Does hearing the words “negotiation” or “influencing others” make you cringe? Does it bring about feelings of confrontation and conflict? It doesn’t have to! Influencing skills are critical in our professional and personal lives and honing them can really drive our success. But how can we push our agenda without the ick factor? This post outlines how to influence others in a way that feels straightforward and authentic.
Identify Your Objective
The first, most important step in reaching a strong consensus is to identify your own objective. What are you looking to achieve? What’s at the core of your ask? What would success look like?
While it may seem obvious, it often isn’t.
Let’s say, for example, that you’re working with a team on a presentation. You find the language to be confusing and want the team lead to rework it so that it’s easier for the audience to follow, and ultimately, buy in to your recommendation. You come up with a revised script. It may seem obvious that your objective is to get approval on using your script instead of the current one. But, on reflection, you may realize that you’re really looking for is for the language to be made less confusing. At it’s core, your objective is to simplify the communication. The revised script is simply a potential solution. And getting too focused on one solution can derail the process and ultimately prevent consensus from being reached.
It’s important to get clear on your objective since it’s easier to get buy in on a problem you need to solve versus getting approval on a specific solution. There are multiple ways to achieve an objective.
Understand Others’ Perspectives
This next step is all about getting into the shoes of the person (or people!) you’re trying to influence. What are their objectives? What are their biases? How is their performance measured? What do they value?
Use these insights to craft your recommendation in a way that is aligned to your objective, but meets their goals.
In the example of the team presentation, does the team lead also value clarity? Do they feel invested in the presentation and really want the recommendation approved? Do they have the potential to receive a bonus or raise based on it going well? The answers to those questions can help guide how you frame your suggestions.
(Bonus: understanding others’ perspectives can also help forge great working relationships. And you may even find yourself making more friends at work!)
Listen and Work Together
One of my former managers said something that stuck with me: seek to understand, not to be understood. And that advice is particularly relevant in this context. The key is to listen with the intent to really hear the feedback. Not to share your thoughts with tunnel vision around convincing your audience.
As you share your recommendation or suggestions, truly listen to the feedback you’re getting. What are people saying? What aren’t they saying? Where are their concerns stemming from? How can you address them and work together to come up with a solution?
Let’s say, for example, that the team lead pushes back and says that the language is confusing because the subject matter is complex. Is there any truth to that? What components must stay “confusing” and what elements could be simplified? Can you work together to brainstorm tools to make the communication clearer, like adding visuals and diagrams?
Looking for more inspiration? Fast Company has a great article about how to improve your listening skills.
My last word of advice is to approach influencing others with authenticity. Negotiation and conversation doesn’t need to be aggressive and confrontational. And you don’t have to change who you are or how you act in order to get results.
Are you a collaborative person who wants everyone to be happy? Use that attitude to your advantage in influencing others. Are you analytical and like to lay out your points in a structured way? Leverage that approach when making your points. This will give you the confidence you need to be successful. And it will also help your credibility!
Looking for more inspiration on authenticity in the workplace? Check out this post about how to stay true to you at work.
While influencing others may seem daunting at first, it’s all about collaborating in order to reach common goals. And honing your influencing skills early will pay dividends in your career success and beyond.
What is your work personality? Take this quiz to find out!