Influence. Such a powerful word. If you were to think about who had a major influence in your life until now, who would come to mind? Have they been more influential to the positive or to the negative side? What about yourself and those who you have influenced along the way, how would that list look like?
During some interesting conversations, I have realized that for some people influence is something seen almost as a magic trick intended only for special profiles such as politicians, presidents, CEOs of huge corporations and a handful of government or religious members.
What these people usually underestimate is their own ability to influence others. Influence should not be used for the sake of power, but rather for the goodness and growth of ourselves and others. When you are able to influence others positively, they are not the only ones who gain from it. You also reap the benefits.
Becoming more influential reflects on your professional and personal relationships. From tough business mediations to toddlers’ tantrum-negotiations and family request handling, your persuasive skills are a key factor. Imagine the scenario where people not only listen to you but feel also inspired by you and encouraged to change their behavior and take bold action. Besides transforming their reality, it changes yours too. It evolves into a positive-action cycle where people feel motivated to chase their dreams, while you have more and more people in your corner who can help you achieve yours.
Below you can find 4 steps to become more influential through persuading others toward more knowledge and growth.
1. Be genuine: People talk a lot about authenticity. What does it mean to be authentic and how to show it, especially considering the different environments you are in. In other words, everyone claims for authenticity, sometimes without even knowing who they are…which can pose a problem. To be authentic, genuine, you must be in touch with your truth. You must know what you fear the most, the same way you know what makes you take the risk anyway. When you acknowledge your strengths, your skills, your uniqueness, you have the real power. Power and influence over yourself to keep learning and growing. Holding to this openness of mind and spirit, you are being genuine not only to yourself, but also in interaction with others. What does this have to do with being more influential? Well, would you listen to someone who sounds phony or unsure about themselves?! You would probably listen more attentively and feel more inspired by someone who comes across trustworthy and authentic, someone whose words and actions persuade you to take action as well. Do not be afraid of sharing your truth. It may not resonate with everyone you encounter, but it will certainly touch a few minds and souls.
2. Show interest: You can be a gifted storyteller or not, but you have your own story. Everyone has theirs. It may be more or less complicated; it may include more or less details. It can make you still feel very much attached to the past or rather anxious about the future. Whatever story – and stories – you have, it is yours; part of what makes you unique. When being influential with others, you must show a genuine interest on their stories and their current realities. We touched upon being genuine in the above-mentioned point. Showing interest is linked with empathy and open-mindedness. You do not know other people’s realities until you listen to them, even if you believe you have heard it all. Remember that people have their own beliefs and assumptions, much about others as about themselves. Listening to them is connecting beyond words, it means showing your undivided attention letting judgement aside. More than being understood, people want to be listened to and feel appreciated by their strengths and uniqueness.
3. Recognize ambition: Not everyone is ambitious – you may think immediately when reading this third point. That is not entirely true, not the way I see it anyway. Ambition has different meanings to different people. Imagine that you have been working hard at a company waiting for that next promotion, picturing yourself as its CEO couple of years down the line. That sounds as reasonable as wanting to dedicate your time volunteering at a women’s shelter or practicing endless hours a day to competing in the next Olympics. How we measure ambition depends on the goals we define for our life and these can vary extensively. What is common is the underlying feeling – the urge to achieve something, the will for a better future. In other words, persuading others implies recognizing other people’s actions and linked them to the rewards they bring them. Perhaps they are intrinsic rewards such as purpose, passion, joy; as they can also be extrinsic rewards, namely, money, status, recognition. We need to be assured that our actions have the outcome we wish for, to believe and commit to something beyond what our sight can reach.
4. Connect emotionally: I guess you already know it but let me remind you. Our commitment to a given action is stronger the deeper its emotional connection. For instance, I tried quitting smoking several times, though never worked quite effectively. Until I found my emotional connector, which in my case was being pregnant. So, when I became pregnant, I quit smoking 2 weeks after. I am not saying it was easy – because it wasn’t – but I did it. Going back to our influential process, this means emotions play a major role as we all are emotional beings. If you are wondering how that could work in a business environment, I’d tell you that it surely applies. It is all about the emotional connection you make between your vision – the cause of your influence – and the other person’s action – the object of your influence. Using the proper tone, cadence, and pitch while sharing your story awakens other people’s emotional connectors making them more prompt to action and change.
For some persuasion comes naturally, whereas others must put in more effort. Despite where you find yourself, there is always room for improvement. Remember that influencing others is not about being the better person or the one who is always right. Rather, to gain people’s buy in through trust, understanding, and communication strengthening your professional and interpersonal relationships.