Are You Good at Influencing People?

Being Able to Persuade Others is Key to Your Success at Work

(click below to view the video or read on if you’d prefer!)

Hello and welcome to the first of three posts on the topic of how to influence people. In this article, I will examine what happens when we try to influence people without the right tools. I will also give you my recipe for successful persuasion. In next month’s post, I will show you the core elements of a persuasion strategy. Those of you familiar with my work know that I like to provide models for people to use so this is another one.

Finally, in a third article, I will pick two themes from that model and show you why they’re important and the difference between getting it right and… well, botching it, frankly. So by the time we’re done with this influencing series, you will understand the fundamental principles of good influencing, know the core elements of a persuasion strategy and will have been given two techniques to immediately test out in the real world.

So let’s start.

Here is the crux of the matter. When it comes to persuasion, the reason we fail to influence others is because we assume they are like us so we prepare our remarks, our presentations, our memos, our proposals to suit ourselves – not our audience.

Let’s not be intellectual about this for a minute. Imagine talking to your dog. You say to the dog: “Good morning Rocket, how are you today?” That’s because you love your dog and you like to chat while making your coffee. What does the dog hear: “bla bla bla Rocket bla bla bla bla bla” The dog got one of your words only, its name – and that’s only if you trained it! Well, let me tell you that this outcome is not so different when you try to persuade someone without taking the trouble to talk to them in their own language.

Let’s consider the matter from another angle. Would you agree that persuasion entails an element of selling? When you want to influence someone, you are trying to sell them your ideas. So think about how you like to be sold to. Do you enjoy a salesperson coming on strong – telling you all the great benefits of this pair of running shoes when in fact you want tennis shoes? I’m guessing ‘no’. What would work better? The salesperson inquiring into what you are after, discussing your tennis style and then recommending a few pairs based on your needs? Would that kind of approach be more or less likely to result in you making a purchase?

Let’s consider a last way to look at why we fail to influence. Do you like it when people tell you what to do? Hardly, right? So imagine you wrote a presentation containing a proposal. That recommendation is backed by lots of hard data. And you’ve motivated yourself so you’re full of enthusiasm. And now you’re in front of a group of senior managers. Lo and behold, your enthusiasm is NOT¬†communicating itself to others: you notice that one guy is chatting to his neighbour while a lady is checking her emails on her BlackBerry.

Only one person is paying attention – and their body language seems to indicate that they like your pitch. But it’s only one person and you need most of these managers – if not all – onboard. What is happening to you is disengagement: people stopped listening. Another thing which may be going on is that they have objections and those are manifesting in the form of physical objections, in their body language.

When you pause, you will get a deluge of questions and comments, all with a negative slant. That’s because, when we fail to influence, not only do we get disengagement from our audience but we also get resistance. The audience comes up with what can soon appear like an endless list of obstacles and reasons why your idea cannot progress. And that’s it: your proposal has been shot down. In the bin! Game over! And this happens even if, objectively, your proposal is sound, even if it is in the best interest of the person or the firm.

So what happens when we fail to successfully influence is that we get instead disengagement and resistance. Like your dog, the person or persons you were addressing got only one word and they didn’t like being told what to do.

Does that sound somewhat familiar?

On the other hand, if you get it right, it’s a win-win situation. You get what you wanted and the other person also walks away with a feeling of satisfaction. Now why are they satisfied? Because their needs were met and everyone likes to think “I did well for myself there.”

So what do you need to do so that you don’t get disengagement and resistance?

Here is the recipe for persuading people. Two ingredients only. First, find out what they want. And, second, give it to them. They will appreciate it and you and you’ll be highly likely to succeed.

I will let you ponder this recipe. Do let me know what you thought by emailing me directly at

For other Career Acceleration Tips, why don’t you check out the categories box by scrolling up a bit: it will be on the right hand side and you can search for Tips on topics that interest you, like interview skills or building up your self-confidence. To your career success!

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