Many of us start in completely the wrong place, focusing on our end of the equation: Thinking about being assertive, getting what we want, putting our point across, having impact, persuading people, winning the argument, and so on. When we need to influence people in organizations, none of these one-sided approaches is the answer. More assertiveness, persuasion, logic, impact, and influence aren’t going to solve the problem. We’re looking in the wrong place. Putting it bluntly, we need to back off.

Now, there’s an understandable tendency to equate influencing others in organizations with selling to customers. We talk about “selling ideas” and borrow learning from the extensive resources in the very important area of sales, thinking that it translates quite easily. That’s dangerous because it doesn’t.

There’s a better approach…

We need to shift our focus away from what we want to put across and toward what matters for the other person. (Of course, the most effective salespeople do that as well, but it may not be the first thought of the professional person seeking to persuade others of their point of view.)


Here’s a typical scenario…

Jo has a sound and compelling professional argument about the future direction of a project. She makes the case articulately to senior managers and other stakeholders. Unfortunately for Jo, they have certain reasons for wanting to do things a different way and so ignore or even dismiss what she says. Jo is not privy to the whole picture and doesn’t understand why her input is being rejected.

Being a persuasive individual, Jo redoubles her efforts to put her point across. The others involved are now seriously inconvenienced by the power of what Jo is saying and resort to undermining her personally because they can’t refute her argument directly. Jo can neither deliver on her objectives, nor meet her superiors’ expectations. She eventually leaves the organization.

So how can we change the course of events?

The answer begins with finding out what matters to the people we need to influence-what they see as important-and demonstrating, before anything else, that we are oriented toward delivering what matters to them. Only when we have built a relationship of that kind, and established trust, will those we need to influence pay any attention to the input we need to make.

Don’t make this mistake…

Many of us, on securing the opportunity of an audience with those we need to influence, focus immediately on what matters to us and how we will present our information. That approach is likely to fail. Success begins with focusing on those we are presenting to, what they value, and the style of communication they prefer. Discerning something about their personality traits can also help us connect with them in the most effective way. There are techniques for doing all of this.

Now you might be thinking this shift of emphasis is very obvious, but it seems it’s not obvious enough to be normal behavior. There’s something about the culture of organizations-and it might be to do with the prevalence of personal objectives-that tends to make us focus on ourselves.

To influence people in organizations, start with what matters to them. Oddly perhaps, influencing other people begins with listening.

David Fraser, PhD, is a leading authority on relationship skills in professional and personal life. He is a business owner, chartered engineer, certified mediator, NLP master practitioner, and family man. David is a public speaker, broadcaster, and author of Relationships Made Easy: How to get on with the people you need to get on with… and stay friends with everyone else, published in the UK, and the ebook Relationships Made Easy for the Business Professional, available on Kindle and iPad. David has a track record of pioneering new approaches to old problems. He has delivered major projects for government and private sector clients in challenging situations and set up a number of entrepreneurial ventures. In addition to his work on relationship management with corporate clients, David runs workshop and coaching programs on relationship skills for both organizations and individuals, focusing on the potential to leverage results. David also finds the approach set out in Relationship Mastery: A Business Professional’s Guide to be extremely helpful in his home and family environmentTo Learn More Please Visit:
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