10 Ways to Influence People

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Dale Carnegie literally wrote the book on influence with, How to Win Friends and Influence People, which was originally published in 1936.

In this post, we’re not going to summarize the contents of his book. Instead, we will provide insights from lessons learned by decades of our own experiences. Of course, a quick cross-reference with Carnegie’s book finds several overlaps because much of his book aligns to our experiences.

Take the tips detailed below and find ways to integrate them into your work. Whether you are the CEO or an entry-level employee, the ability to influence people will serve you very well. It is an essential skill for professional – and personal – success.

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Tip #1 - Listen

To influence people begins with listening. Only then, can you determine the needs and wants of those you are trying to influence. By listening, we become informed, which allows us to better craft a strategy of influence.

There are things you can do physically to become a better listener. Be physically present, make and maintain eye contact, be relaxed, and appear attentive. Additionally, listening requires us to pay close attention, not to allow our mind to be elsewhere, and to keep an open mind. 

Finally, do not interrupt the speaker. Allow them to conclude their message so you may understand it completely and accurately before responding.

Tip #2 - Be Credible

Credibility comes from experience, knowledge, training and trust. The more of those boxes you can check, the more credible you are.

If you are attempting to influence people related to a topic of which you are not a credible source, find one. Attribute data, findings, and even opinions to professionals who are credible in the field of which you are discussing. 

Of course, don’t skew the findings to make them fit your agenda. Moreover, don’t hide credible findings that counter your agenda. Present all known facts and information and then help them understand why they should align with your viewpoint.

Tip #3 - Select a Delivery Method

The platform you choose to deliver your persuasive message could prove to be an effective catalyst or result in your message being missed or ineffective.

If the stakeholders you are attempting to reach are young professionals who are attending a three-day conference, then you want to do everything you can to attend that conference and find ways to engage them in-person. You may follow up on social media and other methods but the primary platform is in-person at the conference where they are a fairly captured audience. On the other hand, if your stakeholder is your boss, a one-on-one meeting may be the most ideal delivery platform.

At times, other factors besides the wants and needs of the other person may influence your delivery platform of choice. For instance, if you are attempting to influence 5,000 current and potential clients, you may not have enough time and resources to personalize each individual delivery. Instead, platforms such as a video, email, newsletter, mailings, or another type of mass medium is probably more likely to have success.

Tip #4 - Keep it Simple

When attempting to influence someone, you cannot overwhelm them with information.

Decide what your call to action is, how you can appeal to their needs and wants, and direct your focus there. What do you want them to do? How do you want them to think? What do you want them to say?

Once you have a clear goal in mind, focus your efforts towards that end. Use only the information needed to get the job done. They don’t need to know the entire history of your subject and every piece of information you found online.

Use your best material. Keep your pitch short and keep it simple.

Tip #5 - Leverage Facts, Data, and Reputable Information

The narrative is important, but it is more impactful when supported by quantifiable information. Data, measurements, and information pulled from reputable sources that help support your position will strengthen your narrative. 

If you are a credible source for the information, you may be the one to provide this data. If not, seek credible sources and attribute findings to them. 

Also, always provide the source of your information. If it is yours, say so. If not, explain where it came from. That lends credibility to your position, even if you are not the subject matter expert.

Tip #6 - Be Personable and Be Yourself

Authenticity enhances credibility. People can sense a performance. When people know you are being sincere, they will be more open to receiving your message. 

During a pitch, it is okay to divulge personal information about yourself, add a bit of humor, and even make minor mistakes. These are attributes all humans share. Too polished of a presentation and you risk appearing phony.

Remember, the person delivering the information is just as influential as the information itself.

Tip #7 - Be Empathetic and Sympathetic

Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings of someone else. Sympathy is an understanding based on your own experiences and perspective.

To influence, you must understand the needs and wants of others. Moreover, you must understand why they are needed and wanted. Take time to understand the person you are trying to influence. Know them personally and professionally. Take time to genuinely see from their perspective and understand the insights and experiences they have that influences their perspective.

If you can relate from your own experiences (sympathy), share that with them. Cultivate a deeper connection through shared experiences or perspectives – and have greater influence.

Tip #8 - Develop Clear Talking Points

Once you create the call to action, develop a few talking points that support your position. These will be your bread-and-butter of your pitch. Generally, don’t create more than two or three talking points.

Talking points should support your call to action. Often, it is a good practice to write down all of your talking points – no matter how many you can generate. Then, take time to combine points when possible, remove some that may have lesser impact or importance, and then rank those that remain. Sticky notes are a great tool for this process.

Tip #9 - Be Truthful

Don’t spin! You must recognize and avoid spin like the plague! Your reputation – and ability to influence – is certainly at stake.

Britannica.com defines spin as “The sophisticated selling of a specific message that is heavily biased in favour of one’s own position and that employs maximum management of the media with the intention of maintaining or exerting control over the situation, often implying deception or manipulation.”

Spin is not truthful. If your position is the right one, you should be able to influence without deceiving. Ultimately, even a short-term win using spin will likely backfire.

Tip #10 - Allow Space for Their Voice

Communication is not a one-way street. It takes two people to engage in the communications cycle. Allow space for questions, comments, and even disagreement. This works in your favor because it allows you insights into their mindset. Welcome their perspective and leverage that information to refine your approach.

To effectively influence, both parties must be comfortable with the outcome. The only way for dual ownership to occur is for all parties to be secure in the ultimate decision. This requires buy-in from everybody. That is not achieved through a slick slide-deck and an overly rehearsed script.

Welcome, and invite, their perspective.

BONUS Tip #11 - Follow Up

True influence is achieved through ongoing dialog. It evolves and strengthens over time. This is not a one-and-done proposition.

Follow up and remain in contact following your initial effort. This will show commitment on your behalf and strengthen credibility and trust.