How can we influence?

Most jobs these days require us to be more influential – almost as if we need to develop a stronger personal brand. This is a pressure for some people who struggle with fear of presentations, while some other people consider themselves as individual advertising billboards!

What it all comes down to is influence, and to bring it back to nuts and bolts; that means you need to be aware of what you are trying to make people think, feel and do.

Every time we interact with someone we impact how they think, feel and act, even if it is very slight and almost unnoticeable. And they have an impact on us. Sometimes we feel annoyed by those around us… they may demonstrate an undesirable personal brand!

Here are some practical tips:

1. Watch reactions closely

You can’t see what lurks beneath the surface. Moods and thoughts are difficult to assess, but you can always pay more attention to how people act in response to your actions. Notice the difference when you smile, compared to when you don’t. Think about what you are presenting with body language and vocal tone, and watch how often people mirror what you put out. You might notice that other people tend to close up, or contribute more depending on how you phrase questions, your tone of voice or simply by how open and welcoming your facial expressions are. Becoming aware of your influencing behaviours can open up a whole new world of possibilities.

It can also be really useful to watch other interactions as a passive observer. If someone seems particularly persuasive and always seems to get their way then watch how they approach people, when they time questions, how they pay attention and respond to what is said to them. Influence is a skill and you can learn a lot by watching.

2. The impact might be latent

We cannot always change others but we can control our own changes – and systematically make them! A common lament of people who are resistant to change is “See! I did it and the same old thing happened”. It needs to be understood that your relationship with an individual is a function of the entire time you have known them. Acting differently on a single occasion in an attempt to be received better may be seen as a random occurrence. Long-held relationships take a long time to redefine, and if you want to change the dynamics it may take a few weeks for people to re-learn how to react.

3. Things could get better

The other key objection most often heard to advice on interpersonal skills is “things are working fine as they are – my approach has got me where I am today”. This is true, but when you think about how many years we strive to improve our skills in the work we do, through training and studies, it seems strange that such an important part of business success is left up to chance and ‘the way it’s always been done’. Being open to the idea that your personal interactions could improve, and in some cases quite dramatically, is motivating enough to at least consider it, surely?

4. Business is relationships

As much as we would like to think that the work we do is the defining and largest determinant of our success, the truth is that social skills and the ability to understand and influence others is key.

Influencing others is something we do regardless of intention, so it makes sense to work at trying to make this a positive process that not only makes our working life better, but a better experience for those that we work with.

Eve Ash will be presenting two half-day workshops at AIM in Melbourne on Thursday, November 15 on Creating a Motivating Culture and on Thursday, November 29 on Presenting with Impact. Eve invites SmartCompany’s Melbourne readers to join in or pass the message on. It will be very hands on and interactive and not a large group! Eve has also produced some fun new resources on hot topics like Presenting with Passion and Creating a No-Blame Culture (www.7d-tv.com).

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