“You better watch out,” she says. I’m highly suggestible,”
“Seriously though,” she says. “I spend time around people, and I find myself picking up their qualities. Their mannerisms.”
I nod because I know what she means. I’ve been there many times myself. But instead of telling her that, I decide to wait and see what she’ll say next. Because there’s a playfulness in her voice I’m not at all accustomed to hearing. Something light and mischievous.
And to be honest, I quite like it.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve entered into a situation with my mind made up about something only to find later… no, wait. That’s not at all how I felt,” she says.
“It’s… like…” I start to say.
She cocks her head.
“It’s like other people have partitions in their minds like thick walls. Ones that are full height that separate rooms. But for you, there’s a curtain. One that can be pulled back fairly easily. Or a room divider that can be folded up at a moment’s notice. Something like that?” I say.
“Exactly like that,” she says. “How did you…?”
“I know because some of us have to build our own walls. That is, if we want privacy. Some sense of emotional security that isn’t so vulnerable to influence from other people,” I say.
“Are you saying I should put up walls? That it’s a bad thing?” she says, looking a little disappointed. I get the sense that she’s feeling emotionally invalidated. And with good reason.
“No,” I say quickly. “I don’t think that being suggestible is necessarily a bad quality. It can be an excellent strength — especially if you’re able to mediate it at times and control it a bit.”
“What do you mean?” she says.
“Well, being open-minded is great. The worst people are often completely fixed in their viewpoints, their worldviews. So being flexible and open to changing can be refreshing to other people and keep you out of those patterns where you never grow or change. The trouble comes, however, when you’re around people who aren’t good for you. People who are exploitative, unhelpful. If you’re suggestible, they can get into your head a lot more easily and wreak havoc while they’re there.”
She nods. “I have trouble with that. Like that thing you wrote about having no emotional immune system.”
“That one wasn’t about you, but now that you mention it, yup. Lots of similarities. Stay suggestible, but learn to qualify people a bit better,” I say.
“Sure,” I say.
I tell her that it used to really bother me when someone didn’t like me or expressed harsh judgement of decisions that meant the world to me. It didn’t matter who the source was. It’d still drive me crazy.
But over time, that changed for me. Now I take stock of the situation when it happens. I look at the source and how they are living their life:
- Are they happy where they are?
- Are they making good decisions?
- Do they generally bring value to other people?
If the answer to these three questions is “no,” then I take their disapproval as a neutral or even positive sign.
“So I think you could take a similar route when figuring out whether or not to opt out of being suggestible to that person versus putting up a mental wall, leaving a situation, or avoiding them,” I say.