Influence and Persuasion- Personal Example #2

I mentioned in a previous post how as a child I wanted my younger siblings to follow my lead. I wanted them to take my instructions as law, but they didn’t respect me, because I had not put in the time to earn that respect. And if that meant they didn’t want to play what I wanted that was one thing, but they would even stage mini-rebellions when I was just being the messenger for Dad and Mom.

“No!” I would say. “You have to listen to me. Dad and Mom said we have to clean this up, so you have to help me do it.”

I felt that my authority was absolute in this case, but they would ignore me all the same. Not because they didn’t respect Dad and Mom, but because they didn’t respect me as their emissary. And no matter of invoked authority was going to make them view me in the same light as the parents.

In those moments I felt an intense aggravation. They needed to do what I was saying, and I had to find a way to make them do it. And that resulted in all manner of shouting and threatening and shaking by the shoulders.

Then one day I realized something. If you need to make someone do something in that very moment…then you’ve already lost. I realized that the campaign for someone’s loyalty is won out long before the moment of need. It has to be sown long in advance.

So if you haven’t already put in that time beforehand, you don’t stand a chance. Then you will be tempted to force them to comply through fear and anger, which might get you what you want in the moment, but will make them resent you even more, and they will be all the less willing to comply next time.

I’m glad to say that after realizing this I started to treat my siblings differently. I stopped trying to make them respect me, and instead got them to know that I liked them. I played with them, I made things for them, I taught them how to ride the bike. I learned how to be nice with no strings attached. I won their hearts at quiet times when I didn’t need a single thing from them.

And then, when I was the emissary for Mom and Dad, and I told them we had been commissioned to do some chore and needed to work together, they happily agreed.

Influence and Persuasion- Doctrine and Covenants: 121:39, 41-42

We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile

COMMENTARY

It is the nature of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, to exercise unrighteous dominion
It has been said that one of the best ways to really know a person is to see how they treat their inferiors. When they are in a position of power (whether it be a boss over their employees, a parent over their children, or a pet-owner over their pets) how do they behave towards them?
I was the middle child growing up, and there was definitely a difference between how I interacted with my older siblings and how I treated my younger ones. I felt subservient to my older siblings, and I would try to please them so that they would include me in their games. Meanwhile I felt superior to my younger siblings, and to them I’m afraid I felt the same tendency described in this verse: “to exercise unrighteous dominion.”

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood
Primarily this dominion took the form of “you should do what I say because I have authority.” Not priesthood authority in this particular case, just an “I’m older” authority. I felt that I was entitled to their obedience because I was bigger than they, and I was not okay if they challenged that belief.

Only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned, by kindness, and pure knowledge
Of course my younger siblings did not care for this arrangement. And who could blame them? I didn’t want to be lorded over by my older siblings in that way, and neither did they didn’t want to be lorded over by me.
We all wanted older siblings who earned our respect. Siblings who didn’t take our obedience for granted, but who put in the time to care about us, help us, and play with us. When an older sibling did that, then they could ask a favor and easily receive.