”]Cover of "Bruce Almighty [Blu-ray]"

“No one absolutely has to do anything.  The choice is always yours.”

–  Michael V. Pantalon, PhD, author of INSTANT INFLUENCE

Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is under fire.  After being disallowed to leave the country by the Justice Department, she was served an arrest warrant for electoral sabotage.  Everyone is now telling other people what to do – from ex-president GMA’s lawyers telling the Supreme Court to reverse the Department of Justice’s decision to the Philippine Medical Association telling Elena Bautista Horn to reconsider her statement regarding the competency of medical specialists in our country.  People are asking for apologies, reconsiderations, and statement retractions.  Will they get what they want?

Michael V. Pantalon gave us a very good insight on the power of respecting the autonomy of people in order to influence them and change their minds.  He claims that asking resistant people to defend their decision and challenge their thinking is a futile effort.  We can threaten others, but this threat will only result in anger or resentment, not a change of heart.  In order to motivate someone to change, we must assure them that we accept and support their autonomy.  You cannot simply ask a lawyer to reconsider a decision.  Nor can you tell a person who disrespects your medical opinion to retract their public declaration of your incompetence.  Doing that would be an exercise in futility.

How do you convince others to accept your point of view?  Do you yell at them?  Do you impose your position your subordinates or your expertise on your patients?  Do you threaten with punishment or withdrawal of support?  If you’ve done any of the above, were you successful?  Were you able to effect positive change, or did the effort worsen you and your relationships?

Free will is a God-given gift.  In the movie “Bruce Almighty“, God (played by Morgan Freeman) grants Bruce (Jim Carrey) all of His powers. The limitation was that Bruce cannot interfere with free will.  So no matter what godly powers Bruce had, he could not force others to do what he wanted, including changing the mind of the woman he loved.  Even the Bible explicitly states that it is not God’s will that any person would perish (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9). But many nevertheless do perish. Hence, it is clear that God’s will is not always accomplished.  If God, can’t force us to do good all the time, what more can we mere mortals do to influence others through force?

So how do we influence others to consider our point of view?  Dr. Pantalon says we should start by assuring others that they always have freedom to choose, and that we must support one’s autonomy.  Everybody is motivated to do good, and reinforcing autonomy makes it easier for a person to find reasons to do what is right.  It requires a leap of faith, but the fact is people won’t act due to your reasons but for their own reasons.  Even a child’s free will must be respected, and disciplinary actions based on instilling fear or punishment would make children bitter and nurture resentment.

So the next time you find yourself itching to force your employee, colleague, spouse, or child to take action, think of ways to reinforce their autonomy and free will first.  After all, in most arguments and misunderstandings, it is better to be kind than to be right.



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