Influencing others is merely influencing their behavior. This may be as a parent, a manager, a salesman, a member of a team, a romantic partner, etc. To influence them, you need to get them to tell you what’s important to them and show them how you can help them to realize it.
Remember, so many interactions in life are actually negotiations, even if money isn’t involved. Read up on the difference between “positional bargaining” and “principled negotiating,” as outlined in the Harvard Negotiation Project and the book “Getting to Yes” by Fisher, Ury, and Patton. Essentially, this work defines positional bargaining as 1) seeking to get what you want without concern for what the other party wants, 2) taking a position and bargaining from that position. For example, you’re buying a car and you tell the salesman “I’ll give you $25,000.” The salesman in turn says “I need at least $27,000.” You both are taking positions. Maybe you want the car for $26k or $25k, but either way, you’ve taken a position. Principled negotiation is characterized by 1) seeking a resolution that benefits both parties, and 2) discussing the interests and concerns both parties have and crafting a solution accordingly. In the example above, you might say “I just want to make sure I don’t get ripped off and want a decent deal.” The salesman might say, “I just want to make some money on the car.” So you split the difference and go with $26,000. This is an overly simplistic example of principled negotiation.
Here’s a better one. Let’s say your and your wife are planning a vacation; she suggests the beach, and you want to go to the mountains. Instead of arguing back and forth, and trying to get each other to agree to your positions, you might say “My interest is in keeping the cost of the vacation reasonable and in not having a hectic time.” You then ask her, “What are you interested or concerned about regarding the vacation?” She might say, “I want to be somewhere I can keep my eye on the kids and want to be able to lay out and get some sun.” Considering both your interests and concerns, you both might realize that a cabin on a lake in the mountains will work. Assuming it’s cheaper than the beach, has a beach your wife can lay out on and get some sun, and she feels comfortable that the kids will be in front of her playing in the water. This is just a quick and dirty example, but it get’s to the gist of what is covered in the book. The main issue is to not jump to an immediate idea of what the solution should be (don’t take a position) and to take an interest in what the other person wants, share what you want, and be open to some compromise.
In any situation, if you don’t know what the other person wants and needs, you have nothing. Even if you have authority over them, you have no actual influence beyond the scope of your control. To alter their behavior when you aren’t looking or when you can’t measure their results, you must have an influence. To get the most out of people, you must have an influence. To help others do their best, you must have an influence. To have an influence, you must avoid taking a “position” and learn to create win-win outcomes where you actually care what the other person wants and needs. This involves finding out what they want and need and telling them what you want and need and crafting a solution that best resolves the wants and needs of both parties. This means you both need to be ready to compromise. Further, I’ve heard of others saying they would rather be feared than liked. This won’t work in everyday life, e.g. at work, at home, etc., in a sustainable way and is immoral anyway.
In any event, if you want to be more effective with others, and getting what you want, practice the three lessons below. Also practice them if you want to help others to be “happy.”
Practice these things in social and business conversations:
1) Make sure at the end of every conversation you have spoken less than the other person-
2) Find out three things that are important to the people you talk to- (not the obvious ones)
3) Ask questions even when a statement would do- (e.g. Change “I want to go to the beach,” to “Would the beach be fun?”)
These three practices will definitely increase the scope of your influence over others.
PRACTICE #1 Ever heard the expression, “when you keep your pie-hole shut, you instantly become more interesting?” More than this, after two people have spoken, the one who has spoken least has more power. This is because generally people love to talk about themselves. They are their favorite subject. This is not to say people are egotistical (egocentric), although they may be, it’s to say that we all enjoy sharing things about ourselves and feeling listened to and affirmed by others. Introverts and extraverts (as defined and described by Carl Jung) have a different style of talking about themselves, and this is the subject of another post, but everyone enjoys the feeling of sharing with people, feeling heard and understood/appreciated. What happens is, when someone shares with you this way, they like you. After the conversation, they will like you. It’s impossible for this not to happen. So listen more than you talk! Besides, you learn about others this way and can help them get what they want. If you can do this, they will truly like you and try and return the favor. Listening gives you influence. When you’ve finished a conversation with someone, make sure they’ve spoken more than you have.
PRACTICE #2 Find out what drives other people. Find out what they dream about. What they want and need. If you can help them get these things, they will seriously like you. There’s a saying about getting success by helping others be successful. Also, there’s the old saying, “what goes around comes around.” It’s karma. Take an interest in people and ask them about themselves. Try and find out more than the obvious things. Everyone loves their kids. Asking about this is fine and demonstrates you care, but try and find out the more personal things. I don’t mean inappropriate questions, I just mean, making it a practice to find out about others. Take an interest in them. Then look for chances to help them out. This will give you influence. So when you’re talking with others, practice finding out three non-superficial things they are interested in or concerned about.
PRACTICE #3 I’ve already got a post on the power of questions. But questions are a better way to influence others than statements. Questions are disarming or less threatening and they cause the other person to arrive at conclusions themselves. This is a powerful way of helping others see something a certain way. Questions are also a way of controlling a conversation and of finding information. I’m not advising you to try and control all the conversations you have, but when you’re trying to influence others, questions are more powerful than statements. If you tell someone who works for you, “I want you here by 8:00,” this will probably work in getting them to arrive at that time, given you have authority over them. But let’s say they have kids to get to school and really want to arrive at 8:30. They may be resentful of you for forcing them in earlier than they want. They may not perform well when you aren’t looking. They may not go the extra mile. In most jobs, there are plenty of opportunities to do the minimum or to excel when the boss isn’t looking. So instead of telling them what time to arrive, you might ask them, “Do you know how hard it is to manage this department if people arrive at all different times?” This might get them to empathize with you and want to help you out. They may arrive at 8:00 as before, but may do so more willingly and without resentment. OR, even better, you could take an interest in them and talk with them about what aspects of the job they would like flexibility on or what kinds of things they look for in a job. If it’s doable for you to let them arrive at 8:30, you’ve just bought yourself a more satisfied employee who may not go looking for another job and who will like you and likely work harder for you. Asking questions is a way to influence others. When you’re talking with others, practice asking questions instead of making statements.
I hope some of this is helpful. Clearly this subject of influencing others deserves a much deeper treatment. However, the above 3 practices will definitely be a big help. Remember, a leader is someone people chose to follow; a manager is someone people follow because they have to. Leaders always have more influence than managers.