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Influencing people

Being influential can be difficult, especially if you aren’t used to doing it. In this video, Dave and Hélène explore the idea of being persuasive.
How are we influenced? How do other people persuade us of their point of view? How can we persuade other people of ours? Without resorting to hypnosis, or anything unethical, there are some simple principles to remember when trying to influence people. Firstly, influencing people should never be perceived as a zero-sum game, ie that someone has to win and someone has to lose. Try and find a win-win outcome in seeking influence, what’s in it for them to take up your idea? How will they benefit? If all the benefits seem to be for you, they might perceive that they will somehow lose out.
Likewise, being persuaded of your position might involve them having to publicly change their mind or reverse a previously held position. Even when we know we’re wrong and we’ve privately changed our minds, the public process of admitting we have been wrong is often seen as so shameful that we refuse to do it. So how can you allow someone the freedom to change their mind without losing face? Again, this is where seeking a win-win positive outcome for both people is the best approach when pitching an idea. Secondly, no one has ever changed any one else’s mind. People change their own minds, all other people do is present evidence that helps them do so.
You’re not persuading by trying to just hammer an idea home by saying it repeatedly and louder each time.
Think about it this way: you’re offering someone evidence that an idea is a good one. If you supply enough appropriate evidence, they’ll change their own mind. You may need to provide a new perspective or lens to look at existing evidence that they’ve not considered before. For example, my natural assumption was that air travel was more dangerous than road travel, but actually so many people die on the road that it’s equivalent to one passenger plane dropping out of the sky every hour, which rather changed my view. So focus on the evidence that persuaded you and try to find some evidence that will persuade them. Thirdly, humans do not see reality. We all see the world, the ‘territory’,
through a lens shaped by our experiences, ‘the map’. Maps are representations of territories that help us navigate quickly. A geographical map is different to a political map by providing a different filter. What matters to one person buying a product might be technical features, for another, aesthetic ones. For another it might be price or convenience. So to have influence you might need to think about what’s on their map, not yours. Finally, congruency and consistency. Would you buy a technical financial product from a scruffy looking man in a pub? Wouldn’t you also be suspicious if a smartly dressed woman walked up to you in a festival field and begged for some money for a cup of tea?
Whoever is selling an idea needs to appear to be an appropriate salesperson for that idea. The presenter has to be congruent with the idea presented. Likewise, all the elements of the idea need to match with one another and be consistently presented. The environmental awareness campaign that happens to include a fleet of diesel buses or a lot of international flights might detract somewhat from your message.

Being influential can be difficult, especially if you aren’t used to being persuasive.

In this video, Dave and Hélène explore the idea of being persuasive and influential. After watching, consider the following question and add some thoughts to the comments:

  • What can you do when someone doesn’t seem to think your idea is a good one?
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