The Impact of the Social Influence

Photo by Lauren Aubert


reprinted from The Plaid Horse – Jan/Feb 2015

When working with clients, from children, juniors, amateurs and professional riders, there is one common theme when we discuss the six influences that affect performance in the ring– the Social Factor. Whether you are the rider or part of the support network, the influence is strong and awareness of the impact for both is key.

Social factors involve having the “right” amount and type of interaction with the others we ride or compete with, and if we feel supported before, during and after our ride. This may involve being surrounded by like-minded people who are excited about the same things we are.

Social factors detract from energy when social conditions aren’t optimal for us or when other people’s negative energy affects our own. For instance, when a trainer, parent or spouse negatively comments about the last ride performed, the dialogue can be adversely interrupted and an assumption made with a feeling left of disappointment. Or, we are so concerned about disappointing our trainer, spouse and parent, as every bobble, wrong lead, missed fence, money spent with no ribbon means, “ I have upset those who support me the most”. Our support network may not realize the affect their conversations have on us as they are just trying to “help” and be “supportive”; but knowing they are watching at ring side can influence our reaction and enthusiasm of our rides and impact the remainder of our weekend.

Photo by Lauren Aubert

Social factors are those related to society and the people who are around us. While the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical influences are internally focused, the social area is more externally focused. We don’t exist in a vacuum, and how we react to and interact with others can have a strong influence on our energy in our sport, our overall life, and in any particular situation. In his book Mastery, Robert Greene said:

Often the greatest obstacle to our pursuit of mastery comes from the emotional drain we experience in dealing with the resistance and manipulations of the people around us. We misread their intentions and react in ways that cause confusion or conflict… Navigating smoothly through the social environment, we have more time and energy to focus on learning and acquiring skills. Success attained without this intelligence is not true mastery, and will not last.

People’s social needs and desires vary greatly. From a social perspective, our engagement is enhanced when we have the amount and type of interaction that is right for us.

Someone who is more introverted, for example, would likely be more comfortable practicing or riding alone or with one or two other people, while someone with extrovert tendencies may prefer being part of a large group or team. Introverts may need alone time in the form of frequent breaks to recharge, as constantly being with other people (even though they may enjoy them) can drain their energy.

Photo by Lauren Aubert

Extroverts, on the other hand, recharge by being with people. What’s important is to discover what suits us best, and then to create those social conditions that work.

Social factors coupled with stress reaction and internal obstacles; assumptions, and interruptions affect us in many ways. Remember, stress itself is not the enemy; it’s our reaction to it. What one person perceives as being stressful, another barely notices, and yet another is excited by.

As you strategize for your next ride and show; how and what can you do to make your social factor work for you? How can you share with your social factor what support you need? How comfortable are you sharing how their current support affects your performance? What is your strategy? What is your solution?

Happy riding!

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