When it comes to influence it’s all about PEOPLE. After all, you can’t persuade things. No matter how persuasive you are, you can’t persuade your lawnmower to start on a hot summer day and cut the grass. However, if you’re good you might persuade your spouse, significant other or child, to start the lawnmower and cut the grass.
Dale Carnegie had it right when he wrote, “Dealing with people is probably the biggest problem you face, especially if you’re in business.” That holds true as much today as when he first penned those words more than 80 years ago. The more you understand how people think and behave, then combine that with an understanding of how to ethically influence people, the better your chances for success at the office and happiness at home.
When it comes to PEOPLE, remember it’s about those Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical. Let’s take a quick look at each component of PEOPLE.
Who says influence is powerful? Here are what a few well-known people from history had to say about persuasion:
“Persuasion is often more effective than force.” – Aesop, Greek fabulist
“If I can persuade, I can move the universe.” – Frederick Douglass, American social reformer, abolitionist, writer, and statesman
“The only real power available to the leader is the power of persuasion.” – Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th President of the United States
In addition to those intelligent, successful people (and countless others over history), we now have research to rely on. There are more than seven decades of research from social psychology, behavioral economics, and now neuroscience, to prove how powerful persuasion can be…when it’s done right.
Unless you’re Tom Hanks in Castaway you interact with people every day. Quite often in your communication with others you make requests hoping to hear “Yes!” Getting people to say yes is important because nobody goes it alone. That’s especially true for highly successful people. Jack Welch, former General Electric CEO said, “Nearly everything I’ve done in my life has been accomplished through other people.”
Here’s something I love about persuasion; it applies at work and home. Think of it as a 24x7x365 skill. At work you try to persuade your boss, direct reports, coworkers, vendors and customers. At home influence helps with your parents, significant other, children, neighbors and anyone else you come in contact with.
Every interaction with others presents opportunities to do “little things” differently to reap big rewards. For example; would you be curious to find out what the Cancer Society did to increase their volunteer rate 700% in one area of town? How American Veterans doubling the donations the received? Both were accomplished by doing a few, nearly costless, things differently using psychology.
The problem is, all too often people miss the opportunities that are right in front of them. Have you ever had someone point out a speaker saying “um” and then you notice it all the time? And so it is when you begin to learn the language of persuasion. You’ll be amazed at how often you begin noticing opportunities to engage the psychology to leverage better results.
What exactly is persuasion? The definitions I hear most often are “to chance someone’s mind” or “to convince someone of something.” Those may be good starts but they’re not enough. In the end you want to see people change their behavior.
With a focus on behavior change let’s consider Aristotle’s perspective. He said, “Persuasion was the art of getting people to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.”
Sometimes your interaction with another person is “one and done” but quite often you have ongoing relationships. When it comes to relationships, you don’t want to go back to the drawing board time after time do you? Of course not. Ideally, you want to communication one time and see people’s thinking and behavior change for the long haul.
Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower understood the power of persuasion could create a lasting effect. He said, “I would rather persuade a man to go along, because once I have persuaded him, he will stick. If I scare him, he will stay just as long as he is scared, and then he is gone.” Done right, persuasion will stick, have a lasting impact on others.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, manipulation is, “to treat or operate with or as if with the hands or by mechanical means especially in a skillful manner.” That’s not so bad. However, a more familiar definition is, “to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one’s own advantage.”
The word manipulation makes most of us bristle! That’s so because it connotes taking advantage of someone. I’m confident in writing this next statement; you don’t want to be manipulated. I’m also certain you don’t want to be seen as a manipulator either.
What’s the difference between ethical influence and manipulation? This quote from The Art of WOO sums it up well. “An earnest and sincere lover buys flowers and candy for the object of his affections. So does the cad who succeeds to take advantage of another’s heart. But when the cad succeeds, we don’t blame the flowers and candy. We rightly question his character.” It’s a character issue. Will you use the tools – principles of influence in this case – for good or bad?
Your ability to influence people is critical to your professional success and personal happiness. Knowing that, and knowing how much you use this one skill each day, doesn’t it make sense to get better at it? My new book, Influence PEOPLE, will help you do that.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the topic of ethical influence.
Brian’s first book – Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical – is available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and most other online sites.
His LinkedIn Learning courses Persuasive Selling, Persuasive Coaching and Building a Coaching Culture: Improving Performance through Timely Feedback, have been viewed by more than 70,000 people! Keep an eye out forAdvanced Persuasive Selling: Persuading Different Personalitiesthis fall.