This is the thirteenth installment in our 25-week series exploring the 25 competencies, or soft skills, that our assessments measure. Each week we’ll give you the definition of that competency, explain its value, and give you tips to help you develop it.
This week: Influencing Others.
Influencing Others is all about being able to personally affect others’ actions, decisions, opinions, or thinking. It’s your ability to persuade. Your ability to get others to see your point of view and to buy into your ideas.
Those that are skilled in Influencing Others are able to build great trust and rapport with others. This is the true root of influence. People will not listen to or follow someone that they don’t trust. In order to get people to see your point of view they first need to believe that your point of view, though different than theirs, will still be good for them. Once that trust has been established, you can move on to sharing your opinions and convincing others of your argument.
Influencing Others is one of the most basic and fundamental tools you will have to master as a professional. Influencing Others requires an understanding of a structure that was developed two thousand years ago. Originally developed by the ancient Greeks, Influence, or persuasion, involved three components:
- Ethos – getting the other person to accept you on an open, ready, and willing basis.
- Pathos – getting the emotional engagement and involvement of the other person in your message.
- Logos – presenting your idea, product, or service in such a way that it makes sense to the person.
Influencing Others, as old as it is, is probably one of the most misunderstood concepts in the world.
Influencing Others is not just doing all of the talking. Rather, it is presenting your solution in such a way that it appeals to the value structure, needs, senses, and wants of another person. Influencing Others involves doing as much non-verbal communicating and listening as it does talking!
Influencing Others requires you to see and talk from another person’s point of view. Great influencers can understand another person’s objections and concerns and respond to them effectively. These people have good intuitive insight, role confidence, practical thinking ability, and the ability to think on their feet. In contrast, people who are insensitive to others and have excessive role confidence may think that other people only want, or need, to hear what they themselves think is important.
Before you can hope to influence people of the merits of your ideas, of the value of the solutions you suggest, or to change their behavior, you will need to work on how to present yourself. In order to be a successful influencer, you must first learn how to present yourself as polite, knowledgeable, and assertive. Thereby tapping into the Ethos step of persuasion. Getting others to accept you openly.
But, even when you present yourself perfectly, the act of Influencing Others still requires that you have developed a plan for gaining their support. And you should start with some knowledge about what information is important to present. This is the Logos, making sure that what you’re saying makes sense to the other person.
No matter how diligent you have been in examining options and preparing a thoughtful presentation of your ideas, you may be met with resistance. Gaining support from others takes time and practice to perfect!
As humans, we are constantly interacting with and attempting to influence those around us.
Maybe you’re asking a neighbor for a favor. Perhaps you’re trying to potty train your child. Maybe you’re trying to get a friend to come to a concert with you. Or maybe you’re trying to get a new client on board. It is a skill that is paramount to getting things done and almost everyone uses it every day to some degree. This is why it is so important to develop.
You can start developing your skills in Influencing Others by studying your audience. Any time you need to convince someone of something, take a moment to step into their shoes and see things from their perspective. What is most important to them in this conversation? What do they care about getting out of this situation?
The quickest way to get someone on your side is to find a win-win solution. An option that gets them what they want and you what you want. That’s why it’s so important to study your audience. Understanding their point of view is key to being able to speak to their wants and needs. That’s tapping into the Pathos or their emotional engagement.
Remember that people only ever do things for their own reasons, not yours. So focus on identifying how you can help this person get what they want while helping yourself get what you want.
Influencing Others is not about manipulation.
I’m not writing this blog so that you can get better at using people. I am not trying to create an army of used car salesmen (the stereotypical ones at least). The objective is to find better ways to work with others, not to get them to work for you. True influence does not come from a place of malice. If you are just trying to use someone, they will be able to pick up on it. And you’ll lose any semblance of trust you were starting to build.
Nothing weakens your ability to influence others faster than breaking their trust. So if you plan to use your influence on someone to get what you want and to harm them in the process, know that that will be the last time you are able to influence them at all.
Building influence takes time.
Because Influencing Others requires trust, it does take time to build. But it is an investment that is well worth your time. Influencing Others is the key to success in almost any arena. And it is especially important in leadership. Great leaders are great influencers. Plain and simple. If you are not able to influence and inspire your team, you aren’t much of a leader at all.
So take the time to focus on building up your Influencing Others skills and see what you can accomplish.
If you’d like to learn more ways to develop your Influencing Others skills, download our Influencing Others Rx PDF here.