We all want and need influence, especially in business. Influence can help you become a better leader, convince investors to fund your startup and convince an audience to accept your offer. It’s a quality every entrepreneur should master. And yet, there are many misconceptions around the concept of influence. Namely, that influence is all about what you say and how you say it. Those are merely components. What and how is the tip of the iceberg. The real process of wielding influence lies in determining the ideal perception of the audience you wish to persuade, be it an individual or a group.
The world’s best influencers, hostage negotiators and con artists among them — never ask, “What should I say?” Instead, their first question always is, “What do I need to know?”
If you’re preparing to deliver a speech, pitch investors or a business opportunity, asking, “What should I say?” sabotages your efforts before you’ve even begun.
“What should I say?” frames the question to direct your mind’s focus inward, to you causing significant stress. A winless proposition because your audience’s thought process likely is a complete unknown.
You can bypass so much of your stress by shifting to the more influential question: “What do I need to know?” Now, your mind focuses on the audience you want to influence. You’re in a curious frame of mind, and curiosity cancels out those judgmental feelings. You’re free to explore options and possibilities.
In a study conducted at UCLA, subjects rated over 500 adjectives based on their perceived significance to likeability. The top-rated adjectives had nothing to do with being gregarious, intelligent or attractive (innate characteristics). Instead, the top adjectives were sincerity, transparency and capacity for understanding (another person).
These adjectives, and others like them, describe people who are skilled in the social side of emotional intelligence. TalentSmart research data from more than a million people shows that people who possess these skills aren’t just highly likeable, they outperform those who don’t by a large margin.
We did some digging to uncover the key behaviors that emotionally intelligent people engage in that make them so persuasive. Here are the tricks of the trade that exceptionally influential people use to their advantage.
1. Connect with the Audience
People are much more likely to accept what you have to say once they have a sense of what kind of person you are. In a negotiation study, Stanford students were asked to reach agreement in class. Without instruction of any kind, 55% of the students successfully reached agreement. However, when students were instructed to introduce themselves and share their background before attempting to reach agreement, 90% of the students did so successfully. The key here is to avoid getting too caught up in the back and forth of the negotiation. The person you are speaking with is a person, not an opponent or a target. No matter how compelling your argument, if you fail to connect on a personal level, he or she will doubt everything you say.
2. Know Your Audience
Persuasive people know their audience inside and out, and they use this knowledge to speak their audience’s language. Whether it’s toning down your assertiveness when talking to someone who is shy or cranking it up for the aggressive, high-energy type, everyone is different and catching on to these subtleties goes a long way toward getting them to hear your point of view.
3. Develop Affinity
Connecting with your audience is a function and a product of the amount of affinity you have developed. This is because it is doubtful that you can have a positive connection with an audience without affinity. There must be a high level of affinity between you and those you are targeting to influence before you can achieve a connection and subsequently agreement. Establishing affinity will put them in a mood to accept new things more readily and eventually become persuaded to your idea or offer. Read this important article on 10 Ways to Increase Affinity with Your Audience.
4. Be Trustworthy
Influence is most often and most easily carried through trust. Only when your audience trusts you will they be open to your influence.
As with having a high level of affinity with your audience, being perceived as trustworthy elevates your influence with an audience. Persuading someone is much easier when they like you and trust you. Influencing a stranger to do something for you is much harder than persuading a close friend who has known you as trustworthy for many years. When you are considered to be trustworthy, people are more likely to be influenced by you and give into your argument (or whatever you are trying to persuade them to do).
Being genuine and honest is essential to being persuasive. No one likes a fake. People gravitate toward those who are genuine because they know they can trust them. It’s difficult to believe someone when you don’t know who they really are and how they really feel. Persuasive people know who they are. They are confident enough to be comfortable in their own skin. By concentrating on what drives you and makes you happy as an individual, you become a much more interesting and persuasive person than if you attempt to win people over by trying to be the person they want you to be.
The question is how do you become more trustworthy? See 10 Ways to Be Perceived as Trustworthy by Your Audience
5. Finding Common Ground
A amazing foundation for increasing influence with a targeted audience is finding common ground. Developing affinity with your audience is a great tool for becoming influential; finding common ground works to develop affinity. Influencing your audience becomes easier when they like you and are reminded and perceive that you have a lot in common with them.
6. Be Unique
It is easier to influence or persuade your audience if you are unique. They will be more attracted to something or someone new and unique. They will listen more intently if they perceive you as being unique in a way which also addresses their issues.
Politicians lately have lost their influence with their constituency because they have lost their uniqueness when solving their problems. They are just like other politicians; all talk and not action.
7. Be Confident
Being perceived as confident will build the influence over your audience. It is one of the best drivers of influence and it is also the simplest; comes with the perception that you know your stuff. To get someone to respect you and be influenced by you, be confident in the knowledge and experience that you have in area that you are speaking to. Confidence is key–but do not come across as arrogant. It must be based and grounded in the real knowledge and experience you have in the content.
8. Be Consistent
Inconsistency is the fastest way to ruin your reputation. When you are perceived as having consistent style of leadership people will come to rely on your behavior.
Consistency is vital for building influence. Otherwise, you’ll have an air of unpredictability; people won’t know whether to trust or impugn your suggestions. If you’re consistently motivated by the same principles, people will perceive that you are trustworthy; that your ideas are solid and reliable as an extension, and that will make it easier to get people on your side.
9. Be Enthusiastic
Being influential requires the person or audience you are attempting persuading to become interested and invested in your idea or offering. Your enthusiasm will get them interested and invest time in your presentation. Smiles are contagious.
10. Be Empathetic
Finding common ground may involve conceding a point. Admit that your argument is not perfect. This shows that you are open minded and willing to make adjustments, finding common ground in their argument. You want your audience to know that you have their best interests at heart. Try using statements such as, “I see where you are coming from” and “That makes a lot of sense.” This shows that you are actively listening to what they are saying, and you won’t just force your ideas upon them. Allow others to be entitled to their opinions and treat these opinions as valid. Because it shows respect, which makes the other person more likely to consider your point of view.
11. Logos Strategy
A logos strategy is an important part of influencing your audience, and we are not talking about your company logo. We are talking about logos or appealing to logic. When your appeal to the audience is perceived as logical then your influence is increased. What you say must make sense for to your audience for them to accept your offering. Humans love a logical mathematical equation for success.
12. Pathos Strategy
The pathos strategy can be very important when your offering can be connected to powerful testimonials which appeal to human nature and emotions. A great way to persuade anyone is to make them emotional. If you exploit their emotions, they become vulnerable to your influence.
13. Ethos Strategy
Appealing to someone’s character and ideals with ethos can often help your influence on an audience. However, questioning someone’s ideals, to make them feel like they can either accept your argument or they are morally incorrect is risky at best. But it can work as a last resort if you remain respectful and polite.
14. Be Everywhere
Influence requires a strong and memorable brand embodying many of the characteristics discussed above. From there spreading your brand across social media, thereby creating as many opportunities for engagement and reinforcing the connection with your brand.
This is important because eventually you’re going to link all of your disparate social media accounts and it’s important that the transition be smooth when a visitor goes from one to the other. This needs to feel like a continuous experience, as though they are going from one room to another in the same building. If you don’t manage this, then rather than strengthening the influence of your brand, the multiple accounts will only create confusion and tend to weaken your influence.
Having a consistent presence across your different accounts feels professional, it impresses users and increases your influence.