No matter how much technology we incorporate into our work lives, essentially organisations function through a series of human interactions. We can’t succeed alone. That’s why our ability to influence others effectively is pivotal to our success and the further up the ladder we climb, the less important our technical skills are and the more important influence becomes.
What do we mean by influence? It’s not about persuading or manipulating someone to do what you want. It’s about believing in your idea and tailoring your message so that it sounds, and feels, right to the other person. For the best chance at gaining their support in what you want to achieve, talk their language.
So what are the 3 key skills you need to influence others?
1. Put yourself in their shoes. Have you heard that Native American proverb, “To understand the man you must walk a mile in his moccasins. In order to wear his moccasins, you must first take off your own”? This is a bit of an art. It takes practice and preparation. It involves more than just imagining what their objections might be to your message. It requires you to momentarily try on their beliefs, values and priorities to see the world from their eyes.
Of course, that’s easier the better you know them. If you don’t know them well, find someone who does. Find out what makes them tick. What their passions are. How does your idea feed into what they want to achieve? Where’s the common ground?
2. Choose your language wisely. Before you embark on your influencing conversation, spend time listening to the other person in everyday conversation. What language do they use? What will resonate with them?
Tailor your language to theirs.
Highly visual people like language such as, “clear, imagine, focus” and will judge your message on how it “looks”, so they will need you to paint a mental picture of success or show them a chart of what’s possible. Check how you’re doing by asking, “If that looks good to you, shall we focus on the next steps?”.
Auditory people tend to like language such as, “listen, loud and clear, well informed” and will judge your message on whether it “sounds” right to them. “If this sounds good to you, shall we discuss next steps?”.
Kinesthetic people tend to like language such as, “grasp, get hold of, touch” and will judge your idea on how it “feels”. They’ll often use their gut feelings as a guide. “If this feels good to you, shall we handle the paperwork?”.
Language isn’t always as clear cut as the examples above, but look out for words people tend to repeat. Get a sense of which learning style they are and adapt your language to suit.
3. Balance logic and emotion. When we’re inspired by someone else, we’re engaged using both our heads and our hearts, so a truly compelling message needs a balance of both logic and emotion.
Logically, we need to be reassured that an idea makes sense and that there is evidence to support it, but the fact is, we can understand something and still not be compelled to do anything about it.
Emotions are what create action, and a story is a wonderful way to create emotions in other people. Tell a story or a metaphor of how someone else has succeeded with a similar idea, to bring the possibilities to life. Share your excitement with the other person. It’s contagious.
Why not have a play with these tips in low risk conversations, so that you’re skilled up and ready for the big opportunities?