If you were to ask people what skills they would rank as the most important in business, you might get a list of things such as financial management, communication, project management, problem solving, leadership and time management.
And these are all critical to business success.
However, there’s another vital skill that should be added to the list and that’s the ability to influence.
People often only consider it as a skill in relation to sales people or politicians. Yet when you stop to really think about it, we use influencing skills in all areas of business and life; asking for a day off at short notice; encouraging a partner to make a purchase; trying to get your parents to let you stay out longer.
Dale Carnegie recognised this when he wrote his 1936 book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. It quickly became popular and, to date, has sold over 15 million copies across the world, leading to it becoming one of the best-selling books of all time. That’s quite and achievement for a book that’s all about influencing and forming positive relationships.
Worlds together or worlds apart?
So, what exactly is influence all about?
The dictionary defines it as the capacity to have an effect on the character, development or behaviour of someone or something. That’s a pretty dry definition of a skill that has the capacity to transform your relationships with people and to lead to a successful work and personal life!
There are so many situations in which we use our influencing skills: presentations, negotiations, job interviews, change management projects, mediation, meetings, training facilitation, the list goes on. In our personal lives we also use influencing skills: when we’re raising children and in other personal relationships too.
When we have a relationship with people - any kind of relationship, we’re always looking to persuade them that our view of the world is the right one. How many times have you had a conversation with someone and thought or said something along the lines of, “I just don’t understand why they can’t see what I’m saying!”
However, each of us has our own unique view of the world, formed through all our experiences, values, beliefs and so on. What other people see is entirely different from what we see. We may share some beliefs and values, but we can never share the exact same world view.
So, if we try to persuade people by telling them about OUR view of the world, the exchange is going nowhere fast.
Back in 1936, before the advent of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Dale Carnegie wrote about speaking in terms of the other person’s interests, listening well and showing a genuine interest in them. He also wrote about trying to see things from the other person’s point of view.
NLP, which was developed in the 1970s, takes this concept of trying to see things from the other person’s point of view to a different level and gives a model for communication and influencing that helps you to get your message across in a way that builds rapport, opens up trust, inspires and motivates, and inevitably, gets results. NLP teaches us that the best way to influence people is to be able to step into their model of the world and use language that they can relate to, to achieve a win-win outcome.
So how do you begin to step into someone else’s world?
Well it’s a huge subject but here are some useful tips to help you find out what makes other people tick.
Tip 1 – Practise Active Listening
It might seem obvious, but in a world where it often feels like we’re constantly clock-watching and short of time, actually making time to listen to people properly will help build trust and rapport and make them feel valued. As well as an important first step in understanding what their view of the world is, it helps in creating a strong relationship.
Yet it’s not just about making people feel valued. Active listening gives you the opportunity to listen to the cues people give you about their world view. You can find out what’s important or unimportant to them, what things people feel strongly about: their likes, dislikes, values, beliefs, attitudes and emotions.
Make sure to also notice the things that AREN’T being said, the gaps that might need to be filled in through further questioning. For example, someone might say that honesty is important to them, because of something that happened to them a while back. This might be something you want to subtly explore once trust has been established, if you think it’s going to be relevant to the relationship. Also watch out for the things that are communicated through non-verbal behaviour, such as facial expressions, eye movements and body position and movements.
Think of it in terms of starting with a blank canvas which you can fill in with detail as you start to paint a picture of the other person and their world.
Tip 2 – Use the Power of Words
Choose your words carefully by checking the response you get from the other person. If you think you’re getting a negative response, try using a different word to see if it changes things. Likewise, if the words you’re using are getting a positive reaction, you’re on the right track!
Remember that different words mean different things to different people. A term that you view as positive might be viewed negatively by someone else.
That said, in NLP there are words that are regarded as more powerful than others because of the responses they evoke. So, using words like success, happy, believe, change, healthy and thrive can be a powerful way to generate positive emotions, and words like truth, revealed, imagine and secret can generate curiosity.
Piece it all together to use language that will engage, inspire and uplift the other person.
Tip 3 – Matching and Mirroring
Matching and mirroring, as the phrase suggests, is about subtly imitating the language and behaviour of the other person as a way to quickly establish rapport. It’s really about bringing tips 1 and 2 together because it’s based on observing the body language and listening to the words used by the other person so that we can reflect it back to them.
Why is this effective?
Well, we tend to like people who are like us. So if we can match and mirror the other person’s words and body language, it’s likely to make them feel drawn to us and they more likely to open up and trust us. We can take this a step further and match their preferred communication style: visual, auditory or kinaesthetic. This means you appeal to either their sense of sight, hearing or touch.
As an example, if you were trying to sell a product to someone, you would show a visual communicator pictures or let them see it, for an auditory communicator you would talk about it’s benefits and for a kinaesthetic communicators you would let them trial the product and get a feel for it.
Want to Know More?
If you follow these 3 tips, you’ll start to develop a pretty good picture of the other person’s world and once you understand their world view, your interactions with them will be much smoother and more positive.
There’s so much more to influencing and NLP. If you’re curious to discover more you could book onto our NLP – A Day of Discovery on on 25th January 2020 or our full NLP Practitioner course in February.
Or if you'd just like to have a chat to learn more about what NLP can do for you, then I'd love to hear from you, just drop me a line here.