When I say “influence,” what words come to mind? I think of persuasion, leadership, magnetism, and power. I believe when you’re influential, you easily command attention and people handily agree with you.
That’s actually only half the definition. In truth, influence isn’t so much about convincing people you’re right, influence is about convincing people you’re right in such a way that they believe they came up with the idea themselves.
Influence is never about you – it’s about everyone else. Influence is about understanding people’s motivations and viewing situations from multiple perspectives. In short, influence involves a lot of empathy.
7 Ways to Be More Influential:
(1) Increase your emotional intelligence (EQ): Many experts agree that success depends more on your ability to connect emotionally with others (EQ) than your intelligence quotient (IQ). Empathy is critical for leadership – you must be sensitive to the needs and concerns of other people. In addition, a healthy dose of social intelligence – the ability to make others feel valued, capable, and appreciated – boosts influential capabilities.
(2) Be a good listener: Be an active listener; fully engage yourself with the conversation. Turn your body towards the speaker and maintain eye contact. Ask questions and listen to the answers – don’t worry about what you’re going to say next. When the speaker is done, paraphrase the message back to prove you’re listening. Use the speaker’s name too – it keeps them engaged in the conversation.
(3) Become a storyteller: Stories help simplify complicated issues, create emotional connections, and build trust. For example, let’s say you’re proposing a new policy for your department. Tell a story about the positive effects the new policy will have on everyone’s future. Paint a typical day one year in the future with the new system fully implemented. Talk about how simple things are and emphasize how much time has been saved.
(4) Be a better communicator: Effective communication is about understanding, empathizing, and tailoring your message to the specific audience. Situations vary – different groups of people have different wants and concerns. Influential people identify what’s important to their audience and answer those specific needs.
Also, keep your communication style simple. Whether you’re writing an email or speaking to a large group, use small words, short sentences, and avoid acronyms or industry-speak. Your job is to convince people, not confuse them.
(5) Frame the situation: Framing combines your best storytelling and communication skills into one influential package. To frame the situation is to present facts in such a way that the only logical conclusion is the one you’ve already (secretly) decided. Influential people choose which information to present in a way that affects the takeaway for other people. Since you want people to believe they came up with your winning idea on their own, frame the situation to help them draw the proper conclusion faster.
Pro Tip: People fear loss more than they appreciate gain. If you really need to convince people quickly, frame the situation so that the audience knows what they’ll lose if they don’t take action.
(6) Connect the dots: People are generally selfish creatures – we’re always wondering “What’s in it for me?” If you’re making a new proposal, connect the dots between your proposal and it’s effect on other people’s lives. Better yet, connect the dots between other people’s lives and how they’ll be affected if your proposal doesn’t go through.
(7) Anticipate objections: Because influential people are empathetic and socially intelligent, they’re able to view scenarios from other perspectives. Once you identify the needs and concerns of your audience, view the situation through their perspective and anticipate their potential objections to your proposal. If you consider likely objections in advance, you’re better equipped to answer them in an effective and confident way.
To be a truly influential person, take yourself out of the picture and focus strictly on other people. Consider the situation from other people’s perspective and frame it in a way they’ll understand. Not only that, make other people feel respected, trusted, and valued – you’ll improve their confidence, capabilities, and make a fan for life.
Emily Worden – Entrepreneur, Business Strategist, Impossible Optimist – Cambridge, MA
Emily Worden is a Boston-based entrepreneur, consultant, and writer. She started her custom handbag business eThreads.com in 2006 while pursuing an MBA and working 3 jobs. After a particularly awful shift at her weekend catering gig, Emily threw down the apron and said, “Screw it, I’m going to do something I love!” She graduated in 2008 and quit everything to pursue eThreads full time. Emily started the cat lifestyle business Ferocious Friends in 2012 with her husband Case to satisfy the needs of their cats Lulu, Smoke and every feline around. She started her consulting business emilyworden.com in 2013 to assist other businesses with persuasive writing, strategic vision, and customer satisfaction.
Emily is an avid DIYer and loves making things with her hands. Her happy place is the library where she walks once a week; she’s always excited to learn something new. Her extra happy place is a great view of sunset with music pumping in her ears. Emily is grateful everyday for following her dreams and hopes to inspire others to do the same.