Why They Don’t Care What You Think

Have you ever met someone who is simply miserable? You know there’s a brilliant smile underneath that hateful glare. You care about this person’s happiness, really – you do! Or at the very least, no one wants to look at an angry scowl every day.

If you’re like me, when you meet people like this, you start trying to get them to smile more, to see the brighter side of life, and to take steps in the direction they say would make them happier.

But if, after all of your efforts, they always return to that original state of misery, helping can get frustrating. OK, maybe I’m the only one who has ever believed she had to power to instigate sustained inspiration. What can I say, I love my work!

With a clear vision for increasing community in my office building, I set out to inspire the person responsible for planning events, a woman named Sahara who always looked irritated.

My first inspiration strategy was complimenting her. “Do you know how wonderful you are?” I asked. “Your smile is magnificent – keep using it.”

“Really? Me?” she responded, beaming.

I thought I was golden! Now, I could influence her to do what I wanted – help me get to know my suitemates.

Wrong! The smile lasted about 20 minutes and did nothing in the way of inspiring her to plan an event. So, I started asking her questions about her job satisfaction and challenges, then told her how to get more opportunities at work and get better results with her leadership team.

When she did nothing with my advice, I got irritated. All this effort, for nothing?

Sitting in my office in disbelief, I could not understand why I – a woman who speaks and writes about inspiration – could get nothing more out of this woman than a short-lived smile.

Finally, it hit me – I was making the same mistake most people make when attempting to inspire someone. I was doing it for my own reasons, not for her sake. I’m not quite sure when I got manipulation confused with inspiration, but I certainly did!

A couple days later, I asked Sahara, “How’s your career going? Do you like what you do?”

“No,” she said. “I’d rather be in Human Resources. I got my degree in HR and I’d like to find a job in that industry.”

No wonder my efforts to inspire her fell short; I knew nothing about what inspires her. Turns out, she couldn’t care less about community events and only took the position to cover her bills until she could find something different.

So, I started listening to what she wants for her career, and then making appropriate connections and providing a bit of guidance for these introductions.

Her shift in attitude and willingness to take my advice was … well, inspiring. When I was manipulating her to get what I wanted (community events), she did nothing I suggested. When I focused on what was important to her (landing a job she wanted), she did almost everything I suggested.

The lesson: Don’t confuse inspiration with manipulation. Lasting results come from an honest interest in another’s success. We’d do well to ask ourselves, “Why am I encouraging them? Is it for me or them?” Can it be for both? Absolutely!

Have you ever tried to inspire someone for the wrong reasons? What happened?

Keeping it simple,

Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across Generations and Hidden Heroes