This is an excerpt from my book ‘How To Become An Influencer’.
Read the full book (you can get it free on this website) to get exercises that will help you understand your own level of influence and take your first steps to make some improvements…
“One of the best ways to influence people is to make those around you feel
― Roy T. Bennett
People prefer to say yes to those they know and like.
You need to be good at finding common ground with people so that there seems less
distance between you and them- this could be in personal terms, or between
positions that you are taking. If you can build a rapport with them it is more likely that
you will both end up happier.
You need to try to be positive- not in an unrealistic way- but generally to see
You need to be curious and ask questions. If you get people talking about subjects
that they are passionate about then it will be much easier to connect with them.
Enjoy and celebrate the happiness of other people. Notice when other people do
something good and praise them.
Try to be friendly- this doesn’t mean being false but do you do simple things like ask
people how they are and really listen to the answer?
Being likeable also includes thinking about the first impression you create your body
language, personal grooming and clothes.
When you think about how ‘likeable’ you are- you need to think about not just how
you are at your best, but at your worst too. For example, if there has been a
disagreement, do you try to make things better? Do you apologize if things are your
fault and own up to your mistakes? How do you respond to stress, or criticism?
‘Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society’ Mark
I- Interpersonal skills
Interpersonal skills include a great many areas that require a lot of study and focus in
their own right, such as relationship building, charisma, community engagement and
Perhaps most importantly, you need to be adaptable in your approach- you need to
think about what will convince different people, at different times, in different
situations. Plus of course, you need to react to the feedback they give you and the
way they respond to you, rather than blindly sticking to a script.
Good manners are important- such as respecting the time of others. Of course,
these may vary between countries and cultures so you need to find out in advance
what is appropriate in each case. If you cause offence, you need to think of a way to
apologize and atone for it.
Making others feel important is another key area here. Focus on them, not you.
Many people, when seeking to influence others, focus on what they want from an
interaction, not what the other person wants. The most skilful negotiators think
carefully about what the other person wants and how to make them feel at ease.
Always think about the other person as well when influencing.
People don’t like to feel manipulated. Sometimes, especially when we are using
online influence it is easy to forget that there are real human beings with feelings
looking at their computer screen. What are the other person’s desired outcomes? Try
to get a win-win situation.
Be a good listener- real listening is a skill. For example, it doesn’t just mean ‘keeping
quiet’. It means encouraging the other person to talk with verbal affirmations, body
language etc. and trying to show a genuine interest in what they are saying.
Try to find commonalities with others. Is there a way that you can steer a
conversation onto ground that you both enjoy or is in some way profitable to you
Emotional intelligence is something that you need to think about, people are starting
to realise the value of ‘EQ’ rather than just IQ- the work of Daniel Goleman is critical
You have to think of the emotions of the people that you are trying to influence- it
isn’t just about presenting the ‘facts’ and expecting them to be convincing.
People need to trust you, so you need to find ways to gain their trust. Sometimes you
will be able to do this quickly, sometimes not, but it should be an important goal for
you. Is there a way you can ‘get them on your side’?
Confidence is an important area. To influence others, you need to be confident- in
both your own abilities and in the product you are selling. Please note however, that
this is not about being extrovert- you can be quietly confident. You need to find a
way not just to seem confident yourself but to inspire confidence in others.
Remember, it is easy to be more impressive than others in some areas just by
making a conscious effort to try to be so. We all like other people to treat us well, so
if we can take the extra step to treat people well ourselves, we will be able to have
more influence and do the world a favour at the same time! To give an example, I
was notorious among my friends for being late. After living in Japan, where lateness
is considered particularly rude, I changed my habits to the extent that I am now
known as someone who is not just on time but early.
You need to learn to influence without authority- i.e. to get people to do things
without having authority over them, (for example by being their boss). This matters in
so many ways, both because almost everyone has some sort of ‘boss’ but also
because more and more people are freelancers meaning that they don’t easily fit into
traditional hierarchies or power structures. If you are in a position of authority over
someone, in the short term, you may be able to force others to do what you want.
Ultimately however, that won’t work- there will come a point where they rebel or
break away from you.
Having good interpersonal skills will help you choose the right time to try to influence
Let’s say that you have two meetings lined up with person A and person B and you
want to sell them both something.
When you meet person A, the first thing they say to you is that they have a crisis
back at the office. You take this as your cue to keep the small talk to a minimum and
introduce the focus of the meeting- the thing you are selling- sooner than you had
planned. Whether they buy or not, person A appreciates the fact that you respected
their time and the signals they were sending about wanting to cut the meeting short.
Person B is someone you know a bit better. They give you a piece of slightly
personal information and it seems like they want to talk a bit. You give them more
time than you had planned and mention the sale slightly later than you were going to.
Whether they buy or not, person B appreciates the fact that you treated them like a
human being and didn’t rush them too much. Situations like this happen all the time.
You might think that everyone can pick up on cues in this way. If so, I ask you
honestly, have you never had a meeting with someone who blabbed on and on
despite the fact you dropped in lots of hints that you really had to be somewhere
else? Even if you do this well already, you can do it better and if you work in other
countries you may have cultural elements come into play too.
One thing worth noting here is that influence isn’t always about getting someone to
take action immediately- you might be trying to influence their behaviour at a much
When trying to understand and therefore influence other people you have to be
careful about Attribution Bias- if you at least acknowledge it you will be less likely to
draw the wrong conclusions. Remember, a lot of the time we all have imperfect
knowledge about a situation. That’s one of the reasons why positive human
relationships are so crucial- they can smooth over the gaps and make both parties
feel better. As a simple example, if you are late for a meeting, you are likely to blame
other things- the train being delayed, your alarm clock not being loud enough etc.
But if the person you are meeting is late, you might attribute it to them being lazy, or
disrespectful of your time. (to be honest, when I lived in London I thought when other
people were late it was probably the train’s fault too, but that is another story…).
However you attribute the other person’s actions- unless of course you are
completely convinced they are disrespecting you- if you have a positive relationship
with them it all feels like it can be sorted out easily. They will apologize for being late
because they genuinely care about your time, you will tell them it doesn’t matter
because you want them to feel comfortable and relaxed- and the sum result is that
you both have a better meeting.
You will build your influence more rapidly if you give value away for free with no
expectation of reward. This isn’t a one-off, you need to find a way to do it all the time.
Some of the most successful individuals give a great deal of value away for free.
They do it because they care so much about sharing their passion with the world and
making an impact.
Be generous at every opportunity you can find. Of course, you need to make sure
that you aren’t taken advantage of- do what genuinely feels right to you and stand up
for yourself if you don’t want to help. There is a big difference between actively
choosing to be generous and people thinking that your time is worthless so they can
impose lots of demands on you.
Be a resource for others- are you seen as a resource by other people? This could be
in so many ways. You might be a source of expertise, of wisdom, of emotional
strength, common sense and much more. In turn others will be a resource for you.
Note that not every relationship will be reciprocal- i.e. there are some people you
‘give’ to but don’t ‘take’ from and vice versa. Learn to be comfortable with that. What
matters is the sum totality of the effort that you put out there into the world for other
Care about the lives of other people- hopefully this one isn’t something that you
really need to think about too much! However, sometimes in the busy modern world
it is easy to be in a bubble, focusing on our own problems and not noticing the
problems of others. Try to find ways to combat this- it could be through volunteering,
However you want to serve people in life, you need to remember that everyone has
their own preferences for interaction and how they like to be helped- so you may
have to modify your approach to make them feel comfortable.
You need to cultivate empathy for everyone you meet, including the audience you
have as an influencer.
How can you use empathy to show you the path to serving others and being more
sensitive to their needs?
In order to be more empathetic, you need to be careful about making assumptions.
Most people do that all the time, attributing meaning where there is none. Imagine
you get served in a shop and the person serving you doesn’t seem friendly. Your
initial reaction might be to think that either they are a disagreeable individual or that
there is something about you that just rubs people up the wrong way- but it is much
more likely that there is a reason you know nothing about. Perhaps they are feeling
unwell, their boss has been mean to them that morning or their head is full of
worries. Of course, I’m not saying that you should simply accept terrible service if
they really are rude, but often you can brighten up another person’s day simply by
being kind and polite yourself.
Also, use empathy to try to think about how others that you are trying to influence,
want to influence the world themselves. If you can help them with their own
ambitions they will dearly thank you for it.
When you have any sort of success, thanking others and recognizing that success is
never achieved alone is so important. If you remember to thank people it will mean a
great deal- if you forget them it might mean a great deal too!
Every time you can, you should be trying to find ways to make other people feel part
of your success. I am sure that we have all worked with (or for) people who made us
feel that success was shared and other people who made us feel that success was
theirs to celebrate alone. Don’t ever forget the people who work tirelessly behind the
scenes of any endeavour and who aren’t up on stage getting the glory. Sometimes
you might be the one on stage, sometimes not- but the work of everyone matters.
When you have successes, think how you can share the learning with others.
‘Reverse engineer’ how you got there and teach others who are not as confident or
accomplished as you in that area. Learn from the successes of others in your turn.
Take genuine pleasure in celebrating the success of other people- try not to be
jealous. If their success spurs you to greater things, brilliant- but don’t deny them the
joy of their moment in the spotlight.
‘Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed
of either success or failure in the mind of another’ Napoleon Hill