Every emerging or existing leader wants to influence others effectively. Whether you are a new manager seeking to motivate a team member to achieve a project goal or a leader who seeks to get buy-in from your CEO, influence is essential. Influence is the capacity to affect another’s behavior or beliefs. Every professional can develop and practice powerful communications techniques to increase their influence with others.
“Start With the Heart” to Influence Others
The first technique is derived from the book Crucial Conversations and is called “start with the heart.” When preparing for a crucial conversation, the authors suggest asking three questions to ensure that your message is aligned with your wants and needs. Ask yourself, “What do I want or need?” “What do I want for the other person involved?” and “What do I want for the relationship?” These questions encourage intentional communication based on explicit wants and needs and set you up to influence others effectively.
The second technique is called generative questions and is based on the principles of Appreciative Inquiry. Generative questions generate more questions. They invite curiosity and use the stems, like “What if” and “How would.”
For example, if you seek to influence an employee to complete a project on time. In that case, you may ask, “What if you could move some things around to complete this project today? What would that look like?” Or perhaps you want to influence the CEO to agree with your new strategy. You could ask, “How would you see this strategy working better?”
Generative questions create meaningful dialogue that leads to more evolved solutions and greater collective intelligence. This practice brings the other person into the conversation, which opens them up to your ideas and influences their behaviors and beliefs.
Assertive Communications to Influence Others
The third technique is the most challenging. This requires attention to the dynamics of assertive communications. When you talk about yourself, your attention is inward. When you direct others, your attention should be outward, on the other person. You can learn this skill in online courses through Align Workplace Behaviors.
In workplace situations, we can say things like “I want us to get this done by Friday,” and the attention is mixed, both on what “I want” and “us.” In the dynamics of assertive communication, this message can be confusing. A better approach is to choose either inward or outward attention and appropriately use “I” or “you” when making a request or influencing others.
“I want a successful project for you” may effectively influence some. In contrast, others are more inclined to respond to “You want to be a success because of this project, right?.” The key is knowing your audience, reading the situation, and being agile in your approach.
When a colleague hasn’t responded to a request “for us to work together” and you want to influence them to respond, shift the dynamics and use “you” language. “You haven’t responded to this email. Would you call me today to discuss?”
Powerful communication dynamics is both skill and art. It requires practice. Working with an executive coach can prepare you for crucial conversations, uncomfortable requests, and powerful dialogue. If you’d like more information about an executive coach and online courses on assertive communications, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.