Being able to create win-win situations in business and in personal life depends on one’s ability to influence others without undue aggression and with both parties’ interests in mind. One of the most effective ways to influence others is to identify their underlining interests and find a way to satisfy these interests.

Almost every thing we do involves the act of influencing others. Getting others to agree to our way of thinking, our approach or our views makes life easier. When we have differing points of views, experiences and approaches to problem-solving, life gets tougher. In these situations our goal is to negotiate an agreement.

Most people are not aware that every human interaction involves a complex process of persuasion and influence. And being unaware, they are usually the ones being persuaded to help others rather than the ones who are doing the persuading. Think about it. How often are we required to assert influence on others? We influence our partners, trying to get agreement to a myriad of decisions-some as simple as where to go on vacation and more complex decisions about décor choices, retirement planning or parenting.

At work, we are always working to influence our peers, subordinates or bosses to get our work done-by recommending a course of action or deciding on options. In fact, our ability to influence others is a core leadership competency. In all these situations, at home or at work, we are required to influence another individual. How well we do it can make a difference between a harmonious or disharmonious existence and success in life.

Here are some tips to help you achieve success:

Be aware of your own interests and motivations at any given point in time.

Great leaders, coaches and communicators don’t focus extremely on other followers, players and audiences. They have a high degree of self-awareness. We all have basic skills to lead, coach or communicate. Unfortunately, most of us have a few psychological blocks to applying these skills well and consistently. Knowing yourself will help you overcome your own blocks.

Listen carefully to identify underlying interests and motivations of others.

When listing the inventory of projects it is important to ensure that each project has an approved scope statement and detailed project plan because this will affect project prioritization decisions. Projects that fail to have clear scope and detailed plans are bound for failure. When conflict arises, most often it is because either or both parties are taking a rigid position from their viewpoints, without consideration to the other person’s interests. Such a situation creates tension because neither party knows how to break the stalemate. Some phrases that indicate that the other person does not feel understood are:

  • “You have to understand that.”
  • “Let me explain something to you.”
  • “I want to make sure that this isn’t an academic exercise.”

By listening carefully and asking questions to show that you are genuinely interested you’ll be amazed at the spin-offs from becoming a good question asker and a good listener. By asking, “Why?” we may discover why they feel as they do and what is motivating their behaviour.

Attempt to make human connections with the other person.

Connecting with people is not about being phony or acting like someone you are not; it’s about creating a favourable link between your internal nature with its beliefs and values, and the external world where you go to work.

Learning to connect fast with your customers, colleagues, bosses, employees, and even total strangers by taking full advantage of your body, your mind, your voice, and above all your imagination will give you a significant competitive edge. It will help you maximize the potential in every relationship, be it personal, business-related, or social. Some suggestions for making connections are:

  • Look others straight in the eye! Eye contact is one of the most important nonverbal channels you have for communication and connecting with other people.
  • Connect with the senses. People have different ways of communicating their experiences – some express themselves in pictures, others talk about how things sound to them, and others speak about how things feel. By expressing yourself through the: Visuals (pictures), Auditory (how you say things) and Kinaesthetic (feelings) we are able to help build a Mental Map that is a powerful way of expressing the thought patterns, pictures and associations that already exist in the brain. When new information is compatible with your knowledge structures it is accepted, when it does not mesh with your pre-conceived ideas or past experience it receives little consideration, is distorted or ignored.
  • Ask simple open-ended questions. Then, be quiet and make note of the exact words the other person uses. When a person answers an open-ended question, he stops focusing outward and goes inside his mind. At that instant, he becomes relatively unaware of the words he uses. Those words point back in time to meaningful memories and emotional experiences. Just listen. Most people tell you more about themselves than they think.
  • Manage cross-cultural differences. Culture is often the root of communication challenges. Becoming more aware of cultural differences, as well as exploring cultural similarities, can help you communicate with others more effectively. Next time you find yourself in a confusing situation, ask yourself how culture may be shaping your own reactions, and try to see the world from the other’s point of view

Build rapport with the other person

Rapport is a process of building a sustaining relationship of mutual trust, harmony and understanding. It is essentially meeting individuals in their model of the world. This happens through matching the accessing cues from words, eye movements and body language. Rapport is the ability to be on the same wavelength and to connect mentally and emotionally. It is the ability to join people where they are in order to build a climate of trust and respect. Having rapport does not mean that you have to agree, but that you understand where the other person or people are coming from.

You cannot influence someone unless he or she likes you in some way. Rapport is often the key to influence. Rapport and influence start with acceptance of the other person’s point of view, their state and their style of communication. To influence you have to be able to appreciate and understand the other person’s standpoint. And these work both ways: I cannot influence you without being open to influence myself.

Influence or be influenced.

There are always two choices: either you can persuade others to help you or you can be persuaded to help them. It is one or the other. Most people are not aware that every human interaction involves a complex process of persuasion and influence. And being unaware, they are usually the ones being persuaded to help others rather than the ones who are doing the persuading. Every hour of every day, at every level in every organization, influential people succeed and non-influential people usually don’t.

Sally Stanleigh

Sally Stanleigh is a senior partner in Business Improvement Architects and the Chief Operating Officer. Sally manages the operation and develops and implements communications, marketing and promotion programs. She is also responsible for spearheading and managing the company's corporate research projects. Sally has a background in marketing and communications and previously worked as a senior product manager with multi-national corporations such as Colgate-Palmolive and Phillip Morris before founding Business Improvement Architects with her husband and partner, Michael Stanleigh. On occasion, Sally is asked by clients for help with business planning. She facilitates the planning process as a consultant and helps clients with the development of their marketing plans and programs. She has also presented to professional groups on such topics as: customer feedback systems, employee motivation, development of incentive programs and trends. You may contact her at sstanleigh@bia.ca.