Harnessing the Power of Influence: Guarding your ears and your heart

My step mother's words made me, and my son's teacher made him a 10 year old author

by Sylvie Tamanda

In our journey through life, we engage in countless conversations with various individuals. These interactions shape our perspectives and beliefs and ultimately influence the outcomes we experience. Understanding the profound impact of the people we speak with, those who speak into our lives, and those we speak to is crucial. By standing guard over our ears and filtering everything that passes through, we can shape a positive and empowering path for ourselves.

Yehuda Berg once said something extremely profound about the words we speak. He said,

“Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate, and to humble.”

The Power of Conversations

The Bible, which for me is the book of life and the book that has all the answers to every issue mankind will ever endure, says in Proverbs 18:21 that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

If life is what we all desire and death is what we all dread, and the bible tells us that our tongue (words) holds the power to life and death, doesn’t that make words the most powerful weapon that human beings have?

Story Time

On the day my dad died, my stepmother said some words that sparked a fire within me. We’d just heard the devastating news of Dad’s passing. He had left the house at 7 a.m.; 20 minutes later, his car was in a wreck, and he never made it to the hospital alive.

My mom had married my dad, only to eventually find herself shifted into second position by my dad’s first wife as a result of a series of events. There was lots of striving and drama, and my poor daddy was caught up between the devil and the deep blue sea—my mom’s story to tell, not mine. However, when you hear what my stepmother said, you’ll understand why that little bit of background was relevant.

It had been announced that dad was dead, and the gates at home were flung wide open as family, friends, colleagues, business partners, neighbours, and passersby flogged into our family compound to mourn with us.

Dady was greatly loved and incredibly popular, mainly because of his generosity. I am yet to cross paths with another human on earth who was more generous, humble, and kind than my dad.

You can imagine how shocked we all were. Sudden death is the worst death that those left behind can endure when someone they deeply love and care about falls off the face of the earth.

At least when someone is diagnosed with a deadly ailment and perhaps hospitalised, their family, friends, and well-wishers are given the opportunity to psychologically prepare for the worst.

But that wasn’t the case with Dad, which made his death the worst pain ever.

And in the middle of the heartbreaking pain of my loss, my stepmom, who was in a corner of the living room crying, said the words, “Those who have many kids will now suffer.”

She was referring to my mom, who, at the time of dad’s death, had six children for him and had only just found out that she was pregnant with my last sister, Claire, and who, on the other hand, had one child for dad.

Those words cut through me a million times, and a wave of mixed feelings went through my body. I had just lost my dad, and to hear something so terribly insensitive as a 16-year-old wasn’t necessary; however, those words stayed with me and have followed me every day in my life.

The words that slipped off my stepmom’s tongue made me aware that life as I knew it was about to turn upside down before my dad was assigned a mortuary cooler. What a cruel world we live in!

Anyway, today, I look back and thank her for those words she blurted out, because, although intended for evil, those words birthed a desire to prove her wrong.

I made up my 16-year-old mind there and then that neither my mom nor her children would satisfy “the evil stepmom with her evil prediction”.

And although life has not been easy since Dad died, we have never gone without food, not even for our basic needs.

When my mom and siblings were down, I was blessed to have been in a position to pick them up.

While my teenage friends were busy being teenagers, my stepmother’s words were ringing through my ears, and they steered me in the direction of education instead of entertainment.

I embraced a set of new friends whom I call my unorthodox friends: books, blogs, videos, and podcasts. I discovered the power of self-motivation and determination at a very young age, `which thankfully followed me into adulthood.

I have done very well for myself and done my mom very proud over the years. My siblings and I have excelled academically, weathered life-threatening storms, and each forged our own paths, none of which involved suffering.

Although the words spoken about me did not hold their weight, I am aware that reality is different for so many people.

I was listening to an episode on the BBC’s Life-Changing podcast, and it was the story of a young woman who overheard her teacher referring to her as mentally retarded and more suitable for a special needs school instead of a regular one.

Those words destroyed that little girl’s life, followed her into adulthood, and killed any dream she had of something good.

Now that you have an idea of what words can do to you, how do you protect yourself from the devastating impact of careless and negative words from people who have both sinister and good intentions.


Here are the three types of people to be mindful of:

The people who speak with you, those who speak to you and those you speak to is critical for your development and future. Renowned motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, once emphasized the profound influence of our relationships by stating, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” This powerful statement alludes to compelling research demonstrating how our lives are significantly shaped by the company we keep.

1. Those You Speak With

Who you spend time with is who you become! Change your life by consciously choosing to surround yourself with people… – Tony Robbins

The people we engage in conversations with on a regular basis play a significant role in shaping our thoughts and actions. Whether it’s friends, colleagues, or family members, their words, values, and experiences gradually seep into our subconscious.

It is essential to be mindful of the conversations we have and choose companions who inspire, challenge, and uplift us towards personal growth and success.

My experience really was about what the bible warns us in 1 Corinthians 15:33 “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” Not that these group of women were “bad”, but their company was bad for me.

Between 2021 and 2022, I hung out with a group of moms I had just met. They were all amazing women, but they were dealing with a lot of emotional trauma in their marriages.

Whenever we met at the playground with our kids, their complaints and experiences would suck the life out of me. They went on and on about the fact that men were terribly wicked and that their husbands were pure evil. And Unbeknownst to me, their words were starting to shape my view of men, although my experiences with my partner were completely different. One day, my partner called me out on my new behaviour and asked me why I’d become easily irritable around him—a behaviour I hadn’t even realised I was exhibiting.

How did I ever let the issues in other people’s marriages cross over into my peaceful and loving relationship? Well, you guessed that right. The people I spent my afternoons speaking with unintentionally did that. I even remember one of the ladies asking me, “Sylvie, we’re always talking about our problems, and you never say anything; how are things going with your partner, all good?

I was a little embarrassed, and the pressure to belong caused me to make up a silly complaint about my partner. I said, “Well, things are not going so great, but we are managing. Can you imagine that my partner thinks I am his cleaner? I hate when the bathroom floor is wet, and I’ve told him so. However, every day he walks out of the shower wet and leaves the floor. Today morning, we even argued about it.”

But after my partner confronted me about my new and unpleasant demeanour, I said, Oops, Syl, you’ve been spending a lot of time speaking with the wrong crowd.

And of course, I had to do something or risk losing my relationship. I cut down on the time spent with them and avoid negative conversations overall.


 2. Those Who Speak into You:

John Ofon, 10 Year old Author of Five Beasts

Certain individuals possess wisdom, expertise, and insights that have the power to profoundly impact our lives. Mentors, teachers, and role models are examples of those who speak to us. Their guidance, knowledge, and encouragement can help us overcome challenges, broaden our horizons, and unlock our potential.

Being discerning in selecting these influential figures ensures that their input aligns with our goals and values.

My first son, John, is an amazing little man. Besides the fact that I laboured for 18 hours before he was born, he has been nothing short of a blessing to our family.

When John became of school age, he started struggling with mathematics, and when he was in year 3, I hired a house teacher to help him. Math was my problem too, and I felt like John getting extra help would make a difference in his academic life.

However, the teacher I got for him was terrible at child psychology. One day I heard him say to my son that he’d not amount to anything if he didn’t get his numbers right.

For God’s sake, this was a small child who needed reassurance and nurturing, not discouragement and corporal punishment, so I terminated the contract, but unfortunately, John’s self-esteem had already been impacted, and I only got to find out later.

After our family moved out of Cameroon, John had some amazing teachers in his new school who all brought out the best in him. His favourite teacher was his English teacher, Mr. Hossam, from his school in Cairo, Egypt. The creative writing assignments given to him at school were the catalyst for the new path he was about to walk.

In his homework remarks, Mr. Hossam always took the time to let John know how awesome his writing was. He encouraged John to keep at it. As time went on, John started to regain confidence in his abilities.

And fast forward to year 5, when John joined a new school in England and struggled with making friends as the only black boy in his class. He felt rejected by the other kids (which I didn’t feel was the case, except the cultural differences were a barrier for him), so he found solace in books.

John Ofon- finding solace in books

After a few months at his school,we had our first parent teacher meeting. During our one-on-one with his teacher, Ms. Walmsley told me that John was struggling with mathematics, but his writing was simply outstanding.

She looked over at John, who was sitting close to me, and said, “John, don’t worry too much about math; if it’s too hard for you, just focus on writing, and you just might be able to make a beautiful career out of it”. And just like that, John, the 10-year-old author, was born!

I can safely say that the smile on her face and the excitement in her voice about some of his essays ignited a fire in my son’s heart that day.
Those words sank deep into my son, and when we got back home, he took out all the stories he’d been writing on pieces of paper and said, “Mummy, pleaseeee, help me publish my stories. I think I am ready to become an author. I want my stories to bless other children, and I want my classmates to think I am cool”.
When you hear such words from your child as a mother, what excuse do you have?

So we made it happen!

John Ofon Books

We scheduled weekends; he typed out his stories with his laptop, and I was his editor.

When everything was edited, we hired a book formatter and a cover designer on Fiverr.

And on February 27, 2023, John’s first book was published on Amazon, and his second book was published on April 30, 2023.

He has so many books waiting in line for editing, formatting, and publishing, but Mummy just has so much going on, so we’re going to progress slowly.

I hope John’s story blesses one of your kids and encourages them to shine their light brightly and exploit their gifts, irrespective of what naysayers and unbelievers think.

God bless all single mothers, all parents, and all amazing people in influential positions who bring out the best in children, especially because they are so impressionable

3. Those You Speak To

Every conversation we have carries the potential to influence others. Whether it’s a supportive word, a kind gesture, or constructive feedback, our interactions shape the lives of those we speak to. Recognising this influence encourages us to communicate with empathy, kindness, and intention. Our words and actions can inspire and uplift others, contributing to a positive ripple effect in their lives.

I am a business coach as well as a mentor to many young people in Africa. As a mentor, I have dealt with so many individuals who only needed the right words spoken to them to change everything in their lives.

Napoleon Hill once said, “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” And because I live by this quote, I am grateful and privileged to have the opportunity to impact the lives of many who encounter me.

One of the most impactful encounters I believe I had was with a young man named Titus. When Titus got in touch with me, he was broken and hopeless. He’d just lost his dad; money was tight, and he just couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.

He came to me for mentoring, and I started working with him immediately.

I put Titus through my 5-day intensive vision creation and transformational coaching, Titus picked up the broken pieces of his life, and he’s an inspiration to other people today. When Titus messaged me to say thank you, he said “I wish my friend had been opportune to have the kind of encounter that I have had with you; he definitely would have been alive and happier today”.

I have a couple of testimonials from mentees; however, I have shared the one from Immaculate below.

On the flip side of this point, the people you speak to about your dreams and aspirations can also transfer their fears and limited beliefs to you, and discourage you from pursuing your goals. Be careful who you speak to about your aspirations, your challenges and your wins.


How to Stand Guard Over Your ears from the three types of people mentioned above

When we become adults, it is our responsibility to protect ourselves from listening to or speaking potentially damaging words. The Bible tells us in the book of Matthew 12:36 that people shall give an account of every careless word that they speak on the judgement day.

1. Reflect on Your Circle of Influence:

Take a moment to evaluate the people you interact with regularly. Are they supportive, positive, and aligned with your goals and values? Consider whether any adjustments or boundaries need to be set to protect your own growth and well-being. Surrounding yourself with individuals who bring out the best in you can have a profound impact on your life’s trajectory.

2. Cultivate a Growth Mindset:

Approach conversations with an open mind and a willingness to learn from others. Seek out diverse perspectives and engage in discussions that challenge your beliefs and expand your knowledge. Embrace opportunities to broaden your understanding of the world and continuously evolve as an individual.

3. Develop Discernment:

Exercise discernment in filtering the information and opinions you encounter. Not all input is constructive or beneficial for your personal growth. Consider the credibility, intentions, and impact of the messages you receive. Choose to internalise only those that align with your values, aspirations, and contribute to your growth.

4. Practise Self-Reflection:

Regularly reflect on the impact of conversations in your life. Assess how certain discussions have influenced your thoughts, emotions, and actions. By consciously evaluating the outcomes of your conversations, you gain valuable insights into the patterns and influences shaping your life. Use this knowledge to refine your approach and make intentional choices about the conversations you engage in.

In conclusion, the people we speak with, those who speak into us, and those we speak to hold immense power in shaping our lives. By standing guard over our ears and filtering everything that passes through, we take control of our own growth and trajectory. Choose your conversations wisely, surround yourself with positive influences, and be intentional about the impact you have on others. By harnessing the power of influence, you can shape a fulfilling and purpose-driven life that aligns with your values and aspirations.

Lesson 1: Embrace Independence: No One Will Be in Your Life Forever
Lesson 2: The Impact of an Absent Father: Nurturing Awareness and Sensitivity
Lesson 3: The Power of Resilience: Your Response to Adversity Makes or Breaks You
Lesson 4: Navigating Relationships: The Art Of Dealing With Manipulative Family and Friends
Lesson 5: Embracing the Reality of Family Disloyalty and Lack Of Support

Lesson 6: Embrace Healthy Scepticism: Trust, but verify.

Lesson 7: Ignorance is NOT Bliss: The Importance of Education for Personal Safety and Well-being



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