Want to get others to act on your ideas when you don’t have the power to command them? Or maybe that’s just not your style. Rest assured, there are ways to get the support of others to bring your great ideas into existence.
It’s called influence.
Influence is the art of making your case compelling from the other person’s perspective.
But isn’t that just manipulation, you ask? Not really, at least not the way I think of influence. My definition is this: Getting others to act on your ideas for reasons they are comfortable with and that connects to a mutual set of values or goals.
It’s not about strong-arming or conning them into supporting your idea.
It’s also not about giving up your own goals or values in order to get the other person to buy in.
Neither of those approaches will produce the best long-term outcome. What you have to do is find common ground between your values and interests and those of the other person.
The first step is to hone your ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, even if their views are very different than yours. That alone can be challenging. We often struggle to fully enter the perspective of someone with beliefs very different from ours. Not only struggle: judge. And that can get in the way of finding common ground.
We see this struggle playing out on the world stage. But it can also be challenging in everyday interactions. For example, I had a coaching client who wanted to be a more persuasive communicator. He wanted people to listen to him and act on his ideas. Ironically, his passionate advocacy was having the opposite effect. Why? Because he wasn’t making the effort to fully enter into the perspective of the people he was trying to convince. He was judging their views as inferior to his own. Only when he started becoming curious and open did he begin to influence others.
Once you’ve put yourself in the other’s shoes, see if you can discern their values and interests. How do you do that? By listening to what gets them excited, angry or frustrated. By reflecting on the meaning they make of their biggest successes and failures. By paying attention to how they prioritize their time and attention.
Of course, you’ll never know for sure. But once you have a good idea, get clear on your own values and interests. Then you can make a case that reflects areas of common ground.
What if there is no common ground? Well, it's up to you but I'd be inclined to look for someone else to align with.
And no matter how passionate you are it's always helpful to be prepared to change some of your own views: Influence is a two-way street.
What are some of your tips and reflections on influence? Please post them in the comments section.