Personal development

Top 10 influencing skills for life and work

Make life go your way with these 10 strategic influencing skills

If you think influencing skills are something that benefits only politicians and shady salesmen, you’re missing out big time!

The first things newborn babies learn to do is to use influence, it’s simply the way we interact with each other.

Influence is the capability to affect the behavior or decisions of someone.

We consider most people sheep exactly because of their ignorance about the mechanisms of influence. They don’t think for themselves, instead they just get pulled along with the heard by the sweet talkers.

You don’t want to be a sheep do you? Maybe you don’t want to be a wolf either; but I’m sure that you want some basic things in life to go your way. You want to advance your career, as well as sustain strong relationships in life and work.

In order for these things to go your way, you need to be able to sell people on the idea that you are a valuable and reliable person to have around, and that is what sophisticated influencing skills are all about.

Knowing how influence works is crucial if you want to protect yourself from negative influence and be a socially savvy individual.

Confidence is the key to influence

When you believe in yourself, other people tend to believe in you too. You project an air of confidence which tells people that you know what you’re doing. Without it, you won’t be able to muster the will power to change minds. Don’t be smug though, no one likes nor trusts arrogant people.

 “There’s a thin line between confidence and arrogance… it’s called humility. Confidence smiles, arrogance smirks.” – Author unknown

The secret to being confident and presenting your idea in the best possible way is knowing how to stay focused on your goals!

A few tips on appearing confident and affirmative:

  • Make eye contact.
  • Talk clearly and with conviction.
  • Keep your posture correct and stand tall.
  • Keep your hands visible and use descriptive hand gestures when explaining things.

Believe in your proposition

It’s important to promote what you believe in and believe in what you promote, otherwise you’ll lack conviction and your audience will smell the bull.

If you believe in something you will speak from the heart. This way, you will easily make your audience see why you care about it and why they should as well.

Put a bit of effort into research. Knowing what you’re talking about will definitely boost your influencing skills.

Learn more about how your proposition is valuable and this will boost your confidence and eloquence when presenting it.

Decision cycle impacts your influencing skills

Decision cycle is a common way to describe the thought process that a person undertakes when facing a need and going through the motions of solving that need.

You need to have a strategic approach with your proposition and one way to do that is by following the stages of the decision cycle.

This way you will easily navigate the natural thinking process of your audience, in order to thoroughly engage them with the idea you are presenting.

Here is how the decision cycle, or OODA, works:

Observe: Observing a need is the first step. You have to create a demand with your audience by pointing out to the struggle they’re having by not using the right solution, which you are offering.

Orient: Now that the need is established, you audience is orienting themselves to the choices available for dealing with this need that you are looking to solve. It’s your job to demonstrate that you are offering the best available solution.

Decide: Your audience now evaluates their options and weighs them accordingly. If the choice you offer is the logical one and it brings them more benefit then cost, they are sure to follow your advice – because it’s in their own best interest.

Act: This final step is their acceptance to follow your advice in solving the problem at hand.

As you can see, there is no mind-bending mystery about the decision cycle. It’s simply a process of finding an optimal solution to any problem we have in life.

Knowing about this process and adapting it to your pitch will make the information flow with ease. This, in turn, will boost your influencing skills significantly.

Be sure to check out my article on unconscious bias in order to better understand how easily we get pulled into actions when they feel natural.

make your influencing skills flow naturally

Know your audience

Knowing your audience is paramount in order to understand what they need and what approach works best.

There are four questions you need to ask yourself:

Who?

Who is it you are pitching to? Is it your colleague, boss, client, friend, life partner? Tailor your approach to the nature of the relationship.

What?

What are you pitching? Know the boundaries that you have with your audience. Sometimes a solution you have to offer is not appropriate for certain relationships.

Why?

Why do they need to listen to you? What are the obstacles you’re helping them surpass? What are the consequences if they don’t follow your advice?

Where?

The setting is an important element. Knowing the right time and place to make your pitch can make a world of difference for your success rate.

Bottom line: Know the answers to these questions if you want to be producing consistent results with your influencing skills. The less you fail the more you succeed….duh!

Emotional intelligence (EI)

Emotional intelligence is a skill, which you can easily master by working on the following:

  • Become more empathetic to the emotional states of others.
  • Work on suppressing negative emotions.
  • Work on promoting positive emotions.
  • Direct your emotions to recognize problems and find solutions.
Influencing skills problems

My advice would be, preach only the things that you are genuinely passionate about. Whatever solution you’re recommending, make sure it’s something that you believe is valuable.

The best way to make your audience feel like you’re in the same boat with them is by actually being in the same boat with them.

Reciprocity bias

Feeling an obligation to return a kindness is hardwired into us. When someone accepts help or favor from you, they will feel indebted to do something for you in return.

If your proposition is actually solving people’s problems and having a positive impact on their lives as you promise, they will reciprocate by subscribing to your advice.

Reciprocity bias can be a powerful addition to your influencing skills.

Commitment

Commitment means taking a relationship to a next level, and it’s an important thing to keep in mind when you’re trying to build and sustain a relationship.

Being there for someone when they need you will make you a reliable companion and that’s a valuable thing to be. Small favors and thoughtful acts cost you next to nothing but can mean a lot to someone when they really need them.

Cultivate in yourself a reliable persona for anyone you take into your circle, both in your professional and social network of people.

If you make a commitment to someone, be there for them whenever they need you. Everyone can talk big about their intentions but few act with integrity when the need arises.

Last but not least, be picky about who you take into your inner circle. Don’t waste your time on people who will not appreciate you and reciprocate your commitment.

Elevator pitch

Sometimes you will have only a short window of opportunity to impress someone and influence their decision.

Let’s say you have an important job interview. You’re qualified and the job would mean a lot to you. How do you stand out from the other candidates?

Elevator pitch is the way to go. Have a clean, straight to the point pitch that you could deliver in the time it takes to ride an elevator.

improve influencing skills

Distill your presentation into a simple pitch, showing clearly your best points of value as well as what makes you different and better than the other candidates.

Make sure you instill curiosity into your audience, so that you leave them eager to know more or feel like they’re missing out if they let the opportunity pass.

To achieve this you need to plan well. Make the best possible presentation that can be made in 30sec – 2mins, and that’s your elevator pitch.

Delivering a good elevator pitch takes some practice and wit. If you can develop this ability, it will vigorously boost your influencing skills..

Create urgency

Urgency is a vital factor of a successful proposition, especially with the elevator pitch. Be careful not to mistake this for pressure, because undue pressure will make you seem desperate and will take away from your credibility.

Instead, you need to make the audience feel like you’re offering something unique. Something that will soon be out of their reach – unless they act now and seize the opportunity.

Two ways to create urgency:

  • Make urgency a part of your pitch from the start instead of springing it up at the very end and thus conveying pressure.
  • Keep their focus on the problem that needs to be solved and the messy consequence which need to be prevented. Create a pressing need to get that worry out of their way as soon as possible.

Active listening

Active listening is one of my favorite influencing skills when it comes to influencing someone one-on-one. If you can handle this one, your success rate will go through the roof.

You need to give your audience as much opportunity to speak during your pitch, because this is how you build rapport.

You need to give them your undivided attention when they are speaking. Remember that you’re not only listening to what they’re saying but, more importantly, you’re trying to understand why they are saying it.

Meanwhile, try to retain as much as you can of what they are saying, because this is where the secret sauce of influencing skills comes into play.

You overcome their objections to your proposition by using their own frame of reference.

If you do this well, eventually they will exhaust their objections and see nothing but benefit from your proposition. Not because you wore them down, but because you listened to their needs and gave them the solution.

Bonus advice:

Always keep sharpening your skills and learning new tricks.

You’ve just learned most useful prevailing skills. However, now you need to look more specifically to the methods that work best for your agenda and time frame.

Do more research on your audience. Know your strengths and faults. Make sure you read the related articles about bias in the workplace and tips to staying focused.

They reveal some seriously helpful advice and hold the key to compounding the influencing skills that you’ve learned here.

Conclusion

As long as you are playing the influence game well – you will be able to influence almost anyone to accept your suggestions.

Think about an example from your own life where you are trying to influence someone. I encourage you to re-read the article using that frame of reference and see how you can use the influence skills to skew the odds in your favor.

Which influencing skills would you use to get a promotion? How will you use your influencing skills in networking?

Let me know in the comments, or contact me directly. I would love to hear what you have to say!

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9 comments on “Top 10 influencing skills for life and work

  1. Tanja Zol

    Great point there on commitment, appreciating and reciprocating your commitment. Most people end up using others for the benefit of their arguments or stance, but by commitment we can fulfill our human nature in valiable connections that in the end result in influencing each other in the most positive way to progress…
    But this makes me wonder, what about todays’ so called “influencers”? We can see them daily on Twitter, FB, Insta,..etc. with millions of followers online..In my opinion I wouldn’t even relate that word to them, I would rather say Advertisers, or am I wrong?? What does influencing mean for us today? Any thoughts?

    • Hey Tanya,

      Great comment! You’re exactly right, many people nowadays use influence against people in order to exploit them but it’s actually a much more versatile skill than that. When you believe in yourself and offer a solution that makes sense, influence comes naturally to us and we don’t have to resort to sales gimmickry to succeed.

      With regards to social media influencers, these are people who’ve risen up in their popularity on social media and who capitalize on that popularity by being a voice or a face for products in their industry for ad revenue.

      With that in mind, it would be fair to call them both influencers and advertisers.

      As for influence itself, I would stick to the explanation given in the blog that it’s simply a capability to affect behavior. On the other hand, it is up to all of us individually to recognize and reject unethical influence.

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