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Influencing People - Part 1: What Happens When We Get It Wrong?
By:Alexandra Sleator

When it comes to persuasion, the reason we fail to influence others is because we assume they are like us. With this mindset, we prepare our remarks, our presentations, our memos, our proposals to suit ourselves - not our audience.

When we do not speak to our audience, I want to suggest to you that it is like speaking to your dog. Here is what I mean with this possibly odd-sounding statement. Imagine being in your kitchen: you like to chat while making your coffee and you love your dog. So you say to the dog: "Good morning Rocket, how are you today?". Your dog hears: "bla bla bla Rocket bla bla bla bla bla". The dog got one of your words only, its name - and that is only if you trained it! Well, let me tell you that this outcome is not so different when you try to persuade someone without taking the trouble to talk to them in their own language.

Let us consider the matter from another angle. Would you agree that persuasion entails an element of selling? When you want to influence someone, you are trying to sell them your ideas. So think about how you like to be sold to. Do you enjoy a salesperson coming on strong - telling you all the great benefits of this pair of running shoes when in fact you want tennis shoes? I would guess not. What would work better? The salesperson inquiring into what you are after, discussing your tennis style and then recommending a few pairs based on your needs? Would that kind of approach be more or less likely to result in you making a purchase? So persuasion is the art of soft, not hard, selling.

Let us look at a third situation - this one in the workplace and this time, imagine you wrote a presentation containing a proposal. That recommendation is backed by lots of hard data. And you motivated yourself so you are full of enthusiasm. And now you are in front of a group of senior managers. Lo and behold, instead of your enthusiasm communicating itself to others, you notice that one guy is chatting to his neighbour while a lady is checking her emails on her Blackberry.

Only one person is paying attention - and their body language seems to indicate that they like your pitch. But he is only one person and you need most of these managers - if not all - onboard. What is happening to you is disengagement: people stopped listening.

Another thing which may be going on is that they have objections and those are manifesting in the form of physical objections, in their body language. When you pause, you will get a deluge of questions and comments, all with a negative slant. That is because, when we fail to influence, not only do we get disengagement from our audience but we also get resistance. The audience comes up with what can soon appear like an endless list of obstacles and reasons why your idea cannot progress. And that shoots down your proposal. In the bin! And this happens even if, objectively, your proposal is sound, even if it is in the best interest of the person or the firm.

So what happens when we fail to successfully influence is that we get instead disengagement and resistance. Like your dog, the person or persons you were addressing got only one word and they did not appreciate being told what to do.

Does that sound somewhat familiar?

On the other hand, if you get it right, you find yourself in the sweet spot of a win-win situation. You get what you wanted and the other person also walks away with a feeling of satisfaction. Now why are they satisfied? Because their needs were met and everyone likes to think "I did well for myself there."

So here is the recipe for persuading people. Two ingredients only. First, find out what they want. And, second, give it to them. They will appreciate it and you and you will be highly likely to succeed.

This article is the first of a two-part series. Look out for Part 2: Four Steps to Influence People.

Author of the "5 Gear Shifts to Accelerate your Career!" report, Alexandra helps ambitious and high-performing professionals tackle their frustration at work so that they resolve a complex problem, find a way out of a difficult situation or achieve a personally-meaningful objective.

As a Career Accelerator, Alexandra works with gifted individuals to obtain the promotion they deserve, orchestrate an in-house move to a different group, succeed fast in a new role as well as get clear about their next job and how to find it.

Alexandra's clients get to do more interesting work which they enjoy, avoid becoming stuck in one job when in fact they want variety, and learn to lead and work through others if they wish to. That way, they make a greater difference to their firm and, of course, grow their income!

Alexandra will share with you stories and insights from her gratifying but eventful 23-year career in global finance, from Paris to the City of London via New York's Wall Street which you can use to accelerate your career faster than on your own!

Get the "5 Gear Shifts to Accelerate your Career!" from Alexandra's website at http://www.coachingforinspiration.com.

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