When I first read Dale Carnegie’s book titled How To Win Friends And Influence People, I came across an interesting quote that made me view interpersonal skills, specifically the art of “influencing” people, in a whole different light.
When talking about trying to get someone to agree with you, Carnegie wrote:
“It is an old and true maxim that ‘A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.’ So, with men, if you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.
Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which say what you will, is the great high road to his reason.”
In an everyday professional setting, we deal with many people, sit in numerous discussions and meetings, and are put in situations where we must get the other party to agree with us in matters concerning business deals or even negotiations.
The famous saying in business organisations that is often thrown around is “it’s just business, it’s nothing personal”, which basically is another way of saying “use your reason and try not to involve your heart in this matter.”
So, imagine my surprise when Carnegie quoted the maxim above.
If I may summarise superficially, he is saying that the road to a person’s reason (the one we try to influence so that he or she would agree with us) is through his or her heart.
Of course, he elaborated extensively on this concept in his book but upon some online-digging, I have found that most communication gurus or interpersonal experts share similar views to what Carnegie proposed in his book. Though it was first published in 1936, some of the techniques that he promoted in his book are relevant and still ring true even in today’s 21st century.
Image credit: medium.com
What Is Influence?
Let us first understand what is influence. Cambridge Dictionary defines influence as “the power to have an effect on people or things or to affect or change how someone behaves or thinks.”
Fast forward to today, we see people on social media who are called influencers and whose endorsement of products, values, and beliefs shape the way their followers behave and think as well.
However, the art of influencing is not just exclusive to an individual with over 500,000 followers on his or her Instagram. Everyday people too can reap benefits from the art of influencing, especially when applied in one’s professional life.
Who Are You Influencing?
Your colleagues, your business partner, your subordinates, even your superiors (if you do it subtly enough without them realising it).
If you are working in a content-based company, you want to influence your subscribers to believe in the contents you have personally curated.
If you are working in a Sales Department, you want to influence potential customers to get into business deals with you.
If you are a consultant, you want to influence and convince your clients that whatever recommendations you put forth are for their own benefit and made in their own best interest.
Because you will be working alongside these individuals for a long time and by having them on your side, not only will it smooth and speed things up as the project goes further along, but it will also help create a harmonious environment when there is mutual trust and understanding between the two parties.
How then, can I successfully influence people?
There are 3 phases involved in influencing people and ultimately, win their reason and get them to side with you in any negotiations or discussions.
In any influencing situation, establishing rapport is always the first phase. This can be a short phase if you are able to ‘click’ with the other person. Sometimes it may take longer if he or she is not an open book and you need to work extra hard in finding ways to break the barrier or wall between the both of you.
This phase is crucial because it sets the foundation on how your relationship will be like as you work closely together in the months or years to come.
But if you do it right, this phase will be over quickly, and you will find yourself progressing to the next phase that follows.
In this phase, you need to earn the trust of the other person before you can begin to influence their thoughts and win their reason (as Carnegie mentioned earlier).
This is the phase in which you will spend the longest of time and put in the most effort before you can achieve your “big victory”. Because trust is not easy to earn.
For an author, it could be when your readers vouch your content and believe in the books you have published.
For a seller, it could be when a buyer keeps coming to you for recommendations because they trust that you know their personal preference.
In the process of trying to earn the other person’s trust, spend time listening to them, take note of their feedbacks, study their preferences and behaviour. The more you know about the other person, the better the (working) relationship will be — for you will know the best way to carry a discussion with him or her and the best approach to apply when negotiating a deal in the future.
The final phase is to lead them and influence them.
Over time, you will have earned their trust and when that day comes, this is the moment you have been waiting for —to lead them. Because at this stage, they know whatever you do or suggest, you have put their best interest first and foremost.
This is the phase where you do not have to work hard to persuade them when both of you are in a negotiation process.
It is the stage where both of you have reached an understanding and you can lead the other party without much resistance in getting them to agree with your plans.
And is this not part of the goal of influencing people?
Always A Cycle
This is not the only way that one must apply to master the art of influencing people. It is also good to note that the 3 phases mentioned above are not a linear process but a cycle.
There will be instances where either one of the parties will break the trust and this will cause for the situation to be reverted to the previous phase. In leading the other person, you might unintentionally have broken his or her trust. Which means you are back in the second phase of trying to win back their trust.
In earning trust, there will be moments where you have to revert back to the first phase of establishing rapport, for there will always be something new that you will learn about your client, customer, or even colleague.
But the one recurring theme that connects all three phases is what Carnegie has mentioned earlier in this article. That as much as business is “just business”, sometimes you need appeal to the humanistic side of a person first.
By winning the person’s heart, you can influence his or her reason (intellect).
And that would help you in the long run!
*What is shared through this writing is not a declaration that this is the only one true-and-tested way of doing things. Thus, it is highly recommended for you to explore this topic even further on your own.
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Nur Izzaidah Abdull Zubi,