Who do you need to influence the most?
Do you need to have:
- Your manager give you more credit for the work that you do?
- Your partner acknowledge that your ideas are really worth listening to?
- Your children accept more responsibility?
- Your friends take you seriously when you really mean it?
- Your customers buy more from you?
- Your suppliers meet your quality standards?
- Your team become more energetic?
Hey, couldn’t the list go on! I’m sure many of us would like to see some or all of the above occur (and probably a few more as well). The key to being more successful in our interpersonal endeavours, is to become more influential. Influence is no longer considered a magic quality that is bestowed on some and not others. Nor is it something we gain through holding a position of power. Surprisingly, we can all improve our ability to influence others by merely sharpening the influencing skills we already have in our armoury and perhaps using them more appropriately according to the situation.
The first step in applying our influencing skills more productively, is to recognise the type of situation we are facing. Is the person (or people) you are trying to influence at all emotional about the topic? For example, are they worried or excited, sad or happy? What are your feelings about the topic? Do you have some basic needs that you must satisfy? If either you or your influence target are at all emotional about the topic, then you are dealing with a “feeling” type situation.
On the other hand, if both parties see the topic or discussion as factual – i.e. logic and reason prevail over emotion, then you are in a “fact” situation.
So, step one is to decide “Is this situation feeling or fact?” As you might now expect, Feeling and Fact situations require quite different influencing skills.
Let’s say that you are a parent. You want to get your seven year old child to tidy their room. All the reason and logic in the world will not get the child to tidy their room if they don’t want to (no doubt many of you can relate to this!). Despite what some of the parental guideline books might suggest, experience shows that you need to take an assertive (feeling) type approach rather than a reasoning (fact) approach in such a situation.
However the assertive approach taken with your child will probably not work when you want your boss to approve a new item of budget expenditure (in fact it may even work in reverse and get your budget cut!)
Let’s look at how to manage the Feeling situations first. For example, when a person comes to us with a personal problem, we need to apply our reflective listening skills. Whereas, when we have a very strong desire to get our needs met (for instance in a tough negotiating situation), we need to apply assertive skills.
Whilst these situations are quite different in their context, both are feeling type situations – the first is dealing with their feelings, the second is dealing with our feelings. Because of this, each feeling influence situation is successfully handled by using different influencing skills.
For feeling situations, the most powerful influencing skills are:
Reflecting . . .
The ability to really listen to the underlying message being expressed by the other person (not what they may be saying, but what they are really feeling)
Asserting . . .
Stating our own needs and expectations strongly
Fact situations on the other hand, require the skills of questioning and suggesting. Whenever we ask open, non-threatening questions we are using the influencing skill of gathering data. e.g. “I’d like to hear more about your proposal. What are the main reasons why you have suggested this?”
Whenever we put forward a proposal, recommendation or merely a suggestion, we are using the influencing skill of suggesting. And our suggestions can become even more powerful when they are supported with strong reasoning. e.g. “There is only one system on the market that meets these requirements and that is why I recommend the P680″.
For fact situations, the most powerful influencing skills are:
Questioning . . .
Asking fact-finding, non-judgmental questions.
Suggesting . . .
Making proposals and suggestions supported by two or three
Employing our natural influencing skills more productively on a daily basis means:
- Deciding whether the situation calls for feeling or fact type influencing skills
- Using the most appropriate feeling or fact influencing skills for the situation.
So, next time you want to influence that important person in your life, rather than barging in, step back a little and think. Is this fact or feeling? What skills will be most appropriate?
© The National Learning Institute
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Ian McMaster is Head of Learning & Development at BRC Partnership who assists leaders and managers to ask themselves the pertinent and essential questions so they can be more effective in their work.
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