I’m busy preparing a course this week on persuasive speaking and influencing skills. Despite framing up the course as we always do, that we’re concentrating totally on skills rather than teaching English, I suspect some of the participants expect me to wave a magic wand and present them with some set phrases in English that will make the difference between winning a contract and losing it.
However, the more I researched this subject the more I could see that it’s the intangibles that have the largest effect in persuading and influencing, things like rapport, trust, listening, congruent body language, empathy. Without these in place, no amount of persuasive language is going to work.
When we’re under pressure to obtain results that involve the need to influence and persuade people, we often have a tendency to jump straight in and make suggestions and proposals without considering the importance of two preliminary stages: those stages are establishing a relationship of trust and understanding the other person’s needs and situation.
It is very helpful to think of influencing as a series of five stages that we need to work through to influence successfully. The five stages are:
So how exactly does this process work?
Firstly, we need to build trust in the relatiionship by showing a genuine interest in the other, establishing common ground and listening actively.
We demonstrate understanding by considering what might be important to the other person, what are they motivated by, what pressures and constraints might they be facing?
It is only after we have worked on building trust and understanding that we can effectively turn to the stage where many people think real influencing lies. But if we miss out stages one and two, our success at influencing people to our way of thinking will be very limited.
The proposal is what changes the individual’s behaviour. The most common type of proposal is a suggestion to do something, and should be related to a benefit that the individual values.
In the agreement stage we have to sort out all the details to make sure the agreement sticks – who is going to do what and when. If you find it difficult to tie someone down, it’s often the case that you didn’t really get agreement to the proposal, instead of getting the “yes” you think you got, you actually got a “maybe”.
Finally we need to keep the ball rolling by making sure we complete the commitment stage. This may involve various types of follow up and tracking; living in the fast moving world that we do, things have a tendency to fizzle out if we don’t make a conscious effort to follow up.
Leadership experiences are full of evidence of this influencing model working. If you have had experience of trying to get people/employees to do things and it didn’t feel comfortable or work out, reflect on whether you missed out stages one and two of this process. How would you do it differently next time?