How to Influence Without Being a Jerk

How do you:

Convince a team to take on work they don’t consider a priority?

Closeup of a hand with a hand buzzer, reaching to shake hands.Change someone’s mind?

Persuade a leader to make a decision they don’t feel ready to make?

Build commitment and buy-in for a change?

All of these require savvy influencing.

Techniques for Influencing

1. Stop talking and listen. Most of us think influencing is all about what we say. It isn’t. So much of influencing is about what we don’t say. To influence you need trust. To build trust, you have to listen.

  • Turn off the distractions and concentrate on the other person.
  • Acknowledge the other person through smiling, affirmative nods and follow-up questions.
  • Restate, clarify and paraphrase what the other person said.
  • Use empathetic language to demonstrate you understand and appreciate how the other person feels.

2. Be clear, concise and compelling. Great influencers make it easy for the other person to understand what they’re talking about. They know how to boil down and communicate what outcome, action or decision is needed, without jargon or extra fluff. Gauge what the other person wants to know and speak to what matters most to them, not you.

3. Make the relationship the main focus, not the transaction. It’s much easier to influence if you have a solid, positive relationship. Before you try to convince someone to take your side, start with a mindset that you are allies, not adversaries. Look for ways to build on their “currencies” and the things they care most about, without discarding what you care most about.

4. Embrace the politics. Organizational politics is a fact of life. People who know how to influence use their reliable work, solid reputation and good ideas to change hearts and minds. But they also use their network of relationships to move their ideas forward. “Ethical lobbying” (targeting and getting air time with key influencers to gain support) isn’t something to shy away from. Great ideas alone aren’t enough.

Marta Steele is a Partner at PeopleResults. Connect with her on Twitter @MartaSteele.