The art of accomplishment by influencing others
Aesop’s fable describes a powerful (and underused) art of persuasion thus: “The North Wind and the Sun disputed as to which was the most powerful, and agreed that he should be declared the victor who could first strip a wayfaring man of his clothes.
“The North Wind first tried his power and blew with all his might, but the keener his blasts, the closer the Traveler wrapped his cloak around him, until at last, resigning all hope of victory, the Wind called upon the Sun to see what he could do. The Sun suddenly shone out with all his warmth. The Traveler no sooner felt his genial rays than he took off one garment after another, and at last, fairly overcome with heat, undressed and bathed in a stream that lay in his path.”
Successful leaders do not rule by directives and intimidation. They apply persuasive communication skills to create a motivating and cohesive environment.
In his respected 1984 book "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion", Robert Cialdini created the ‘Six Principles of Influence’. We use this foundation to teach The Power of Presentation Skills. Whether speaking to corporate executives, colleagues or direct reports, aviation managers who apply one or more of these following techniques will achieve greater success.
There is something within most people that wants to reciprocate a kind deed or square a debt. For example, on his way to work, a flight department mechanic bought some special bottled water that he knew the executive enjoyed.
The act did not go unregistered. During budget review, the executive recalled the mechanic’s thoughtfulness and the other actions that made her flight department invaluable to her safety and comfort. Perform acts of kindness but don’t be afraid to play the “chips” you collect over time.
2. Commitment (and Consistency)
Consistency makes life easier. Once you become comfortable with a new concept, the more committed you become to it and the more likely to follow through. Chances are, people will support your ideas if they’d shown interest when you first introduced them. Try to gain commitment early on, preferably in writing.
Test out your ideas. Ask, “We are thinking of getting the new software, how will it make your job easier? What do you think you will need to make it work?” Take their comments and views into account when you return to make your final presentation.
3. Social Proof
The combination of safety in numbers and peer support is undeniably persuasive. We tend to assume that if other people are involved, then “it” must be OK. This is especially true when we feel uncertain and when we see others like ourselves involved. Create a “buzz” around your idea, backed by support from others who have a positive influence on your target audience. Refer to people who your target audience admires. Use testimonials. People are more likely to be convinced by their peers.
4. Being Liked
It’s no surprise that it’s easier to be influenced by people we like, who are similar or familiar to us, or who have simply earned our trust. People are more likely to support those like themselves and others they know and respect.
Invest your time building relationships. Create rapport and treat everyone as an ally. Demonstrate true interest in others and build your network of supporters. You may have to stretch your comfort zone.
Although the “boomer” generation was the first group to openly question authority, we still feel a sense of obligation to people in positions of authority. To use authority as a persuasive technique, get support from influential people and ask for their help in backing your ideas. Let people view you as a resource. Refer to respected experts, share the latest research and use the comments from your influential network.
The psychology of behavior in the law of supply and demand is that products and services become more appealing when their availability is limited or when we can lose the opportunity to acquire them if we do not act promptly. We’re persuaded to buy rather than wait if we believe that something is the last one or if the special opportunity expires soon. When you need to gain support to move something forward, create a sense of urgency or express possible consequences if action isn’t taken.
Influence and persuasion are powerful techniques because people want to feel as if the decision to act is theirs. By using persuasive communication skills you will motivate people to go in the direction you wish – and do so willingly.