Our ability to influence people determines how much of an impact we can make.
If we want to make a bigger impact in the world, we have to become better at influencing other people. The dictionary defines influence as “the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behaviour and opinions of others.”
Influencing someone can often be mistaken as trying to manipulate a person but there is a significant difference. Manipulation is getting someone to do something in an unfair or forceful manner, whereas influence is getting someone to buy into something that can be a benefit to everyone involved.
When done correctly, a person who has been influenced to take a particular action, should feel they’re taking that action because they want to, and not because they were forced or manipulated into doing it.
Some of the benefits of becoming a more influential person includes:
- Expanding other people’s vision of what’s possible.
- Leveraging resources, knowledge and skills to reach outcomes quicker.
- Guiding others to look at things from different perspectives.
- Becoming a more confident and powerful person.
- Assisting others to achieve what they want in life.
Having strong influence skills can make a huge difference in our lives. On the other hand, if we make common influence mistakes, it’ll be challenging to achieve what we want, which will also affect others getting what they want.
When I was fresh out of university and had a career in manufacturing, I had a manager who always wanted things to go his way and had to win at all costs. I remember once we had back-to-back meetings with two competing suppliers, where the focus of those meetings were on price negotiations.
The meeting with the first supplier went as we thought it would, where the supplier offered a rebate based on volume, meaning that if our company would buy a certain amount of product every month, we would be given a price credit as part of the deal.
During the second meeting, we knew this supplier provided a better quality product, which helped with machine efficiencies and reduced the amount of waste produced. However, their price was higher and over the course of a year, based on the volume of product we used, that would amount to a few hundred thousand dollars extra in raw material costs.
Naturally, we wanted to save money on raw material costs and even though the supplier tried to justify the price by identifying the benefits we would have from using their product, my manager wasn’t interested and basically said that if they could not give us a better price, we would buy all our product from the other supplier, who had offered us a better price.
The meeting ended with the supplier agreeing to review their prices and set up a follow-up meeting. My manager’s manager, the Managing Director of the company, had to get involved in the negotiations because both suppliers had regional deals, as our company had sites in different states and also different countries in the region.
The Managing Director had to coach my manager on how to have a win-win situation for everyone involved during negotiations. The end outcome was our company agreed to continue using both suppliers at prices acceptable to all companies.
The lesson I learned from witnessing the negotiations was that if one party wants everything to go their way without considering different options or seeing things from different perspectives, it’s highly unlikely a negotiation or influence situation will end with everyone being satisfied with the outcome.
5 Mistakes to Avoid When Influencing Others
- Entering an influence situation not prepared. The better prepared we are, the more options we’ll have. Being prepared is about predicting in advance what could come up in terms of objections or different perspectives, and having responses or solutions ready for those objections.
- Going into an influence situation with a fixed point of view. While influence is about guiding others to agree to our ideas or point of view, if we don’t have an open mind, we may dismiss a better option that we may not have considered. Sometimes during influence situations, things can come up that may expand what we originally had in mind.
- Not listening to what’s being said. If we’re set only on our point of view, rather that listening to what’s being said, we’ll be focused on how to respond to reinforce our point of view. The best influence situations happen when others reach the outcomes we want by themselves, without us having to suggest it.
- Arguing instead of having a conversation. If we let our emotions get the better of us and start forcing our point of view on others, we’ve lost our ability to effectively influence. Telling someone they’re wrong is a mistake we must avoid. We should never use our position as power to influence others to do something they don’t agree with or don’t want to do.
- Not being clear on the outcome you want. Not all influence situations are equal therefore we have to be clear on what we want and what the other person wants. This is why preparation is key. At the very minimum, one of our objectives should be to help the other person see the influence situation as a potential win for them.
Things You Can Do to Become a More Influential Person
Some simple things we can do during influence situations include:
- Have a calm, friendly attitude.
- Allow the other person to do most of the talking.
- Be willing to admit if you’re off track or have made a mistake.
- See things from the other person’s point of view.
- Guide the person to say “yes” early on and multiple times during the discussion.
- Allow the person to reach conclusions on their own and feel like it was their idea.
- Challenge the person by connecting outcomes to what they value most.
Learning to become a more influential person can lead to dramatic improvements in what we achieve and how much we achieve in life. If we avoid the common influence mistakes people make and learn to be a more influential person, the impact we’ll make in ours and other people’s lives will be felt for a long time.
Question: What is another mistake we must avoid when influencing others?
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