Four Behaviours of Effective People: 4. Influencing Others
Welcome to the fourth and final blog in Arbre’s ‘taster’ series on the key behaviours of effective people – Influencing Others. Stepping out of your comfort zone and learning how to use different influencing styles to suit different situations.
If you missed the first 3 blogs, or would like a re-cap, please do click on the links below. By developing strong skills in each of these four areas you should demonstrate much greater effectiveness and confidence at work.
- Learning to be pro-active rather than reactive
- Managing your time effectively
- Influencing others.
1.What is ‘influencing’ and why are different styles important?
We all influence on a daily basis, at work and at home – often without even realising we are influencing others. This brief insight, however, focuses on the skills we need to consciously and positively use our energy (or influence) to gain the approval, buy in or action of another person or people.
Most of us will find ourselves in company or situations where we feel comfortable to influence those around us. Equally, there will be other times when we find it difficult to lead others in the direction we want them to go or get what we need.
Most of us have a natural style of influence which we prefer to use whenever possible. The most effective people also keep a fall back style in reserve, to use when the preferred style doesn’t achieve the desired results. Because you are influencing a wide range of people, ability in a wider range of styles will ensure more success.
To be more effective at work, you will need to step outside the comfort zone of your natural style and practice new ways of influencing. However, you will also need to think carefully about which influencing style has the best chance of succeeding. Vary your styles too much and you may come across as flakey!
2. Push and Pull Influencing Styles – Which ones are you most comfortable with?
Sometimes we use our energy to assert what we want by pushing people towards our goal – the ‘Push’ influencing style. When used well, we might appear to be robust and someone who makes things happen. When used inappropriately, we may be seen as ‘pushy’ and people may feel backed into a corner.
Conversely we may exert our influencing energy by drawing people towards our goal, by focusing more on what they want or need from us – the ‘Pull’ influencing style. When used well, people may feel drawn to you and want to work with you. If used badly (particularly if the interest in others’ needs is not genuine), people may feel manipulated.
The more you practice using different styles in different situations the easier to use and the more confident and effective you become.
I find a helpful way to think about persuading is to think of it as proposing. And, indeed, it’s a really useful influencing style in which to set out proposals – both written and verbal.
- Ideally stick to one idea and keep it simple.
- Be clear and direct in conveying what you think. Don’t feel you have to continuously justify what you are saying.
- Set out your dialogue clearly with ‘I propose’ or ‘I would like to propose’. As well as giving you a confident tone from the outset, these ‘signposts’, immediately focus your audience’s attention where you really want it.
- Give your dialogue structure, eg ‘I will talk about a,b,c..’ so people know what to expect and you keep them focussed on your own agenda.
- Only give strong reasons. Weaker ones dilute the message by giving the audience something to argue with.
- Anticipate counter arguments. You can do this by presenting both sides of the argument, but weight the dialogue in favour of your proposal. This can take the wind out of the sails of anyone else wanting to counter argue and often take away the need for them to raise it at all. Alternatively, you can simply be prepared and ready to counter arguments that you know others will raise.
Being assertive is not about being aggressive or pushy. It is about communicating in a direct way that is respectful of other people’s view points. To be genuinely assertive it is essential that you have a positive mindset – one where you know you have the right to say what you would like to say and/or feel how you feel. Feelings of guilt and uncertainty or a lack of conviction will undermine your communication and you will not behave in an authentically assertive manner. If you are not sure you are right about something or have all the facts, then using a pull influencing style might be more effective at this stage.
- Be clear about the subject and the facts.
- Deliver the bare minimum of what needs to be said – do not water it down with extra detail and definitely avoid waffle!
- Don’t justify or apologise (too many of us start a sentence with ‘I might be wrong, but…’, immediately undermining the validity of what we’re about to say!)
- Be conscious of and maintain assertive behaviours:
- Body language (eg strong hand movements, keep one foot rooted on the floor, make eye contact, avoid playing with your jewellery or hair).
- Tone (strong, clear and confident).
- Words (keep it simple and fluent)
- You are in control of the discussion – maintain this and don’t be side-tracked. Bring the conversation back round to your agenda.
Asserting is likely to be an effective influencing style when presenting agenda items that you believe in and want to win support on in a business meeting. It can work too when delivering difficult feedback or messages if all the evidence and circumstances are clear (when you are not sure of what is at the root of someone’s behaviour or of all the facts then you would be much safer using a pull influencing style).
Drawing (or bridging) should feel like a genuine and open discussion with the aim of exchanging information. It is particularly effective when you don’t have of all the facts. You might use this style when you are ‘selling’ to a customer, for example. You know you want to send them home with the right product, but until you have listened and asked the right questions of them, and really empathised with their needs/view point, you will probably not know what the right product is. If you don’t bridge with your client, or draw them in by asking questions and really listening to what they are telling you, you might fail to sell them a product at all!
- Actively listen to the other person or people you are engaging with. This means watching out for more subtle communication in their body language as well as really hearing what they are telling you, and conveying that you are listening to them through your own body language as well as speech.
- Show empathy even when disagreeing – let them know that, despite having a different view, you recognise that they genuinely mean and feel what they are saying. You respect their opinion and are not judging them (this is really important).
- Look for different ways to achieve joint aims.
- The other person will lead the discussion, but you can help to shape it through selectively supporting the parts of it that are on or suit your agenda (perhaps through questioning or signalling agreement and enthusiasm).
- Open, friendly body language – eg uncrossed arms, smiling and eye contact – is really key.
This is all about influencing through engaging people’s emotions and/or aspirations. A good example of when this influencing style could be particularly effective might be communicating your vision for you business or new goals to colleagues or other stakeholders. At this point, when you’re looking for buy in and energy, you will want to engage and involve people by appealing to their shared love of the brand and aspirations for the business and create genuine excitement.
- You must really show your enthusiasm and commitment, and recognise and seek it in others.
- This is all about future possibility, not past problems or issues. Emotions are probably more important at this point than detailed facts.
- Use ‘word pictures’ – images and metaphors – to paint a picture and help people to visualise what you are seeing and what can be achieved.
- Use language – words and body language – that generates excitement. Your tone should be energetic, passionate and engaging.
- Connect with other people’s aspirations and goals and draw on them.
There is one last influencing style: Moving Away. Or as I like to call it, picking your battles! If you are not having or not likely to have a successful outcome, then sometimes it is best to stop or wait for a better opportunity. We influence the situation by taking our energy away, probably temporarily. Carry on pushing against a shut door and you may do permanent damage to the relationship and others’ perceptions of you. As a tactic this can sometimes be the most constructive course of action and the best chance you will have of being able to influence in the future. However, if you simply give up your goal, it (or you) may be seen as weak.
- In the spirit of maintaining good relations, step back so that you can influence the individual/s in the future.
- Identify the barriers and challenges and devise a strategy for the future.
3. The power of positive influencing (you have it!) and next steps:
Who has been a big influence in your life? A parent, relative, employer or friend? Chances are that they often did nothing specific to influence you – they just behaved in ways that you took note of and decided to copy.
In the same way, the behaviour of others can be influenced greatly when they observe the ways in which you deal with aggression, handle awkward customers, manage group behaviour, field tricky questions, overcome resistance, live by your values and beliefs and walk the talk. You have the power too!
With practice, it’s easy to observe, analyse and reproduce the effective behaviours of other people.
– Think of a person you know who uses an influencing style in a particularly effective manner. By closely observing what works for that person and noticing the effect it has on others, you can begin to experiment by adopting these behaviours and strategies and making them work for you too.
– Step out of your comfort zone and give a new influencing style a go! If you think a particular influencing style will be effective in helping you achieve an objective, then try it. Chose something low risk initially – a very important sales meeting may not be the best occasion to leap out of your influencing comfort zone for the first time – see how it goes (if appropriate may be even ask for some feedback from the person you have engaged with), take the learning and keep practising. Before you know it, you may well be confidently using a new influencing technique to great effect in that important sales meeting!
If you would like more help with developing your influencing styles and when to use them, or any of the other key behaviours that we have highlighted in our Personal Effectiveness blog series, then please do not hesitate to contact Kate@arbre.je. Initial consultations are always free, and we offer a range of options from training courses to coaching programmes to suit all levels of experience.