Can it be that every story of how to influence people have a bad connotation?
Is it influence, or is it manipulation? Both influence and manipulation are how we change the behaviors of another person. The difference comes from two factors: 1) Is it for positive reasons, or is it for negative reasons? 2) Where does the effect come from – internal or external?
Manipulation has a negative connotation because it is usually negative, or at best only benefits the manipulator. People manipulate in many ways, but it usually comes down to using the force of their personality to change what people do and how they react. Manipulation is the practice of getting what we want from someone, and getting it right now, without regard to the effects we have on others.
Influence is different because it starts, not with what we do, but who we are. People who are genuine, honest, and likable influence people to be like them.
If manipulation says, “Do as I say, not as I do,” then influence says, “Come and follow me.” Influence is the practice of cultivating a resource by giving it what it needs to produce what you need. The lasting effect is the mutual relationship is created, one in which they are happy to help us because we are happy to help them.
1. Be genuine
Influencing people comes from communicating with them openly and honestly. We communicate openly and honestly when we are genuine, meaning what we show is what really is. When we ask how someone is doing because it’s how we start a conversation, we are not being genuine. Being genuine is asking how someone is doing, and then listening to the answer. Being genuine is seeing someone with a troubled look on their face and asking, “Is everything okay? You look like you have something on your mind.” When we are genuine, people can hear it in our voices and see it in our faces.
A barrier to be overcome when trying to influence people is the perception that everyone is insincere. What makes it the most difficult to overcome this barrier is that it’s usually true. It’s easier to appear genuine than it is to be genuine, and most people take the easier way. The only way to overcome this obstacle is to be consistently genuine with everyone with whom we communicate. People pay attention to how we treat them, and to how we treat other people. When we are different in front of different people, we are not being genuine.
Becoming more genuine is a process. That process takes time. We have to develop the habit of showing who we really are, and this can be a scary thing. Being genuine involves learning about ourselves. Most people really do care how other people are doing, but tell themselves they don’t have the time to act like that. So they ask how people are doing, but only as a way to start a conversation, not to show genuine care. Simply being more honest with ourselves is a huge first step in being genuine with other people.
2. Social Influence: The value of truly listening cannot be overstated
Listeners tend to have more social influence than people who don’t listen. But listening is not hearing. Hearing is being aware of noise. Listening is understanding what people say, and what they mean. Listening isn’t letting someone talk so we can say what we have to say. Listening has to come before we come to our conclusion. We should listen to what people have to say, make sure we understand what they meant, and take time to come to a conclusion that incorporates what they said.
An immediate effect of listening to what someone has to say, especially when they are upset about something, is that when it’s your turn to talk, a simple reminder of, “I listened to you. Please listen to me,” is all it takes to head off interruptions.
However, listening is not taking verbal abuse. We are well within our rights to respectfully and calmly tell the other person that we will not tolerate verbal abuse, and that they can try talking to us again when they are ready to talk. Listening is also not agreeing with what the other person is saying. Because we listen, it does not mean we agree. It means we hear, we understand, and we will consider what is said.
3. Learn and use people’s names
Nothing shows we don’t value another person quite like not bothering to remember their name. Some people dismiss this idea by saying, “I’m just not good with names. I can never remember them.” We can have great social influence even if we fall into this category, but making the attempt is worth the effort it takes.
There are tricks to make remembering people’s names easier. When someone introduces themselves, immediately use their name. “Hi. I’m Scott.” “Hi, Scott. It’s nice to meet you.” Just that immediate repetition of their name helps us to remember it. When you first meet someone, pair their name with a little description about them. “Scott with the blond beard. Scott with the blond beard.” It only takes a moment, and it will make it much easier to remember their name.
The ability to influence people is the ability to cultivate strong, genuine relationships with other people. If we are genuine, really listen to others, and make the effort to learn people’s names, we have taken huge steps to being someone with social influence. We make ourselves into someone worth knowing. This is what true influence is.
If you’re aware that studying influence is a path to personal growth, check out the classic book How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie