Charging your Influence Quotient
An idea is resilient. Once planted in someone’s head, it can’t be gotten rid of easily.
If you have watched Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece, Inception, you might have heard the line – ‘An idea is like a virus. It can grow to define or destroy you’. Although a fictional movie, the theory of an embedding an idea in someone’s mind is completely realistic and it portrays how influential an idea can be at times.
To work efficiently your ability in influencing people in your organisation is crucial. How do you influence your peers to adopt your ideas? How do you inspire those working with you to support your initiative?
Influence is not about forcing others to accept your proposal; it is not manipulation. It can be thought of inspiring others to follow suit. Your actions and behaviour towards your team is what influences them. Influence can also be thought of swaying someone’s thoughts or opinions using your intellect and emotional intelligence.
Adam M. Grant, an American popular science author and professor at the Wharton School in his work Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, wrote – “When we establish dominance, we gain influence because others see us as strong, powerful, and authoritative. When we earn prestige, we become influential because others respect and admire us.”
The latter is about building trust in people and how to collaborate with people.
Articulating for influence is fundamental in leadership – self or in service of a team, function or organisation. Building influence takes awareness, skill and knowledge; and we hope through this blog to share some insights on developing influence mastery. Hang on till the end!
“Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.”
~ Desmond Tutu
Persuading and Influencing daily
Have you ever been in the company of a toddler who sees your phone as a toy and wants to play with it? This may be how the situation plays out. He may start by grabbing your phone while you consider a gentle or appropriate way of not giving up your phone. But you know if you don’t agree then in about two seconds the whimpering may start. If he starts to cry, you are likely going to be emotionally hijacked by feeling guilty of making a child cry. So, to avoid all the drama, you give him your phone. A soft whimper was all that was needed to persuade you to give up your phone. Children are born with intuitive methods of influence (or, manipulation) when they need to persuade anyone for something. Sadly, many of us lose this intuition as we grow up! 😉
We are constantly influencing or persuading people in our lives – family, friends, colleagues and clients – to achieve what you want or to get things done; from deciding the venue of a weekend dinner to a motion for a salary hike in office.
We don’t like other people making decisions for us, yet we often tend to decide based on what others have done in a similar situation. Statistics is almost always our default evidence of choice. It helps calm our brain and validates a decision we make. They become more useful when the direction you are suggesting is not the most obvious or common route.
Of course, this is provided the source reliability and validity of the statistics have checked the necessary boxes.
Simple over complex
Have you ever played mental calculation games or puzzles on your phone? You need to be mentally agile. Your brain generates quick outputs when data is simpler. This is also true when we need to make decisions.
Our ability to make decisions is impacted by a criterion of how easily and quickly we can understand something. You will not choose a complex method over a simple one. If you can present your point in a simpler easier to understand ways, you are more likely to persuade more people.
A nice example here can be the first time you went to a driving school. Were you out on the road, with the steering in your hands on your very first day? Absolutely not. You first learnt the basic things about driving. Your instructor would not have jumped into the complex part of gear changing (when automatic cars were not that popular) or how the various parts are connected on the very first day, else you would have lost the motivation and the nerve to learn how to drive!
Confidence and faith
The way you look at things changes with the frame. Imagine you walk into a footwear shop looking to buy a pair of shoes. When the sales assistant shows you a pair of shoes of an unknown brand, you enquire about the strength, durability…..you ask about the ‘quality’ of the shoes. When he shows a Nike, your first question would be about the price because you have confidence about the quality from the brand name. The other pair may be of a similar quality, but the “Nike-frame” offers assurance, promise and stamp of approval.
When you appear confident, you communicate a frame of deep expertise, experience, and knowledge.
“As experience as you are, I don’t need to dwell on the importance of persuasion.”
This is an example of praeteritio. It lets you know that persuasion is quite important and by disregarding the need to tell you how much, and by doing so increases its importance in your mind.
Drawing attention to the point and then leaving it hanging or incomplete heightens its mystery and by extension, its influence.
Praeteritio is a subtle, tricky tactic sometimes used by lawyers.
Playing it smart
It is quite important that people do not view you as an opponent of their ideas. If they do, it’s highly likely they will not agree with you. You need to be on their side; to align yourself to them. You embrace their ideas, talk about it better than they can and then make your business case while demonstrating 100% comfort sticking to their ideas. You’re just thinking out loud.
Bridging the divide is a smart way of not pitch yourself against the others, instead framing it as ‘us’ vs the problem or challenge or opportunity.
Connecting for Influence
We sometimes find ourselves in situations when we lose track of a conversation. We stop focusing on what others are saying, we zone out or our thoughts wander somewhere else.
You might be in a meeting room discussing some issues with your peers or at your dining table where your spouse or children are narrating how their day was, and WHAM! you’ve gone to a parallel universe. There are several reasons why this happens, but not paying attention can cost you the connection you have with them.
Building a connection is a prerequisite to influence people. Conversations can be challenging but you will have to handle relationships with care and mindfulness. Relationship is core to our ability to influence. No amount of technique mastery will help you persuade someone if you don’t have that connection with them.
“If you need to invoke your academic pedigree or job title for people to believe what you say, then you need a better argument.”
~ Neil deGrasse Tyson
Being open to being influenced
Remember when you were still at school day and you asked your parents for permission to stay out late or at a friend’s place, and they immediately said no? End of discussion!
How did you feel at the time? Frustration. Anger. At the unfairness of it all.
Imagine how colleagues would feel if we do not allow them to finish what they are saying; we jump in to say our piece or give a counter argument. No matter if you feel they are wrong, give them the time to finish, take some time to reflect and then share your point. We sometimes need a bit more time to get to the point or the issue may be complex and needs a bit more analysis than usual.
PRO TIP! The globally recognised think on your feet training has inspired more than half a million participants in 30 countries and 12 languages to better their communication for optimal performance and improving overall wellbeing.
Remember it is a two-way lane, if you are willing to listen, to concede, then others will be willing to give in too. Being influenced is not a sign of weakness, rather of strength.
Weave stories with emotional experiences
Stories are the best way to make your audience stick till the end. If you only focus on giving them statistics about how your idea is life-changing, what you’re saying can quickly get boring or give the audience a way out – to say no or argue against the data. Yes, statistics is important when persuading someone to believe in what you stand for, but it is not enough of a bridge. You’ve only built a logical connection.
Weave stories that build the emotional bridge. If you can identify their hopes, fears, success, and failures and connect them with your stories, your influence and persuasion magnify.
These tips will not only help you deliver a perfect pitch that is pitch perfect, it also come in handy in harnessing the positives in workplace conflicts for psychological safety when building high performing teams.
In reports about the Future of Work, influence has been identified as a core skill for organisation to succeed. Boosting your influence quotient will help make your life easier, not only at your workplace but also at home. From pitching ideas to clients to convincing your child that you are doing something for their good, influencing people is the need of the times.
Have fun experimenting with these tips.