Skills 360 – How to Influence People (2)

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Welcome back to the Skills 360 for today’s lesson how to influence people.

The power to influence can allow you to do many wonderful things, such as lead people, change their minds, motivate them to action, and negotiate successfully. These are abilities that can help you in life and in business. Now, it might seem like some people naturally have more influence than others, but that’s not always the case. Many powerful people have learned how to influence people using specific techniques.

In our last lesson, we had a look at what you should talk about and how you should talk about it. Today I want to take a closer look at some language techniques that can open the door to greater influence. And these techniques all help build rapport or trust with the person you’re talking to.

Let’s start with one key habit that really makes a positive impression on people: using their name. Dale Carnegie, who literally wrote the book on influencing people, said that “a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

And this doesn’t just mean when you first greet them. Drop their name into the middle of a conversation, or in the middle of a sentence, like “So, I’m wondering Susan if we should try something a bit different here.” You can probably think of someone you work with who does this habitually; next time you talk with that person, think about how it makes you feel to hear your name.

Not only do people like to hear their name, they like to hear their own ideas too. For that reason, it’s a good idea to echo what other people say. On a basic level, you can just repeat a single word. So if Bob says that something is “essential,” you can use that word “essential” in what you say too. That will help Bob connect with your ideas. But you might use more than just one word. You might repeat an entire idea, like “So Bob, you think that it’s absolutely essential to increase our workforce? That’s definitely something to consider.” Bob will feel heard and validated simply because you repeated his idea.

And besides repeating what people say, you can mirror how they speak. If someone is speaking informally, you can speak informally too. If someone leans in when they speak, you can lean in too. Sometimes we do this without even knowing it. Whether you’re aware of it or not, mirroring can help build rapport. But a word of caution here: mirroring is effective with peers, or colleagues, or people in the same position as you. But mirroring across lines of seniority can have a negative effect. And don’t try imitating someone who is very different from you. You don’t want to come across as mocking.

Now here’s another little language trick for increasing trust and rapport: instead of saying “I” and “you,” try saying “we.” How can you do that? Well, if you’re giving an opinion, rather than saying “I think that maybe…” try saying “Maybe we should…” And instead of saying “you need to come up with a solution,” you might try “we need to come up with a solution.” You might mean “you,” but using “we” makes it feel more collaborative. The word “we” brings you together with the other person, while the words “you” and “I” separate you from others.

There are also a couple of other techniques that you can combine with the use of the word “we.” One of these is proposing your ideas hypothetically, rather than directly. So, rather than “I think we should do X,” you can say “what if we tried X?” or “If we tried X, maybe we could achieve Y.” What you’ll notice here is that you are reducing the forcefulness of your idea. And that’s important, because influence is not the same as force. You see, one of the things that everyone wants in life is a sense of control. And when you can increase people’s sense of control, or avoid stripping them of control, you’ll have greater influence.

Good leaders know this. They avoid giving orders, like “do this” and “do that.” Instead, they give suggestions and ask questions. For example, “why don’t you try X” or “do you think X would work?” Using suggestions and questions helps people maintain their sense of control. Again, influence isn’t the same as force. Influence is built on positive feelings, trust, and rapport.

And that’s what all these techniques we’ve looked at today help foster and encourage. So remember to use people’s names, mirror what they say and how they say it, focus on “we,” and use questions and suggestions to avoid being too direct and forceful.

That’s all for today. So long. And see you again soon.

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