Studies have revealed that 85 percent of your career success is in direct proportion to your ability to communicate. However, I believe that 85 percent of your overall success in life is in direct proportion to your ability to communicate your wants, needs and ideas to others. Whether your business deals in manufacturing or towing, and whether your goal is to win new customers, improve management/employee relationships, implement change, build customer relationships, create a winning team, convey the value of your product to customers, gain support or all of these, you need to be able to influence people.
The ability to influence people may seem elusive, but some people seem to be born with it. They can convince a customer to buy a new piece of equipment, get an idle worker to put in extra effort or persuade their boss to pursue a new business strategy. Other people seem to struggle just to get people to comply with their simple requests. (Some would be thrilled if they could just convince their teenagers to turn down their blasting music!) The truth is that no one is born with this talent. Of course, for some people, influencing others comes more naturally, but it’s as much a learned skill as it is an innate ability.
Influencing people comes easier to those who are more assertive than others. Not to be confused with aggressive people, assertive people have a depth of understanding about themselves and others. They know what they want and how they feel. Most importantly, they know how to communicate those feelings to others. They are usually both physically and mentally healthy because they can express themselves, rarely keeping things inside.
As you seek to influence others you must first look hard and deep at yourself, and see yourself as others see you. As you examine the image you project, keep in mind that you influence others in three areas:
- Who you are
- What they hear from you
- What they see you do or not do.
Who Are You?
You need to have a strong sense of self and need to recognize the kind of person you are. Are you a strong person who’s not afraid to take charge? Are you a caring person? Are you someone who’s willing to help? Do you have strong values? Are you a person who strives to please your customers? Do you love your business and treat customers well?
What Are Others Hearing You Say?
You can influence others if you’re an “encourager.” You want to make people feel good about themselves and to speak in terms of positive outcomes. Do they hear empathy and caring? Do they hear a tone of voice that sounds genuine and sincere? (“I apologize you had to wait. No one should have to wait this long, but we’ve had so many calls with this weather. Let’s get you taken care of quickly.”) Do they hear “thanks” and “I appreciate you” often? (“Thank you so much for calling us. If we can be of service in the future, we’ll be happy to serve you.) Do they hear words that encourage people and bring out the best in them? Do they hear positive reinforcement? Do they hear an open-minded response when they make suggestions, share ideas or give their opinions? Do they see you as a person who listens but doesn’t talk? Does what they consistently hear let them know where you stand? Do they hear assertive communication with tact and diplomacy when necessary? Do you sound confident and knowledgeable? Do you sound enthusiastic without sounding overly excited? Or do they hear someone who vacillates back and forth on what to do and why?
What Do They See?
You want to make sure your actions are consistent with the values and traits to which you aspire. Do you project professionalism? Do others see someone who “leads by example?” Do they see someone who rolls up her sleeves, moves people and gets the job done? Do they see non-verbal communication that has a positive message? Do they see actions that demonstrate you do what you say you’ll do? Do they see consistent demonstrations of your values? Do they see someone with a positive attitude? Do they see someone who appears credible in the eyes of others? Do they see competency? Do they see someone who is willing to do what he/she is asking others to do? Do they see that you do what you say you’ll do? Is your word your bond?
First, you must know how to tailor your conversations to the personality of each person with whom you interact. Each of us is unique and, consequently, we respond differently to persuasion. Some people feel easily threatened; others seem oblivious to subtle persuasion. Some folks naturally trust other people, while others are skeptical. Some people are warm and congenial; other people are negative and sometimes even despondent. You need to vary your approach to each person. Later, as you read the various techniques of influence in this chapter, keep in mind the personalities of those with whom you spend most of your time.
Access the Agenda
Seek to understand the personal and professional agendas of those with whom you work. You have your objective, but what’s their agenda? Does it conflict with yours? Is it compatible? Is it completely different? You need to discover their “What’s In It For Me?” analysis and speak from there. For example, “I know you’ve worked an incredibly long shift, are tired and haven’t been with your family during this snow storm. I’m afraid I must ask you to hang in there with me; when the weather’s nicer, I’ll make it up to you.”
Determine the overriding attitudes of each person you work with most frequently. What are their beliefs and attitudes as they relate to what you want to accomplish? Do they value hard work? Do they value their personal life? Are they hardheaded? Do they practice integrity? Or, do they have a win-at-all-cost attitude? When you understand others’ attitudes, you’ll see more clearly how they will view your position.
In the next issue, you will learn more techniques to influence people and actual words and phrases you can use in your business and personal life.
For now, remember the bottom line to successfully influencing people is not only just understanding what you want from the other person but also observing the factors listed above that result in their unique point of view. As a result of your closer observation, you’ll gain new insights into how to quickly gain support for your ideas. TPW