4 Ways to Influence People and Gain Prestige
You may not notice, but you are probably trying to influence people many times a day, every day.
It could be by selling an amazing idea you had to your boss, or engaging your peers to participate in a project you are leading, or convincing your sister to give you a ride even though she is heading in a completely opposite direction to where you are going.
Each one of these tasks requires a very different set of skills. But there are a few things that you can do whenever trying to influence someone that will definitively increase your chances of success.
Admitting Your Weaknesses
Imagine you are preparing a presentation to a group of very senior people in your company, and you are concerned they might not value your ideas since you are young and less experienced in the business.
What would you do in a situation like this? List all the projects you have worked on and everything you have achieved in an effort to look like an expert? Or expose your lack of experience to your audience? It might sound crazy, but going for the second option is probably the best idea.
Making yourself vulnerable and calling out the elephant in the room will make you look more approachable and human. People relate to that because, hey, we all have our flaws, right? This way your audience will not only admire you for your courage to expose yourself, but they will also be more likely to trust you and more open to listen what you have to say.
Use Tentative Talk
Imagine a colleague is asking you a favour. Which one of these approaches would make you feel more willing to help her?
“I’ll need your help with this report before this Friday.”
“I know you are very busy this week, but since you are more of an expert in this report than I am, do you think you could help me with it before my deadline this Friday?”
If you are like most people, you would probably feel more excited about helping your colleague if she chose the second approach.
The reason for this is that when you address someone using a disclaimer + tag question, you show that you understand the other person´s current situation and that you are not trying to impose your opinion or needs. Instead, you are genuinely interested in hearing her thoughts, which makes her act in a more cooperative way towards your request.
Ask more and talk less
It might sound a bit obvious that you should be the one doing the talking when trying to influence someone. Research shows that the opposite, less talking and more listening, might be more effective.
Asking questions not only shows that you care, but also allows you to learn valuable information about other people, which can be extremely helpful if you are trying to sell them something, for example.
But more important than that, asking questions also allows people to feel what psychologists call the “joy of talking.” That’s the pleasant feeling that comes from communicating our thoughts. So when you ask questions, you are enabling others to go through a very enjoyable experience, which makes them associate this positive feeling with you and – guess what – like you and trust you more.
This is by far my favourite one for two reasons.
First, because it is a combination of the strategies above. Asking questions through tentative talk and consequently showing vulnerability by admitting you don´t know something.
Second, because seeking advice brings some huge advantages that you probably had never thought about.
The most obvious advantage is the learning that comes from listening to the adviser´s recommendations. Equally important is the fact that, when you ask people for advice, they have to put themselves in your shoes. They learn how to look at the problem from your point of view. That makes them feel more empathetic to your situation, which motivates them to help and support you with your dilemma.
In addition to this, investing time and energy in listening to your problems and thinking about possible solutions increases the person´s commitment to you. That commitment increases the chances that your adviser will continue helping and supporting you in the future. In other words, seeking advice is a subtle way to invite a person to make a commitment to you.
And last but not least, the adviser will feel flattered by your interest in listening to his thoughts. In turn, he’ll be likely to respond more favourably and feel more motivated to support you as well.
Plan in Advance
So next time you want to influence someone or increase your prestige among a group of people, make sure you spend some time thinking about and preparing the best way to approach them.
In the end, it’s not so much about the WHAT, but mostly the HOW, that makes a difference between being good and being awesome!
These tips are part of an inspiring book called “Give and Take – Why Helping Others Drives Our Success” by Adam Grant. If you want to learn more, go check his website on www.adamgrant.net