Influencing others may take many paths.
Exercices de style – a wonderful and inspirational read (also) for wannabe influencers
It usually is a mix of our own personality and preferred ‘convincing/negotiation’ style, but it should also relate to the preferred ‘listening/convincing’ style of the people that you want to influence. And it depends on values. Even though values change slowly, they do change.
So if you want to influence someone – e.g. to get them to adopt agile KM for instance – here are perhaps not 50 shades but a few options you can try. All attempting at telling the same story, the way Raymond Queneau proposed 99 ways of telling the same story in ‘Exercices de style‘.
Invoke the greater goal
From the ‘supply side’ (your argument) I would always start with this: expose the big picture, make it clear that whatever initiative you are standing for is not just mirroring your mechanical involvement with the issue, but reflects the importance of the task at hand for more people in more places. Deep down us human beings, we aspire for immortality and contributing to grand achievements. Use this to your advantage, and for sincere reasons, and people will be convinced.
Usually a much less useful tactic than the previous one, but its alter-ego can still win people over sometimes: if opportunity doesn’t work for your audience, perhaps threats (not you threatening them but the environment threatening to impact them) and risks could be a motivator for them. Given the relative apathy in the face of climate change, this is again not a preferred option, more of a ‘just in case’ kind of recourse.
Invoke the values of people to influence
From the ‘demand side’ (the people you want to influence) it always starts there, with the values that people put in ideas, practices, people etc. So go figure soonest what is intrinsically motivating them. Remember the ‘SmartChart’ and its four quadrants, it will help you there. Greatly!
Speak the same language
Nothing is less likely to sway someone than jargon – especially jargon that is not theirs. On the other hand, using terms and mind frames that shape them create a strong yet subtle sense of commonality that can go a long way to influence decisions.
Pillars of influence (Credits: David Armano / FlickR)
Appeal to emotions and impressions
Emotions can swing people, very effectively. In fact more effectively than facts usually. It’s not the reality that really matters, but the impression that people have about it. Emotions influence these perceptions. And there is a wide range of emotions you can use: excitement, pride, compassion, happiness, sadness etc.
Be there at the right time
Sometimes influence just emerges from being the right person at the right place at the right time. You have a solution for a problem that presents itself. Now the timing for this is particularly tricky, but for that matter ongoing engagement (no matter what family of it) is surely a positive way forward. The more you engage the more likely you are to be where it matters at the right time.
Give the facts
The analytical minds among us don’t care about emotions and grand visions, they want hard, cold evidence. Even though it’s pretty clear that evidence-based decision-making is probably less common than decision-based evidence-making, it’s still useful to have some facts explaining everything from the goal to the deeds to the expected results and the mechanics of how to get there.
Show genuine calm and confidence in your idea
I recently managed to invite someone to an event he was not considering at all by simply stating why he would be missing the greatest event of this year. I don’t think the promise of the greatest event was the defining factor to push his decision, but the firmness of my opinion – I’m sure – played a greater role. This influencing tactic is especially easy if you appeal to a greater whole. And it doesn’t mean you don’t have any doubt about your approach, just that you believe you know where you’re going, generally…
Seek support from insiders and peers
What is best to influence someone? Not you talking them into it, but someone they trust doing it. So when and where will you start your ecosystem influencing strategy? Find the trusted advisors and friends and work with them. When there is no ‘advisor’ as such, the second best might just be peers, people that are akin to those you want to influence, so they can share ideas about your initiative and get that peer learning to work its best effects for you.
Expose, expose, expose
The golden rule of communication of saying the same things three times may hold a grain of truth. Perhaps it’s. After all that’s also what advertising and good policy engagement tell us: expose your audience to your messages and your presence as often and as widely as possible so you are high up in their mind.
Ignore and let it simmer
A great tactic of the romantic realm, sometimes lack of attention is the trigger that intrigues the person you are trying to influence, especially after some intensive convincing efforts. We are beings baked in a mould of curiosity and that tickles us. We also probably all aspire to be loved and recognised. So that curtain of silence might just be the most effective way, at some (delicate) point, to win people over… when you suddenly take interest in them again…
Just prove your point
Sometimes it’s just actions that sway people over. In fact this is probably one of the most potent way of influencing others: showing people why they should believe you. This is how we have managed, in our ILRI comms/KM team, to invest a lot of programs with our events and thereby all our other comms and KM services. Just do it! This is what all positive deviants do.
So what now?
The big notion that is missing above but is at the heart of the above is TRUST, of course. The more the person you want to influence trusts you, the more likely you are of influencing them. If you’re familiar with this blog you will recall it from various posts.
All the above is not meant to be advice followed cynically for the pleasure of winning people over, but some ideas about how to influence people for ideas that you think really matter. And as ever the best trick is to probe, sense and respond. Learn and adapt based on short feedback loops… Luckily there are, as the little selection above shows, many influencing pathways…
What will be secret force to open the lock? (Credits: Wonderlane / FlickR)
The solution probably lies at the crossroads between various of these roads, not least because complex initiatives require the sign-off of various people, potentially all with a different listening/convincing bias.
What are your stories of successfully convincing others to do something they were not thinking of? What did you do?
Share your influencing wisdom!
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