Influencing people is a form of art. Some people have a natural talent for it simply because of the way they are with people. Most of us, however, need to make an effort and learn how to do it more effectively as it is perhaps one of the most valuable skills one can have – both in business and in life.
I want to make a very clear distinction here. I’m talking about influencing, not persuading. Persuading is using the right arguments and phrasing your arguments in the right way to convince somebody. Influencing is persuading without uttering a single argument. It is about predisposing people to trust you so that they are willing to do what you want without asking them directly.
As American organisational theorist, Ordway Tead, is know to have said:
Leadership is the activity of influencing people to cooperate toward some goal which they come to find desirable.
How do you do that? There are numerous studies and experiments out there on various approaches of how to influence people. Here’s a list of some of the techniques I know work best:
This may sound like common sense, yet people tend to forget how important it is. If the person you want to influence likes you, they will be open to your ideas. If they don’t, there are hardly any arguments that will make them agree with you. So establishing a relationship is a stepping stone in the right direction. There are a number of psychological tricks that make you likable. Some of them we do subconsciously, others we can train ourselves to do. Here’s a few:
Calling the person by their name (it validates them and people like to be validated)
Smiling (it’s psychological, we open to a smile)
Flattery (be careful, it has to be subtle if you don’t know the person but also genuine. If perceived as insincere it has the opposite effect)
Most of us love talking about ourselves. Whether about our personality, our likes and dislikes, our personal story, our opinions or our business – whenever somebody shows interest in us, we feel special. So ask questions and listen carefully. It won’t only flatter the other person. It will also help you understand what kind of person they are and what is important to them. Knowing what is important to the other person means knowing what facts to mention and arguments to use if need be.
Make Them Feel Important
There is a number of ways to make somebody feel important. One is to point out their achievements or how they’ve been instrumental in a certain situation. This is a type of flattery in itself and we all like to be reminded of how we are valuable. Another way is to refer to them in a way that you know they would like. For example, you could refer to an acquaintance as a friend (i.e. when introducing them to somebody you could say “This is my friend Tom” even if you only met them recently). Or you could use their title when you talk about them (i.e. Tom is our Marketing Director).
Some people have the talent to immediately connect with others as they can easily switch to speaking their language so to speak. These people are usually outgoing and nice and they immediately find common ground with others (likes, dislikes, hobbies, etc.). For some of us this couldn’t be harder but here’s two ways to create rapport with almost anybody:
Subtly mimic the way they are, i.e. mannerism, accent, words they use, etc. (it validates them subconsciously but also we tend to like more people who we find similar to us)
Repeat what they say in different words (as it makes them feel understood and thus they feel you closer and trustworthy)
Understand What Motivates Them
According to psychology, there are three types of appeal that the different people respond to –logical appeal, emotional appeal & ethical appeal. Logical appeal is based on providing facts, data, etc. to appeal to somebody who is largely reasonable. Emotional appeal is about exploiting the underlying wants and motivations of the other person through pointing out how your idea will help them personally. And ethical appeal is about focusing on your character and credibility to gain their trust. Each person is motivated by either one of these techniques but you can always use a combination. When you know what motivates them, you could subtly mention examples of why you found this or that a good idea based on the same type of appeal. It makes you relatable and somebody who understands them.
Ask For a Favor
Research shows that we like people whom we’ve done favors for. This is also called the Ben Franklin Effect because it was Benjamin Franklin’s theory. In Franklin’s own words “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.” According to history, Benjamin Franklin knew a gentleman who didn’t like him at all. So he asked this man to lend him a book and the two became lifelong friends afterwards. Benjamin Franklin’s theory has been proven to work in many experiments. Psychologists explain it with the so-called cognitive dissonance – we can’t reconcile that we did someone a favor and we don’t like them. So we make ourselves believe that we like them.
There are many ways to win people over. However, keep in mind that regardless of the approach you decide to employ, you need to do it subtly. Make sure you consider factors like whether you know the person or if you are meeting them for the first time, what kind of relationship you have (work or personal), what the setting is, etc. Be careful not to overdo it and seem insincere as there is no recovery from that – once people are under the impression you have an agenda, they will hardly ever trust you.
If you want to know more about developing skills for success and being able to influence others, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me, Margaret Considine and find out more about our Influencing courses. Here at Equita we offer a wide range of skills training programmes designed to help you succeed.