How to Influence Others
“To influence,” is to produce an effect on someone by imperceptible or intangible means; or, to sway, modify in some way. When we seek to influence someone we are trying to have an effect on them – usually to change their mind, or modify their way of thinking in some way. We do this all the time, but we don’t think about it. Nonetheless, influencing is a SKILL that can be improved with effort and practice. When we talk about influencing someone we are really talking about changing their mind, which is hard to do. People don’t readily change their mind. For example, in a customer service operation you often get customer complaints. The employee in this example is challenged to change the customer’s mind, or attitude, from a negative one, to a positive one – quite a challenge! It takes skill, knowledge and determination to take on this challenge – that of influencing others to change their minds.
There are various definitions for influencing. Here is one that we like: “To influencing others is to have the power or capacity to affect others.” As a contributing member of your organization (employee or manager), you do this all the time – for example, selling your ideas, making proposals, persuading others, etc.
In this stage of our Influencing model, you need to determine what effect your attempts to influence have had on the other person (or persons). You’ll see four types of response:
- Resistance – they are resisting you by either verbally attacking you, giving you the “silent treatment,” or squeezing your time (let’s talk about this later).
- Compliance – a subtle kind of resistance; giving in to the perceived pressure but maybe not being very committed.
- Negotiation – negotiation tactics include asking questions, coming up with ideas, and disclosing information about both parties or other elements involved with the issue you are discussing.
- Synergy – win/win agreement about the issue you are discussing; constructive for both you and the other person. Tactics include discovery, reflecting on what might happen as a result, and summarizing in tangible terms what might result from the situation.
As you apply these different skills, or strategies, your ability to influence will increase proportionately. The skills, or abilities you can use are:
- Listening – listening is not just hearing; listening as a skill is active. It involves concentration, reading between the lines and attending to the other person’s body language for clues. Good listening comes more naturally to some people than to others.
- Clarifying – is about asking the right questions at the right time, as a natural result of good listening. When you clarify you are asking the other person to “tell you more.”
- Feedback – feedback is “feeding back” what you heard and observed through clarification what the other person said (or didn’t say). Feedback gives the other person the chance to correct your impression if it is not quite accurate.
- Summarizing – providing a verbal summary of the communication exchange is a great strategy to check for understanding and makes the person “feel heard” which in turn, builds the relationship and builds trust.
Since influencing is a form of communication, you can see that by building your basic communication skills you will consequently build your influencing skills.