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New behavioral sciences research is increasingly showing us how to influence people and persuade them effectively at work. And it is easy to learn.
For all this time, many of us have only dreamed of being able to grow and build our influence in the workplace. It’s as if one is either born with the ability to lead and influence. Or, destined to forever be insignificant. All is not lost, though. There are astonishingly simple ways to convince people to your point of view. It’s just that most of this is rarely taught to us.
Table of Contents
- Why It Is Difficult To Influence People At Work
- How To Become The Most Influential Person At Work
- Avoid These Common Mistakes When Influencing People
- 1. Don’t Start Influencing Others With Reasons and Facts
- 2. Don’t Let People Sense You Are Influencing Them
- 3. Always Put The Other Person’s Needs First
- Did This Approach Influence You?
- 4. Mimic Their Emotional State Prior To Influencing People
- 5. People Are More Easily Persuaded If The Request Is Visual And Simple
- 6. Now Give Them Reasons So They Can Justify Saying “Yes” To You
- The Best Way To Influence People’s Decisions Positively
- How To Influence Others And Get What You Want
- Advice For Growing Your Influence At Work
- How To Persuade An Influencer Or Senior Executive
- How To Influence Difficult People
- How To Influence People To Support Your Ideas
- How To Influence People Without Authority
- Additional Reading On Influence And Persuasion
Why It Is Difficult To Influence People At Work
You can be certain of one thing, though. From the confusing way influencing people is taught, it is no wonder that many of us find it difficult to be persuasive at work. And it holds far too many of us back. Unnecessarily.
The majority of leadership training we are given on how to influence people’s decisions is needlessly complicated. They focus on a long list of techniques that yield little impact. We are told that many successful CEOs and business leaders influence that way. And so we fall for it. But can you bring to mind a technique you have been taught and tried out that has worked for you?
After all that effort, we are still left with our unanswered question: “How can I be an influential person?”
How To Become The Most Influential Person At Work
Now is a good time to let you in on a secret many management gurus don’t want you to know — it is easy to influence and persuade people. The difficult part is finding your way through the flash and dazzle of influence coaching. And then home in on the simple techniques that succeed. The ones that actually make you influential and get you noticed in the workplace.
The true way to grow your influence and become an influential person lies in your ability to employ the most basic of techniques that go undetected. Soon you will learn the best way to influence anyone and convince them to your point of view.
A Visual Web Story version of this article can be found below:
Avoid These Common Mistakes When Influencing People
There are two basics which you must know if you want to influence people effectively. Firstly, people make every important decision deep in their subconscious minds.
And secondly, the reasoning ability of our conscious (rational) minds evolved more for the sake of winning arguments than for decision making.
Pay close attention to what this is telling us about how we should NOT go about influencing people. You should not try to convince them by reasoning. And don’t let others know they are being influenced by you.
This is a powerful approach. You must only use it to grow your influence positively, and never to manipulate someone in the workplace.
1. Don’t Start Influencing Others With Reasons and Facts
If you try to convince someone by directly reasoning with them through their conscious mind — as most other schools of workplace influence teach — you will typically encounter a roadblock. This is the single biggest factor that results in unsuccessful influencing. It mostly triggers mental argumentation and resistance in others, rather than compliance.
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2. Don’t Let People Sense You Are Influencing Them
Few people know this. So, your initial influencing should always employ techniques that are not sensed by the person you are influencing but work on them subconsciously. People will not resist what they don’t detect.
Influencing this way does not come naturally to any of us. We feel the urge to reason with people first. Most of us make these mistakes when we try to influence people and win them to our side. But if you can check your instincts, then rest of your influencing tasks are much easier.
How to correctly make this initial subliminal connection when influencing people is discussed in the steps below.
3. Always Put The Other Person’s Needs First
Don’t start with talking about your own credentials, expertise or needs. Instead, make it all about the other person. Focus only on yourself, and you are essentially looking past the very person you expect to influence.
Almost all persuasion taught these days is based on getting you to communicate better, boosting your visibility, your network and reputation, and framing your arguments and sales pitches better. How can you expect to get someone on your side if it is all about you and your needs?
People will light up if the conversation is about them — their dreams and aspirations. Who and what they are afraid of, and who is to blame for what they lack.
The best influencers and persuaders know this and always start with the needs of others.
Importantly, this process releases dopamine in people’s brains resulting in what’s called motivational salience — a cognitive process that motivates their behavior towards you. This makes them automatically bond to you. With genuine reasons, explain to them why none of what they lack or are afraid of is any fault of theirs. Find their real enemies and join them in the fight against what makes them scared and what they despise. This real connection is how you can truly start to build your influence on others in the workplace.
Did This Approach Influence You?
If you doubt how effective this is, go back to the beginning of this article and re-read the introduction. You will find this approach there. If the technique worked on you, that is your filter for recognizing a Master Influencer move.
This initial technique of persuading someone and how to connect with them is outlined more fully in a book, written by Blair Warren — The One Sentence Persuasion Course – 27 Words to Make the World Do Your Bidding.
4. Mimic Their Emotional State Prior To Influencing People
In real persuasion, it does not depend that much on what you say when you ask for something. The key is what the other person experiences before they hear your request. We make our decisions based on how we feel. Our reasoning is just a slave to our emotions.
To connect emotionally, use the technique of pacing and leading to get people in a cognitive state where they will be more agreeable with you. It’s easy to do with a little practice. You can read more on pacing and leading here.
Match their tone and pattern of speaking. More importantly, mimic their emotional state. This will help forge a sense of unity with them which has a powerful influencing undertone — framing you as being one with them or as their leader.
5. People Are More Easily Persuaded If The Request Is Visual And Simple
Your main pitch should be fully understood in 5 seconds or less. Visual persuasion is the most effective form. If you get people to imagine clearly where you want to lead them, they are convinced more readily.
The human capacity to process information is limited. Keep the request simple and don’t complicate it with unnecessary details. Describe it in a way that they are able to quickly construct a mental image of your pitch.
6. Now Give Them Reasons So They Can Justify Saying “Yes” To You
People still believe they make decisions rationally. So, once you have won over their subconscious mind and have primed it to be more receptive to your ideas, all they need now are reasons for saying yes to you. In truth, these are only excuses to do what their inner self has already been nudged to do by your initial influence.
If you do steps 1 to 4 successfully, you will be amazed at how little resistance you get from people you are persuading now. Rather than with even the most eloquent reasoning done prior to making an emotional connection with the people you want to influence.
The Best Way To Influence People’s Decisions Positively
Every decision we make is first made deep in our subconscious and is only later propped up with reasoning. We essentially suffer from an illusion of choice. Our conscious mind ends up creating a fictitious story around the decision that the unconscious had already made for us. This cognitive deception fools us into thinking that decision-making works through our rational, reasoning mind.
Master Influencers can get others aligned and influence people’s decisions even before making a request. That is how real influence happens in life. It works because it engages an automatic response in people to say YES to you. Few people are aware of this. Thus, you will wield great power by using what you have learned here. You will finally learn how to influence, lead and persuade people at work.
How To Influence Others And Get What You Want
Never start influencing people by trying to convince them through reasoning or logic. First, make sure you you have established a relationship with them. Spend time on their needs and provide them with something of value.
Mimic their emotional state. Let them know you understand their position. Validate their feelings.
If you do this right, you will have established credibility with them. In this state, they will be looking for ways to reciprocate back to you. They will be primed to look for reasons to say yes to you now. If you ask or influence people directly without any prior groundwork, hoping your advanced reasoning and arguments will carry they day, you will have limited success.
Advice For Growing Your Influence At Work
Think back on recent areas where you have tried to influence people’s decisions at work but have not had much success. Now try it again, but use the new approach and understanding you’ve learned here.
You will find a much easier path to influencing people even though your main line of thinking and reasons you provide remain the same. Now, sit back and experience the joy that real leaders get while growing their influence in the workplace.
Enjoy your new superpowers, but use your influencing skills ethically and only for good. You are now a Master Influencer!
How To Persuade An Influencer Or Senior Executive
The best way to exert influence on people who are themselves influencers or high-ranking executives is to pace and match them first. As leaders, they will like you more if they see you as similar to them. Reciprocity will also work well in this situation. Give them something meaningful first.
You can also try to influence them through loss aversion. Highlight what they would stand to lose if they did not go along with your proposal, rather than what they would gain.
How To Influence Difficult People
People who don’t like you or are particularly stubborn and resistant to others are best worked over by controlling their emotional state before you make your request. A persuasion technique called “Pre-Suasion” works well for this. Here you are front-loading their attention on something that will make them more likely to say yes to the request from you that they have not yet encountered. A primer and further reading on pre-suasion can be found here.
How To Influence People To Support Your Ideas
Get them to be a part of the idea. Make them come up with a slogan or provide some small input to the idea. If they contribute to the idea, even in a tiny way, they will view the idea as something they have helped built. As a result, they will be more likely to support your suggestion. Psychologists call this the “IKEA effect.” Additional reading on this topic can be found here.
How To Influence People Without Authority
Use the persuasion principle of social proof. Point to others who are doing something similar to what you are asking of them.
First get them to commit to something smaller but related to what you eventually want them to do. If they try out this mini version of your request for some time, they will be more likely to say yes to the full version later. They will feel an inner desire to be consistent with their previous stance (commitment and consistency principle of persuasion).
Additional Reading On Influence And Persuasion
If you want to get deeper insights and other ideas for how to influence people and be a leader, these books will help you.
But the best book on this topic is Influence, New And Expanded: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini.
Shaun Mendonsa, PhD is an influencing expert and pharmaceutical development leader. He writes on the topics of influence and persuasion, and develops next generation drugs in human pharma by advising international pharmaceutical CROs and CMOs. He can be reached at [email protected].
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