Ultimate Influence is based on five key principles that occur on an ongoing basis. In any interpersonal transaction where you desire to move a person to a different thought or action than they otherwise would take without your influence, you’ll need to do one or more of the following (and often all five).
- Control your own emotions
- Understand the clash of belief systems
- Acknowledge their ego
- Set the proper frame
- Communicate with tact and empathy
Skill #1 Control Your Own Emotions
We make major decisions based on emotion and then back up those emotional decisions with logic.
How do we do that? We rationalize. If you break up the word rationalize you get “rational lies.” Yes, we make our decisions based mostly upon our emotions and then back up these decisions with those rational lies we tell ourselves.
Rational lie: “Even though I can’t afford it, I really need that luxury car that costs me an extra few hundred dollars per month, is more expensive to insure, and is worse on gas. Why? Because, my prospects need to see me as successful. In fact, just one additional sale per month will pay for it.”
- The truth: “I want everyone to think I’m financially successful and I feel better about myself when driving a cool car.”
- Rational lie: “It’s important for me to know what’s happening in the personal lives of my coworkers and to make sure I keep others in the loop, as well. After all, someone’s personal life can affect both the working environment and the bottom line.”
As Daniel Goleman discussed in his classic Emotional Intelligence, “The emotional mind . . . takes its beliefs to be absolutely true, and so discounts any evidence to the contrary. That is why it is so hard to reason with someone who is emotionally upset: no matter the soundness of your argument from a logical point of view, it carries no weight if it is out of keeping with the emotional conviction of the moment.
Be sure that your emotions don’t drive you; you drive them. You are at the steering wheel, and they are in the passenger’s seat, safety belt in place.
When you can both master your emotions and help others to work effectively within theirs, your level of influence will be sky high.
Skill #2 Understand the Clash of Belief Systems
Have you ever lost a sale because while you were certain that your prospect was bothered by a certain issue (let’s say the price), she wasn’t? You discovered only after it was too late that her actual concern was something totally different.
And have you ever had an anger-filled disagreement with someone only to later learn that it was based totally and completely on a misunderstanding?
Each one of us sees the world in a unique way based on a combination of upbringing, environment, schooling, popular media, and the people with whom we associate. And such is the case with the person in front of you.
Even when we know this, we typically operate without being conscious of it.
Think about it: your life is also run by a belief system based on the same factors as the person’s you are attempting to effectively influence. And the same rules that apply to their deep-set belief system, apply to yours as well.
Do you see where a clash might occur?
Until you understand this and are able to operate based on this awareness, you could easily find yourself stuck in a quagmire of non-understanding.
Skill #3 Acknowledge Their Ego
Some dignitaries were attending a formal and very fancy black-tie affair at a major Washington, D.C., hotel. One of the guests, a United States senator, noticed that at his table setting there was only a single pat of butter next to his roll.
Dismissively, and with a wag of his index finger, he summoned the waiter. “Young man, bring me another pat of butter.”
A bit taken aback but having to feign politeness, the waiter replied, “I’m sorry, sir, it’s only one pat of butter per setting.”
Annoyed, the self-important politician said, “I want another one anyway; bring me another pat of butter right now.”
“I’m sorry,” countered the waiter. “We’re a bit short tonight; it’s just one pat of butter per setting.”
Now totally put off and offended, the VIP demanded, “Young man, do you know who I am? I happen to be the senior senator from the state of New Jersey.”
“And do you know who I am?” the waiter replied. “I’m the guy who controls the butter.”
It’s doubtful this ever actually happened, but this story perfectly illustrates the ego at work. Most people would look at this senator and think he has a large ego because of his sense of entitlement. But as we see, the waiter has an ego, too.
We usually think of ego as a bad thing—a problem that self-involved, narcissistic people suffer from. But the ego is nothing more than one’s sense of self. Everyone has that, and if you bruise it by failing to acknowledge another person’s sense of self, you’ll have a hard time winning that person over.
Skill #4 Set the Proper Frame
Imagine you are in a store and you watch a disgruntled customer bark, “This is unacceptable! I demand to see the manager right now!”
Two minutes later the manager appears. He is calm and steadied, but obviously prepared for a battle and ready to quote “company policy” as soon as he possibly can.
Now picture how that scene might play out with some small but important changes. This time the customer quickly reins in his frustration and says to the cashier, “I’m sorry to have to put you in this position. It might be better if I speak to the manager. What’s his or her name?”
Two minutes later, the manager appears. He is calm and feeling neutral, having been told that the customer needing to speak with him is very nice. Still, policy is policy and he’s prepared to quote it if necessary.
With a warm smile and an outstretched hand, the customer says, “Hi, Mr. Jones, I’m Pat Thomas. Thank you so much for coming out to speak with me. I know you’re very busy.”
The manager, much less concerned with company policy, now wonders how he can best serve the very type of customer that every business wants to have.
What is a frame? Basically, it’s the premise, the context from which everything else in your interpersonal transactions takes place.
The only question is, who will set the frame? If you allow the other person to, you are taking the chance that she understands this concept (she probably doesn’t) and that she will set a frame that serves you (she won’t). If you set the frame, you are in control. Do this correctly and you have—in essence—determined the entire direction of the transaction.
Skill #5 Communicate with Tact and Empathy
Tact is the ability to say something in a way that makes the other person feel less threatened or defensive and more open to you and your ideas. This is powerful. Rather than bruising their ego and eliciting the usual resentful feelings and resistance most people can display in this situation, tact opens them up to very positively accepting your suggestion, and acting upon it!
Complaining loudly that your steak is underdone and curtly demanding it to be redone will be far less effective at getting the waitstaff on your side than gently calling over the waiter and with a genuine smile and appreciative tone saying: “The meal is delicious and I love the presentation of it. The meat is just a bit undercooked. Could you let the chef know how much I’m enjoying it, and if she could cook it just a tiny bit more that would terrific?”
Saying the right thing and saying it correctly brings forth results that seem like magic. The good news is that communicating with tact is a skill you will easily learn.
At first you may have to work at consciously utilizing it, but stick with it and it will soon become a natural part of your being. You’ll be amazed at how far a little bit of tact goes in influencing others.
Empathy is related to tact but can be defined as the ability to identify with another’s feelings.
Fortunately, in order to communicate empathy, you don’t necessarily have to understand exactly how they feel. All you need is to communicate that you understand they’re feeling something; something that is uncomfortable for them, and that you are there to help them work through it.
You’ll see that when you begin to control your emotions, consider others’ points of view and ego, create a positive atmosphere, and communicate tactfully and with empathy, you will get what you want in your personal interactions and relationships. Additionally, you will be able to make the other person feel genuinely good as well, so you both come away winners.