How to influence people

There’s nothing more crucial to success in business than an ability to influence others. Salespeople need to influence customers; executives must influence their workforces; upwardly mobile, ambitious employees seek to influence the managers who can help them ascend the corporate ladder. Truly excellent influencing skills require a healthy combination of interpersonal, communication, presentation and assertiveness techniques. Influencing is about understanding yourself and the effect or impact you have on others. Though it can, on occasion, be one way, the primary relationship is two way, and it is about changing how others perceive you.

Pay attention.

Pay attention to the people around you. Make a conscious effort to meet new people as often as you can. Be curious. Ask way more questions than you answer. To show interest in someone is to ask them questions and each person you’ll meet today has something absolutely fascinating to say, and something utterly useful to teach you. Shut your mouth and listen to them. When approaching a new person ask yourself few questions: what do you have in common? What are they interested in? What kinds of questions would you have for someone that might be interested in that subject?

Understand first

Strive to understand before being understood. Always think why the other person would be influenced by you, it is not always about how good you are at persuasion but first think about what they want and how they would want to be influenced for a particular work or situation. Persuasion is about creating and environment that lets two or more people find common ground and beliefs. The fine line between persuasion and manipulations revolves around intent.

Do things for people.

Be on the lookout for ways you can help others. Do NOT do this with an expectation of getting something back later. In today’s socially active world you can present yourself as a leader or influencer in your circles by generating a strong web presence, writing blogs, answering questions as an expert in forums or LinkedIn groups, etc. – all of these activities clearly highlight your authority in your field. Oh yes, social media and visibility – it matters!

Ask people for help.

Sometimes, it can be extremely difficult to get people’s help, especially when we have no authority over them. Each day, ask yourself, what requests could I make and of whom, in order to achieve my goals. You can also play with asking for help: ask for a particularly big favour. When this is turned down, a smaller favour is asked for. This is likely to be successful because a concession on one side (the downscaling of the favour) will be reciprocated by a concession by the other party.

Be yourself.

Being yourself is where the truth lies and your real power is demonstrated. To be yourself typically requires a trip inward, past ones ego. People like others who are genuine and truthful. The more you are yourself, the more people will enjoy your company.

If you’re lucky enough to be naturally charming, you’ll be well ahead of the persuasive pack. People want to be reassured. People want to have the mysteries of the world explained to them. If you’re a confident, passionate talker, projecting an unmistakable air of leadership, people will want to follow you.

You can also use some well proven strategies to influence or even persuade others:

– The most expedient way you may ever find is to convince the person that he was the one who came up with the idea in the first place. In fact, you are most persuasive when your audience does not know you are attempting to persuade them and think that the idea is their own instead.

– Another strategy that has proven to work is to convince people that by doing whatever it is you want them is of their greatest interest, but do not let them know that you want them to do it. Minimize any gain you stand to receive should the person choose your preferred course of action.

– Use right timing. Knowing how to persuade people correctly largely depends on the right time to talk to them. Approach people when they are more relaxed and you will achieve far better results. People are more likely to be agreeable and submissive when they’re mentally fatigued. Before you ask someone for something they might not be quick to agree to, try waiting until a more opportune time when they’ve just done something mentally taxing.

– Try to find out why the other person is rejecting your preferred course of action. If you can find out why, it gives you a tactical advantage. You’ll need to do a bit of research, think through your arguments, and come up with logical rebuttals to any potential questions or concerns that may be raised. There needs to be a flow, a sense of direction, and an air of confidence to your words. Don’t let emotion get the better of you. If you do a good job, your chances of success are quite high.

– Be generous with your opponent; give them something they want, and they will be more inclined to give you something you want. When someone does something for us, we feel compelled to return the favor. So, if you want someone to do something nice for you, why not do something nice for them first. In a business setting, maybe you pass them a lead. If at home, maybe it’s you letting the neighbor borrow the lawn mower. It doesn’t matter where or when you do it, the key is to compliment the relationship.

– Use framing. Framing is a technique often used in politics. A popular example of framing is inheritance taxes. Politicians who are opposed to inheritance taxes will call them death taxes. By using the word death instead of inheritance, all kinds of negative connotations come to mind. Framing is quite subtle, but by using emotionally charged words, like death, you can easily persuade people to your point of view.

– Use mirroring. Mirroring someone is when you mimic their movements. The movement can be virtually anything, but some obvious ones are hand gestures, leaning forward or away, or various head and arm movements. We all do this unconsciously, and if you pay attention you’ll probably notice yourself doing it, I know I have.

– Use Empowerment. Making others feel valued by involving them in decision-making, and giving them recognition. However often you solicit advice from others or have their input effect the process, you are empowering. You are also empowering when you ensure that others receive public recognition for their successes. This seems like both a soft approach and a no-brainer.

– Use congruence because we all try, subconsciously, to be consistent with previous actions. One great example is a technique used by salespeople. A salesperson will shake your hand as he is negotiating with you. In most peoples minds, a handshake equates to a closed deal. A good way to use this yourself is to get people acting before they make up their minds. If, for example, you were out and about with a friend and you wanted to go see a movie but the friend was undecided, you could start walking in the direction of the theater while they make up their mind.

– Use Coercion. Using threats, reprimands or pressure to get others to do what you want. a poorly performing employee who is being given a reform ultimatum is technically being coerced. And in the short term, like in emergency situations, it works. Also, this may just be part of the organizational culture. This technique however needs to be used very rarely because it brings a lot of adverse effect on other team members within your organisation. This strategy is not as useful over the long term, and is not useful with knowledge workers who showed up to be valued for their ideas and input. It’s more useful with those who simply act in response to being told what to do.

– Use peer pressure. Showing how your ideas support the organization’s broader goals. Many people are willing to stretch their own personal limits if they feel that they are working for a greater good. As long as the success of the team will in some way benefit them, they might be willing to compromise on issues where they would otherwise hesitate. The best leverage is usually to be had by making an individual feel as though they are either a) holding up the project for everyone else, or b) that they are a critical part of the team, and that if they aren’t on board, the whole thing might collapse.

– Use interpersonal awareness. Identifying other people’s concerns and positioning one’s ideas to address them and taking the time to get to know others and maintain friendly communications. Everybody should start focusing on this strategy, because it takes a long time to learn how to recognize valuable contacts, and even longer to build high value relationships with them. The highest value contacts are very busy people, and associate with those from whom they can mutually benefit. Consequently, it’s harder to build the type of relationship that will result in support when you need it.

– Use Impact Management. Choose the most interesting, memorable or dramatic way to present ideas. It has a similar risk to the “peer pressure” strategy presented above. . If your audience is very left-brained, concrete, or in any way detail-focused, you run the risk of being marginalized as all fizz and no gin. Also, and this is very important. Only maybe one out of a hundred presentations is of sufficient quality to leverage this strategy, so be very honest with yourself about your skill.

– Be ready to give up. Your opponent may find you talking very annoying. If your opponent perceives you as a pest, it will make you much less persuasive in the future.

All three of those elements taken together will decide the overall effectiveness of an attempt to influence someone. The audience (who may or may not consider themselves followers) ultimately determines how well and easily they are going to be influenced. Even if you were born with a golden tongue and have the facts behind you, you probably still won’t convince everyone of everything you would like.