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The Influencer And The Influenced

Our many observations tangibly and intangibly influence our behaviors. But, more often than we would like to admit or believe we are influenced by what we observe, our observations become precursors for our behaviors.

This television program enthralls me. No, it is not a primetime drama or a comedy. Instead, it is simply a show about people buying homes. The concept of the show is straightforward. Each episode features an individual, a couple, or a family with their real estate agent searching for a house to purchase.

The show usually begins with the prospective homebuyers sharing what they want in a house, whether a fixer-upper, small projects, or move-in ready, and their budget for the home. The prospective homebuyers visit three places and decide which one of the three best suits their needs.

The show is captivating, not because of the size of the budgets or the houses. Instead, it is the back stories of the people featured in the episodes. In a recent episode, the prospective homebuyers were a young couple. But, of course, there were differences between what they both wanted in a house. As usual, there was a house with all the "bells and whistles," but you probably guessed it if you are familiar with the show; the price exceeded their max budget. The price was sixty thousand dollars over their budget.

The wife was not put off by the price tag. In her words, She wanted the house to be their home because she had a "certain image to uphold as an influencer." And the highest-priced place of the three best represented the image she wants to reflect in her vlogs. So they made a full-price offer for the over-budget house. The home seller accepted their bid.

Indeed buying a house over your stated max budget could be considered irresponsible. The house was not only over budget, but she was planning to renovate the kitchen. As stated earlier, I watch the show for the prospective homebuyers' back story. I would not have purchased a house over my budget. However, this young lady was confident in her ability as a vlogger and influencer; that she would generate the income to cover the mortgage and living expenses. Equally interesting about the young woman was her awareness of image and presentation. I do not know if she is being overly optimistic, but her confidence is admirable.

The young lady is a self-described influencer, and after watching the episode, I thought of my influencers. I chose my fifth-grade teacher, Ms. Morgan. She was beautiful, self-assured, poised, and possessed an uncanny ability to make you feel like you matter. She could admonish you for your behavior, but you still left knowing you were wrong for what you did but felt encouraged to do better.

I did not know it at the time. Ms. Morgan was skilled at displaying what psychologist Carl Rogers referred to as unconditional positive regard and empathetic understanding. Her ability to demonstrate unconditional positive regard and empathy was phenomenal.

She was influential in other ways to students. According to psychologist Albert Bandura, we can learn from observing others and modeling their behaviors. Ms. Morgan was an excellent influencer to other students and me because of the way she carried herself. Modeling is an effective strategy for teaching and learning new behaviors. As a live model, she demonstrated appropriate behaviors. In addition, she created a welcoming environment for us to practice the behaviors she modeled. Finally, when necessary, she would provide prompts to improve our behaviors.

She was also an influencer as a symbolic model. Symbolic modeling is effective when a live model is unavailable. For example, a symbolic model can be a person or a fictional character from a book or movie whose behavior you wish to emulate. The homebuyer mentioned above is an example of a symbolic model.

Covert modeling is another way to reinforce the live model's behaviors. For example, in situations where you do not have a live or symbolic model, you can use covert modeling. In this scenario, you visualize the model performing the behavior and getting positive outcomes. For example, students could imagine Ms. Morgan using her empathetic listening skills and providing appropriate feedback.

I was in Ms. Morgan's class over 30 years ago, and I still remember her fondly as an early model and influencer. The length and breadth of vlogging and social media platforms make available to us many symbolic models. Consequently, hundreds of influencers are available at our fingertips, and they are skilled at commandeering our attention with well-developed storylines of progress. Learning can occur without your teacher being present. Our job is to be discerning and make decisions in our best interest.

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