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Influence is a wonder drug

With it you can do wonders.

Help people achieve miraculous outcomes.

Without it, you can do next to nothing.

If you’ve ever tried persuading someone (and chances are you have) you know it’s easier said than done.

If you’ve tried to convince others to make a change (in your company for instance), buy what you’re selling or simply do as you tell them you’ve probably been met with resistance.

And most likely a lot of it.

Before you toss away this post as another writer peddling Cialdini’s 6 factors of influence or Chris Voss’ ideas of negotiation, I would like to encourage you to stick around for a minute.

Because there’s more to persuasion and influence than meets the eye.

A lot more.

I’ve always wondered why influence and persuasion was distilled into principles, tricks, tips and tools. To me, it’s always been a much more complex endeavor.

More situational, less opportunistic.

Less cookie-cutter and more person-dependent.

Who we are influences how we persuade.

Some people find certain types more influential than others.

Some people are more prone to arguments backed by data, whilst others prefer anecdotes and story-telling.

Some prefer a mix.

Moreover, the level of persuasion required is directly proportional to the immensity of the change we’re asking of someone.

In other words the bigger the decision, the more persuasion required.

What this means in other words is that there is much more to persuasion than “six principles” or “10 tools of negotiation”.

More than people who are master influencers share behavior patterns.

Behavior patterns which are easily recognizable, when you know what to look for.

Listed below are five of the most commonly shared traits of highly influential people

Easily recognizable behavior no. 1: They ask and listen more than they talk and tell

Something that is almost universally misunderstood is that most people think influence and persuasion is a matter of talking.

That it depends exclusively on what you say, and that in any given situation there are some magic words, which will automatically make the other person do what you want.

Hell, I used to believe that myself.

What I’ve learned since then however, is that – more than anything – persuasion is a matter of trust.

And trust is built by asking and listening.

That is why the best leaders, managers, salespeople (as well as parents, partners and friends) all from a point of curiosity.

They start from a point of wanting to understand the other person.

Not because they want to get to some end-goal.

Not because they eventually want to sell them something or get them to do something, but because they’re curious.

And it is in this act of asking and listening that trust emerges.

And only when trust is well and truly established can we have any hopes of persuading anyone else of anything.

Easily recognizable behavior no. 2: They are flexible in thought and action

One of my clients put it best when he intoned in his thick Scottish accent that “Over the yearrs, a’ve larn’t to bebi’of a chameeel-yen”. 

What he meant was that a lot of his success depended on his ability to adjust his behavior to his counterpart.

In other words, in order to be persuasive we must adapt to the other person, but do so in an authentic manner. This means that we need to adjust our communication and our mannerisms just enough to reflect and mirror the other person, but also be self-assured enough that we don’t lose ourselves completely.

Naturally this is a fine balance, but one that the best persuaders all master.

This means that we need to know not only our own personality- and communication styles (as well as the concurrent pitfalls), but we also need to have a sense of which potential characteristics our counterpart has, and how we can meaningfully adjust to those.

Easily recognizable behavior no. 3: They push push for progress

The most influential leaders and managers in organizations share this trait with the best salespeople. It doesn’t matter how seemingly small or inconsequential the action is. They operate from the presumption, that moving the ball forward is all that matters – and they’re right.

What matters to them isn’t that they get everything right on the first try, or that they get everyone on the same page from the beginning. But they know that they do need to get on a page, before they can make a difference.

They take an exploratory approach and iterate relentlessly. In other words, they push forward with what they can use and ditch the rest.

Action inspires others, and in order to get others involved, something needs to be happening.

In other words, if any change is to happen at all, then they need to provide the momentum, and they need to keep up that momentum for a solid chunk of time.

Which leads us directly to behavior no. 4.

Easily recognizable behavior no. 4: They keep the initiative and follow up – until the tipping point

One of the most common pitfalls when it comes to getting others to take action is giving them the initiative too early.

You are the one who knows what they’re doing. You’re the one who has the map to the required change, and your job is to help lead people to the promised land.

It’s up to you to suggest next steps, and to make sure that those next steps are followed.

You are the one who has to provide the momentum.

You must get the flywheel spinning.

Once it is spinning however, you can let retreat and let them provide the momentum.

If you’re too vague, too unspecific, or leave too much to chance, circumstance or other actors, chances are no one will change.

The most influential persuaders across organizations are specific, precise, to the point and make sure that things get done, until they know the other party will help them pull in the desired direction.

Easily recognizable behavior no. 5: They start small and scale fast

Keep in mind that the bigger your request is, the better your arguments have to be, to influence and persuade the other party.

The converse is also true however, and you can use that to your advantage.

This means that if you get a person to take a small action, it’s relatively easy to get them to take the next step.

The best persuaders know this, and act accordingly.

In other words, they make it easy to say yes – to get that momentum going, and then build on that momentum.

The best testament to this is one of my clients who – in spite of being a very likable person, and doing everything he’d been taught to do – struggled for a long time to get his client to do what he knew would be best for them, and create the long-term result that they desired (and which would in turn increase his future influence, but that’s a story for another time).

After a few coaching sessions it became clear, that the main problem was that he was asking them to do too many things at once, and as a result they ended up doing nothing at all. As we worked through the problem together I asked him “which of the problems that you mention here, would the client benefit most from solving first?”

The answer was immediately clear to him, and as a result he completely re-worked his proposal to center on that one topic, and together we made it very easy for the client to say yes to that one small idea. This was the spark that ignited the bonfire, and before his first suggestion was fully implemented, he suggested a follow-up idea that the client bought into without question, and the momentum continued unabated from there.

As a result the client in question now either has – or plans to – implement all the original suggestions from my client in more or less the original form.

The primary change he made was in how he presented his ideas to the client.

Instead of presenting them in to a total take-it-or-leave-it fashion, he sliced it up into more manageable bites, that the client ate with great content.

There you have it.

Five easily recognizable behavior patterns of strong persuaders.

The more of each of these you can incorporate into your own behavior, and the way you operate, the better off you’ll be.

Thank you for reading

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