“You cannot antagonise and influence at the same time”, John Knox
Personal influence relates to perception of status, power, attitude and position. Using persuasion within an ethical framework can help you inspire others even when you are not in a position of authority. At the same time, if you learn about influence, you will be able to recognize and deal effectively with those that misuse it as a form of manipulation.
If you agree that human behavior is not always the result of purely rational activity, you will also see that being right on the substance on any topic but wrong on the people will hinder your success. How many times do you get stuck on the “I’m right – you are wrong” mindset?
A confrontational style trying to convince others rarely triggers true inspiration. Influencing skills are more subtle, they require a deep understanding of the psychology of influence. For those interested in the topic, I recommend the seminal work of Robert B. Cialdini. He explains the overpowering effect of the rules of persuasion and offers good guidance on how to use them appropriately.
Here are some other tips that can help you boost your influence:
- Many human reactions are self-defensive or motivated by fear. Identifying those emotions in yourself, your clients and other people will make you a forerunner.
- A couple of clichés that work: first impressions count and small talk matters. It is not all about being clever; people follow optimistic and kind persons naturally.
- Think about things you have in common with other people and build upon similarities.
- Don’t expect to be smarter than others- people feel and resent this- just be honest.
- As Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said or what you did, but they never forget the way you made them feel.” I find this very powerful: gather feedback, note when people say they feel good being around you and observe what it was that made them feel good (if you don’t know, ask!).
- Don’t be afraid to show some vulnerability. People who seem “normal” are not less competent. Work with grit and accuracy on your analysis or professional content, but still take the time to relate to others with authenticity.
Take time to observe: who inspires you? Why? What do you admire most in other people? Have you decided to make changes or try something new because you’ve been inspired by someone?
When I was at university one day we were talking about “silly dreams”. I said I would have loved to go to Vienna to the Schönbrunn palace for Carnival, wear a princess dress and dance all night like Sissi, but I didn’t have the time (nor the money) to do that. When we came back from holidays a fellow student said “I did your dream, went to the palace and danced the waltz in a great long dress”. I felt cheated. I thought “she stole my dream”. I am now so proud I inspired her, maybe she would have never thought of doing that and this is now part of her memories… I don’t know what inspired her. Maybe she was just bored and needed to borrow a dream. But I like to think that perhaps my enthusiasm and the way I spoke about my dream had something to do with it.
Strangely, this episode inspired me later on to share more serious inspirational ideas with others at work. It gave me the confidence to think that my imagination could appeal to others and trigger new initiatives.
Have you been a source of inspiration to someone without using authority? How did it feel?
Why not come and take the time to think about your own dreams? In the RenewYou workshop on June 21 in Brussels we’ll do just that: take the time to get inspired and take control of your life.