be influencing one another as we continue to spend our daily lives with each other. But I understand the struggle when our individuality kicks in; or the expectations we have from our spouses get broken.
Submitting to one another in marriage means we prioritize our spouse more than ourselves. If you are unsure how to do this, you may refer to the book of Ephesians in the Bible. Wives are instructed to submit to their husband’s leadership; while husbands are called to submit to their wives in a way that they will care for and protect them with their lives. It is generally a concept of reciprocation. We influence one another by outdoing each other in love and service.
How to influence your husband?
Mind your tone.
As a husband, here is a short insight for the wives who are reading this post. Men do not like to be told what to do. We will never bite into your ideas (no matter how good it is) if you deliver them as a command. If you want to influence your husband, mind your tone and present it as a suggestion. Best if you can frame it to make it look like his idea.
How do you influence children?
We parents do not actually have to do anything to influence our children. We are naturally positioned to be their main influencers. They will copy everything we do as imitation is their most basic way to learn. Our work lies in making sure we are living the way we want our kids to behave. They still cannot differentiate right from wrong. Whatever they see us doing, they will deem it as good. If we want to influence our children toward good behavior, we must practice it daily in our lives.
How do you influence your parents?
Our parents can be the most difficult people to influence in our families. They have this notion that, as parents, they will always be far superior to us. We have to understand, that no matter how old we get, they will always see us as the fragile little boy or girl they have carried in their arms. That they are the influencers and not the other way around — since we are who we are right now because of them. I don’t know what is your relationship with your parents today. But I am sure you also have a unique form of parental issues just like everyone else.
Nevertheless, if you want to get a chance of influencing your parents, you have to take the initial step of honoring them despite the status of your relationship. Honoring means showing respect and recognizing them as the people who brought you to this world. To be clear, honor in this context is not something earned per se. It is a regard we give them simply because they are our fathers and mothers. Here are a few ways to honor our parents:
- Thank them publicly.
- Call them regularly.
- Take them out to dinner.
- Dedicate a portion of your income to them.
- Tell them how you value them.
- Share your failures and victories.
- Gift them something extravagant.
- Take care of them in their old age.
- Invite them to your house.
- Give them some alone time with your kids.
My wife and I had a rough relationship with my parents a few years back. We were first-time parents, and they were new grandparents. Everyone was adjusting to their new roles. Our view and application of child care clashed with one another. But things dramatically changed when we started to honor our parents. They now listen to our ideas and respect the decisions we make as a family — even when they do not agree 100%.
How do you influence your siblings?
Be a comrade.
One of the huge barriers to influencing our siblings is rivalry. Most of us tend to compete with one another instead of supporting each other as brothers and sisters. It is difficult to influence our siblings positively if they see us as a threat. Below is a list of dos and don’ts to signify that we are a comrade, not an enemy:
- Do not give unsolicited advice.
- Do not flaunt your achievements or possessions.
- Talk more about your failures and the lessons you learned.
- Make them talk about themselves more.
- Pay for their food.
- Better to ask questions than make statements.
- Greet them with a hug, or a pat on the shoulder/back.
- Let them know you are there for them.
- Listen and be interested in what they are saying.
- Go on a trip with them.
Influencing our family begins with ourselves. It is an overflow of the good habits we practice daily. It is about encouraging them to become better primarily for their own benefit, not ours. But being an influencer doesn’t guarantee we will be able to influence every person in the family. We only serve as a spark, it is up to them whether they will follow through or not.
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