Influence is more impactful when it’s adopted by choice, not credentials.
Last night my roommate hosted a Passover (it’s a Jewish thing) dinner with close friends. The gathering was intimate—with just eleven people—and facilitated deep conversations ranging in topic from the state of technology to our experience with psychedelic drugs.
Toward the close of the evening—as we brought everything back from the patio area and began to clean—the discussion shifted to talk of relationships. Someone, let’s call him Joe, began to share something he had recently discovered from his experiences dating.
Joe spoke of how he had connected with a seasoned dating coach who had asked him what he was looking for in a relationship. He answered by saying, “I’m looking for someone like X who enjoys Y and has Z.” The coach responded to Joe saying that he was not ready for a relationship as his language illustrated a universe he had constructed around him.
The coach went on to say that if he was ready for a relationship, he would have answered the question by using language that highlighted a space he had created for another person to exist within his life. He would have said what he wanted to do with or for the other person, not just how they can fit into his life and serve his needs.
Joe shared how he resonated with the advice and expressed his newfound focus on making this space for another person. He talked about the neurochemistry of love and how the human brain reacts when it encounters someone operating on a similar wavelength.
Blissfully unaware, Joe had facilitated a massive shift of thought for my roommate who had been listening to his story as she washed dishes. On numerous occasions, she and I had discussed how she was uncertain about continuing her new relationship with a guy who was also in attendance at the dinner. Knowing this about her, and that she was listening, I knew there would be ripples in the water… but I didn’t expect a tidal wave.
That night, after everyone had left, she went into the bedroom with her dude. In the living room with Aaron S. to have introspective discussions about life over Wii bowling (because that’s still a thing) we were surprised by how they seemed to be having more murmured discussions than moaning and groaning. It was only this morning that I found out why.
She had broken up with her boyfriend…. because of the story Joe shared.
Joe didn’t know what she was going through with this new relationship and certainly wasn’t sharing his story in order to influence her. He was just sharing something he discovered.
His message was without purpose, it was shot across her bow.
Had he known her position and fired this message at her directly, she would likely have put up a wall and rejected his position. By speaking across her instead of at her, his message was adopted on her terms and positioned in a more meaningful way.
There’s a reason I write in the way I do and this is it.
By speaking openly and authentically about my experiences, some of you pull my message down like you might pull an apple from a tree and you make it your own.
By acknowledging that the information will hit different people at different times, it has always been my aim to talk ‘over’ you instead of talking ‘at’ you. The purpose of this was to avoid the typical influencer model whereby someone with “expertise” tells you what they know to be best for you. Instead, I wanted you to adopt what felt right in that moment.
Yesterday, Madi T. responded to Trust Your Gut with:
This email couldn’t have come at a more perfect time, as I’ve been pondering how well I listen to my gut all day… (followed by another 1,023 words).
This is the core of everything that is “Ghost Influence.”
An understanding that the most effective leverage happens when you de-emphasize the importance of an individual’s voice. Only with subtle prompts and complete transparency can you have deep influence — like a ghost.
Think of the differences between a boss and a leader:
Last year—frustrated by the feeling of inauthenticity—I told a partner that “I no longer want to teach, I want to model.” By modeling methods and execution myself, I didn’t need to sell people on my value, they would see it and choose whether it interested them.
You don’t need to tell people you have authority, your actions establish you as a leader.
A manipulator cannot reveal their methods for it would shatter the construct of the illusion, but a true leader can have similarly powerful influence with complete transparency.
Knowing that I intentionally write, speak, and act in this way—use of openness to establish trust and greater power of choice—does it make you trust or value me any less?