IInfluencing anyone, particularly in complex stakeholder environmentse, can be extremely challenging and creating a top tips list is difficult as there are hundreds of ways to influence and a variety of factors that need to be taken into consideration. Some of the common areas where we find people have gone wrong provide a good list of things to think about:
1. Understand and empathise with the individual you are trying to influence. Trying to establish how that person sees a situation and the reasons why, will assist you in being able to build a relationship with them and create much more favourable conditions for influence.
2. Constantly be looking for ways to have a more comprehensive understanding of that person. Never think that because you’ve done a bit of background research on that person that you can stop trying to understand them. Test your hypothesis and always look to add more data after every interaction to give yourself a much fuller picture of the person they are.
3. Don’t jump to assumptions and bring bias into your assessment of them. Biases are a result of your brain simplifying the processing of information to make decisions. Having an awareness of the different biases we bring to analysis of a situation or a person will assist us in not falling into a false conclusion.
4. Build rapport and take an interest in that person. Rapport can also be thought of as a bank account which we can ‘pay into’ when we build rapport. This gives us a rapport ‘credit’ which we can draw on when we need. The stronger the rapport we have built up, the more we can generally ask of the other person.
5. Listen, but make sure you actively listen. The main purposes of listening for influence are to assist in developing a positive relationship with the individual and to ensure that we gather maximum information to help the influence interaction. Active listening is the best form of listening to achieve this.
6. Make your influence message make sense to them, not you. Too many times we try to influence people using proposition, language or intent that would influence or convince ourselves, but does not take into consideration the perspective of the person it is aimed at. Before trying to influence, think whether you are doing this.
7. Frame your message around their desires or motivators. What does that person want and how can your proposition satisfy that? If that person is driven by amassing status and what you’re offering can fulfil that desire, then ensure that message gets through to them.
8. Think about the factors you can use to supercharge your message. Our thoughts, feelings and behaviours are constantly influenced by factors external to our self. Some of these factors will trigger behaviour without us being fully conscious of it. These factors are often leveraged by people selling products, services, political and religious ideas but if used well, can support us in our own influence aims. The Godfather of influence Robert Cialdini’s studies into the field give a great starting point for understanding the utility of these factors such as social proof, scarcity and authority.
9. Consider what could go wrong and then write down your ‘actions on’. ‘Actions on’ are a set of instructions given when a military plan does not go the way it was intended and are designed to give the user clear and specific instructions on what to do. If we consider where the interaction could go wrong, we can plan how we might deal with this situation if it occurs and will be much more prepared if you are unsuccessful with your initial efforts.
10. Practice, practice, practice. Opportunities to practice your influence skills are present every single day and so you should take advantage of these situations to get used to and be confident in using the skill set. Why wait until you go into a high-pressure client meeting to start actively listening and empathising with another person’s perspective, when you can develop those skills with your colleagues, friends and family several times a day? The more you practice, the better you will be able to apply the influencing skills in a natural way when the pressure is on.
All these quick tips can be applied to any influencing opportunity you are faced with and are applicable in a variety of contexts. To simplify the overall message that underpins the list, if you understand the person you are trying to influence and communicate effectively with them, it will allow you to pick the most effective influence message that will resonate with that person and give you a far greater opportunity for you to affect change.