3 Big Mistakes You Make When You Try to Influence

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You have to be good at influence to get what you want in this world.

You want the design of a product to go a certain way. Or you’re dead set against a proposed deadline and have to talk your boss out of it. Or you want to persuade someone to fund your project.

You need to influence the outcome of a decision and you think to yourself “I’ve got this one!”

But do you?

If you’re making one of these common influence mistakes, don’t even waste your breath. It’s not going to work.

Mistake #1: Over-weighting Facts

Surely, if you have enough charts and graphs, your audience will be sold on your point of view…right?

Not likely.

Human decision making is far less logical than you think. The person you’re influencing is trying to make a decision he is comfortable with; and that’s an emotional decision not a rational one. Even engineers aren’t as Vulcan as they like to think.

The facts you present should be aimed at shifting how the decision makers feels about your request.

You need facts that increase their excitement about what’s possible.

You need facts that decrease their fear, anxiety, and perceptions of risk.

You need data and facts, but those facts need to be targeted directly at creating the emotional backing for your desired outcome.

Think about what the person you’re influencing values most and choose facts that connect your plan with those things. If you’re trying to secure additional resources to get your project done on time and you know the person is highly competitive, aim your facts at the market impact of speed. “If I get three engineers seconded to this project for a month, we’ll get this out the door six weeks before the other guys.”

The person you’re trying to persuade is making an emotional decision and then using facts to support his choice.

Your job is to provide the data to makes people feel good about how they feel.

Mistake #2: Persuading Without Credibility

Just your luck! The decision maker on the funding process is the woman who always treats you like you’re a mail clerk rather than a specialist with advanced degrees.

Good luck persuading her that your project will be the next big thing. You can give it a try, but I bet she’ll have no part of it. She’d rather catch up on emails that listen to you.

You’re making a common but costly mistake by trying to influence someone who doesn’t respect you.

In situations where your credibility is low, find someone else to do the heavy lifting for you. Find someone who respects you and also has clout with the decision maker. Enlist that person to help you get your ideas across.

If you can’t throw the lateral pass to someone else, at the very least, have them talk up your ideas to the decision maker before and after your pitch.

Exactly the same points coming from someone with more credibility will resonate more.

Mistake #3: Starting at the End

You are ambitious and driven. You’ve got hustle.

You’ve done the work and built a visually dazzling presentation. Now you’re ready to get the rubber stamp from everyone on the product design committee.

You walk into the meeting, hand out your binder with numbered and color-coded tabs and proceed to show them a design that’s nearly complete.

You blew it.

Trying to influence someone without incorporating their ideas is an uphill battle. By presenting what looks like a finished project, you’re implicitly saying “I didn’t need you.”

You’re likely to get some impressive resistance in response.

Instead of engaging your stakeholders late in the process, get them involved earlier. Use successive iterations to demonstrate where you’ve included their ideas.

To reinforce the point that you’re looking for input, don’t use images or finely crafted slides at the early stages. Make it look like a work in progress.

People like to see their ideas and their words. Incorporate them in your approach and watch the heads start nodding.

Influence is a part of everyday life and when you master it, you’ll get much further than those who haven’t.

Think about your own influence strategies and eliminate these three costly mistakes.

Written by

NYT Bestselling Author, Keynote Speaker, Ph.D. Organizational Psychology, Conflict Doctor

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