“Influence is not really a skill, although it requires skill. Influence is who you are and how you are perceived by others. It is vital to be skilled at communicating in an influential way, to understand how others think, how to connect with them and how to persuade them.” ~ Suzanne Bates, Author of Discover your CEO Brand.
Think about how an advertisement or a speech persuades you to buy the product or the idea? The whole process is not as simple as you might think, it entails a whole gamut of emotional satisfaction, viable presentation and clear action plan.
And, influence and persuasion is not only for the leaders, it’s an essential skill we all must have to strengthen the path to career success. Persuasion and influence are your stepping stones toward success, whether at the workplace of in our personal lives — we are influencing and persuading others in different ways.
How good are you at this essential art of having tasks done your way?
Before you head on to persuade others, mark the following checklist and see how well you are prepared before others listen to what you have to say.
1. It’s them not you
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. Do the ground work first – a thorough research on how would they benefit from your solution or proposal would go a long way in making the persuasion exercise shorter and effective.
An earnest effort yields positive results. Note that persuasion is NOT manipulation.
“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. Typically persuasion has a very positive connotation while manipulation does not” – Dave Lakhani in Persuasion: The Art of Getting What our Want
2. Credibility matters – a lot
There’s a lot of competition out there and a lot of knowledge spread far and wide. Authenticity and credibility must rank high on your persuasion plans. Before you are able to persuade others think how credible you are to that person or situation. Why would they listen to you?
Work on this question the other way – think of a seminar you are invited to – Why do you want to attend? Being an expert at something always excites interest and respect from others. Credibility is a must for effective persuasion and influence. Are you knowledgeable enough to persuade others to act according to your idea? If not, first act on this checklist item before approaching others. Credibility comes from your experience – your past and present achievements. Work on how you can present these before the persuasion “session” or meeting and during your presentation.
Tip: 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!
3. Effective Communication is the Key
Now that your audience is ready to listen to you and ‘believe’ in you, knowing your credibility factor. All might not come across will if you are not able to communicate effectively. Note I did not say a “good” communicator. Being good and being effective are two different things. How effectively you persuade others depends a lot on how powerful your communication skills are. Polish your soft skills and learn the art of tact before you walk the path of influencing others.
There is no substitute to preparation and practice.
Tip: In a quiet room, record yourself. Your presentation – audio or video – self assessment is the best tool to verify effectiveness and improve confidence level a notch further.
4. Listen First
With good preparation and practice, you are now with the individual, team or group you wish to influence. But yet again, you cannot be in a win win situation even with an awesome skill set and strong preparation. The stress is back on point 1 – it’s them that matter most here.
Influence and persuasion are not a one way street. You must know your audience well to see what areas you must work on to hone your persuasive skills. Listening and knowing the receiving audience is a must-perform research. And note that not only the words that are exchanged but the body language says a lot about how you finally get persuasion and influence to work. Show patience and empathy towards what others have to say and change your persuasion style accordingly. We all are different and there is no universal style of persuasion that works for everyone. Prepare your presentation or the final solution after you assess and understand how others respond to your ideas.
5. Practice Persuasion in Real and Hypothetical Situations
Do not assume that on day one you would head out and persuade anyone and everyone and get things done your way. The art of persuasion and influence is a hard nut to crack. It takes practice and experience before you can master the act. Practice and rehearse how you will present the situation and create all possible “or-if” possibilities and how to best present your proposal which is mutually beneficial.
The following is adapted from INFLUENCE: Science and Practice (Allyn and Bacon, August 2008). In this new edition Dr. Robert B. Cialdini, one of the world’s leading experts in the field of persuasion, reveals six universal principles that everyone needs to understand for business and personal success. The six principles include:
- Reciprocation –
People feel indebted to others who do something for them or offer them a gift. That’s why free samples are so effective. Getting something for nothing makes buyers feel obligated to purchase.
- Commitment and Consistency –
People are more likely to follow through with something if they have committed to it, verbally or in writing.
- Social Proof –
Whether they realize it or not, people look to others for cues on how to behave and what to believe.
- Liking –
“People prefer to say yes to individuals they know and like,” says Cialdini. Research shows that people attribute talent, kindness, honesty, and intelligence to people they find attractive.
- Authority –
There is strong pressure in society for people to obey authority figures and experts. Authority comes in many forms. Dressing in a business suit makes one appear authoritative at work. Size – being tall – and status – such as a high-ranking job title – also increase one’s authority and makes it easier to influence others.
According to the scarcity principle, people assign more value to objects and opportunities that come in limited quantities or are more difficult to obtain.
What tips can you share on how to influence and persuade managers, employees or co–workers at your workplace? Please comment.