improving your influencing skills

Honing your influencing skills: 6 tips for improving your influence today

If you’d like to fine-tune your ability to influence others, a book I can recommend is Influence; The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini.  In this book, Cialdini outlines the key influence patterns that exist in human communication. Once you are aware of these ‘unconscious’ patterns of influence you can use them to increase your power and reduce the likelihood that you will be manipulated by others.

I will cover the first three of the six influence patterns here:

1. Reciprocation

The moment we are given something the “law of reciprocity” takes over and compels us to want to return the favour with an action of our own. Free offers and promotional gifts are all examples of reciprocation at work.

Tactic: Counter reciprocation by being aware of it’s influence, and if returning the “favour” is not in line with your business outcomes – then don’t swallow the bait!

2. Commitment and Consistency

Once something is written down it becomes a kind of ‘law’.  By asking “universal” type questions that tend to provoke “yes” answers, such as “Are you interested in paying less tax?” you create a situation where it will be difficult to say no, or to go back on what you have already agreed to! Then, if it is written down it is even more difficult to say no!

Tactic: Counter this pattern by playing devils advocate and using caution, or answering yes with conditions eg. “Yes, I am interested in saving tax, but not if that means buying your services now”.

3. Social Proof

This is like ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’’.  The influence exists where we believe that “if everyone else is doing/buying it, it must be good. Used positively, social proof can help win business – the testimonial or phone reference is a good way to use this pattern to your advantage. You can also use the social proof response as a gauge of market conditions for example: when there are lots of Chinese people in a Chinese restaurant!

Tactic: Counter this influence pattern by recognising how your individuality and personal outcomes shape your decision-making – not the crowd response.

Now that you know the first three of the six influence patterns, I will now give you some tips to help you to be more influential:

1. Build your credibility over time. Your personal credibility has a significant impact on your degree of influence. Your credibility is determined by things like your self confidence, your presence, your charisma, your experience, your work networks and your skill level. Solid credibility gives you a solid foundation on which to plan an influential communication strategy.

2. Be connected. Be clear in your mind about the basis on which there is the potential for a connection between you and the people you would like to persuade.

In other words, why do others need what you have to offer or why should they change in the way you would like? What is the strategic value you have to offer? Apart from anything else, if you are really clear about this you will have more success in matching your influencing style to the situation.

3. Build rapport. Zig Ziglar famously said: “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. Work on your rapport-building skills because people will be persuaded when they feel an affinity with you. Rapport is about, trust, a common connection, mutual understanding and a functional relationship in which both parties feel at ease. Rapport-building is a science and there is much to learn for those to whom it does not come naturally.

4. Be assertive. Powerful influencing requires a high degree of assertiveness. In the 21st century people are much less likely to allow people with authority to dictate. Yet an unassertive person will not be heard in our increasingly competitive world. So, communicate your needs or position in a clear, direct and concise way whilst being sure to show respect for the position and feelings of others.

5. Develop persuasive language. Language is a powerful tool in your toolkit. Learn how to use linguistic devices such as: alliteration; anaphora; tricolon; epistrophe; power words; and joining words to increase your influence.

6. Use social Influence. Take time to understand and apply the other three principles in Cialdini’s six principles of social influence.

  • Authority – we look to experts to show us the way.
  • Scarcity – the less available the resource, the more we want it.
  • Liking – the more we like people the more we want to say yes to them.

There are a variety of approaches to influencing worth learning and trying throughout your day at work. Remember, it doesn’t matter how good your company is, how good your products or service are, how good your ideas are or how good your message is if no one’s listening. Influencing techniques will help you ensure your message is heard and will increase the chance you’ll hear the word ‘yes’ more often in your life.

Michelle Bowden is an authority on presentation & persuasion in business. Michelle is a CSP (the highest designation for speakers in the world), co-creator of the PRSI (a world-first psychometric indicator that tests your persuasiveness at work), best selling internationally published author (Wiley), editor of How to Present magazine, producer of Michelle Bowden TV, and a regular commentator in print, radio and online media. Sign up for Michelle’s FREE How to Present magazine TODAY

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