When Roy Croft remarked: ‘I love you not because of who you are, but because of who I am when I am with you’, he actually was initiating the magical powers that most of us dream of acquiring. The power to influence people! Influence is the art of winning people’s cooperation when you do not have, or do not want to use, the authority to make them do what you want them to do. It involves shaping the way people feel and think.

We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go, we take a little of each other everywhere. It is important to understand this in entirety. It is this seemingly little fact that wins friends, promotes harmony and rules existence! Moreover, when you are in the company of others, listen to your intuition. It will tell you everything you need to know.

Make people feel understood. Very simply, talk less and empathize more. What you want is always less vital than what the other person wants. Making the right decisions, commitments, and judgments based on logic and sound reasoning is easier and gets relevant when people act in response to their preferences, feelings, and social influences they may not be aware of. If they trust you and feel that you care about them, they are much more likely to cooperate with you. So the first mantra is simple enough: Construct a bridge that is hanging on pylons of trust! You simply cannot antagonize and influence at the same time.

Find common ground. Show people how their needs, values, and dreams mesh with yours. To do so, you have to understand their values and concerns. See things from their point of view. Be sympathetic with their feelings. Then show them how cooperating with you can help them achieve what they want. You don’t have to be a “person of influence” to be influential. In fact, the most influential people in my life are probably not even aware of the things they’ve taught me. For those who wish to be influenced it is better to be around the people you want to be like, because you will be like the people you are around.

Listen. Even Epictetus said: ‘We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.’ Listening is the best way to make people feel understood and, at the same time, to find common ground. Ask open-ended questions, the kind that invites a careful consideration and honesty. Try to understand what people mean, without getting hung up on the literal meaning of their words. And acknowledge their thoughts and feelings (which isn’t the same thing as agreeing with them).  Your care and attention to what is being said conveys to the other that you are a friend, a hand that is always waiting to assist, no matter how close or far apart you may be. Strive to be someone who is always there and will always, always care. A friend is a feeling of forever in the heart. A friend is one who listens.

Balzac remarked: All human power is a compound of time and patience. If this power has to become an immortal influence, the elements of trust, commonality and a genuine interest have to be added. Influence then becomes a super-power where striking true replaces striking hard or often! Thus ‘influence’ is ruled by a subtle force that comes only when you let your heart go along with your head as you step into the world of relationships.

Most important, remember that no one is influenced by the sermons you preach. It is the sermons you act that will always open the gateways to a productive relationship with others.

[Arvind Passey]
Written for PT Education