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ARTICLE: How to Influence Others - The Role of Trust, Compassion & Positivity

Updated: Aug 2, 2018

We all want a better world, a world without those circumstances that made us and the ones we care for suffer. In order to achieve this, we must be brave in finding out what we stand for and when we do, understand how we can grow our personal influence. Whether good or bad, influence ripples from every person and with reference to the TEDxBrayfordPoolSalon event on Viral Crowds I co-facilitated recently, some even go intentionally or unintentionally viral.

It takes much soul-searching and a conscious effort to ensure our intention, actions & influence makes a positive impact on the world around us. We must learn that we are all part of something bigger in order to scale our positive influence, because ...

'No man (or woman) is an island!'

We are social creatures, highly interdependent on the people & world around us and we have to recognise that therefore others are interdependent on us. The way in which we share and communicate our influence to others is a vital component and the way we express our beliefs & emotions publicly can set the tone in how we influence and create impact. Below are a number of elements in the recipe for positive influence and impact, and, unsurprisingly, it starts with you ...

Learn to Adjust your Own Sail First

Many believe that influence is about encouraging others to think and/or do things better. True influence is more collaborative. It resembles more closely a dialogue between two or more people. It is first about participating and sharing your unique insights and feedback so a ‘negotiation’ can take place which guides a group to a better informed decision.

The art of articulating and sharing your insights clearly starts with you. As emotional beings, we may wish to share our anger, disgust or frustrations about a situation which we feel we want to influence. In fact, feelings of anger, disgust & frustration can make great foundations for influencing change, however they can just as easily do the opposite. Why? No one likes to be faced with someone who has already (mis-)judged the situation before fully understanding the circumstances.

Wanting to achieve positive influence requires a willingness to challenge & reflect on how open we ourselves are to participate in this emotional negotiation and to make the changes we may need to make to ourselves as a result. In leading by adjusting our own approach first will we find others more open to truly listen, care and share. If not, you may find that the door remains firmly closed and it may even create some unwanted push-back.

Stay Curious and Focus on the Intentions & Perspectives of Others

Curiosity is the tool of a great influencer. Staying curious has two functions:

  1. Curiosity helps us to unpick why things are the way they are. Most circumstances are vastly complex as they are affected by many stakeholders and layers of decision-making. Having curiosity can help us to create a much deeper understanding of the context and reflect on where we best focus our energy, not wasting it on that which cannot be changed (immediately). Having curiosity for a wider range of topics is one of the characteristics of Systems Leaders.

  2. In interactions with others, curiosity also allows us to listen for the purpose of learning & understanding the other person's perspective, not to respond with the only purpose of feeling heard. In the process of influence, the audience you seek to influence is more important than the self. How you make others feel defines the size of your impact.

Alongside remaining curious, it also helps to be patient. Nothing changes overnight, especially some of the bigger systemic challenges we are facing today. A while back, I was speaking with a Sr Manager, himself from a BAME background, around recruiting people from a BAME background into the Police. He was most passionate about encouraging more young people from a BAME background to consider a career in the Police and had taken positive action (as defined in the Equality Act 2010) by adding a statement to their job adverts. You can imagine his frustration when not one of the candidates who applied had a BAME background. Since this time, they have changed their activities, engaging more positively with schools and in the community, as they first had to learn about all the barriers that stopped people from applying.

Change for the better takes time. So, learn about people's intentions, not just today, but over a longer period of time. You may find they - like you - want to create more positive momentum by working with others. Be that other & collaborate in the creation of a Social Movement that cannot be ignored!

Show Care & Compassion for Those You Seek to Influence

Along with curiosity, show care and compassion. All of us are interdependent on the contexts in which we live and work. Not all of it within our control. When others judge us on contexts outside of our control, we may experience a sense of feeling hurt, helpless and even shame, when we are not able to actually make the changes needed. So ...

It is only with care and compassion for others that we show our humanity. Achieving success & positive influence is rarely achieved from a place of judgement, and even less from a place where people are hurting themselves and others. It is more often achieved from a place of trust, humility and vulnerability, creating a relationship where everyone feels it is ok to speak up without feeling judged or blamed. Blame Culture is not something which solely happens top-down. In fact, it more often happens between peers. Only with care and compassion can we help achieve a change of culture across our teams, organisations and partnerships.

The Gift of your Trust

It is often I hear people say: 'They haven't earned my trust.' Let me pose a serious question: 'What % of people in the world are trustworthy?' The response will differ from person to person and will be very telling about how any given person perceives the world. Then ask: 'When meeting a new person, do you approach them as trustworthy or do you need evidence to prove they are trustworthy (in other words, do you/they ask the new person to earn trust)?'

Here is a sample of posing these questions in some recent conversations:

Me: 'What % of people in the world are trustworthy?'

Other: 'Probably 70%'

Me: 'So when you meet a new person, do you trust them or do you need proof?'

Other: 'I would need proof to know that this person is not one of the 30% that is not worthy of my trust.'

Me: 'What if the percentage of trustworthy people is higher, let's say 99% of the world is trustworthy, would you change the way you approach a new person?'

Other: 'No, that would be naive as there is still 1% which is not trustworthy.'

And this matches the approach of many more people, both in life and at work. We start from a place of distrust because we do not want to fall into the clutches of the minority who may not be worthy of our trust.

What if we could influence a better world by seeing our trust as an extension of our own trustworthiness, a gift which creates an environment in which people feel free to be authentic and willing to share all they have on offer. Truth is that, even when gifted, trust is something which remains within our control at all times and as such can be withdrawn if the first couple of interactions leave you with questions about someone's intentions. Is it fair that we treat 70-99% of the trustworthy people we meet with distrust, just because of a minority with less trustworthy intentions?

It is important to remember that 'your Vibe attracts your Tribe', so a reflection on how you use your trust may help you on your journey to becoming more influential.

Commit to Putting Everything on the Table

When working and interacting with others, there will always be different perspectives and different agenda's. These can be seen as competing or complementing. Where seen as competing or unwanted, it is not unusual that these elements never make it to the table. It is however crucial that time is taken to uncover these. Why? Because if things remain hidden, they can turn into tensions, conflict and resentment that can drain a lot of energy and burns bridges. The issue is not the different perspectives or agenda's, the issue is that they are not openly explored and addressed.

Edward de Bono invented the Six Thinking Hats which help to build tolerances for the different perspectives and energies bring to the table and aims to explain how each can help in better decision-making. For example, the Black Hat plays devil's advocate or highlights why things may not work. It was de Bono's belief that every 'hat' or energy brings a unique perspective with an ounce of truth included. The Black Hat adds value as it helps to test assumptions and negative outcomes. It should never stop proceedings, but instead help to identify the risks to be mitigated.

There are other technique to uncover the energy & perspectives people bring to the table. I prefer the use of Eastern Philosophy which embraces the duality of everything (yin & yang). When thinking of making a decision, flipping the discussion to the other extreme can be really helpful in negotiating the best balance. For example, posing a question like: 'What if we did/changed nothing?' often helps to tease out the risks of not changing. This works even better where a team has great diversity of energies, skills, knowledge & experience.

Remain Accountable for your Impact on Others

Accountability is closely linked to integrity. It is ...

Acknowledging the origin of the words others have whispered into your ear is one example of how integrity and accountability are linked. The combination is a powerful trust & influence builder. Doing the right thing even when no one is looking shows your trustworthiness to others. However we are all human ... The intention of this blog is not to insist on perfectionism. On the contrary, it aims to show how small acts of bravely reflecting on our own actions rather than on those of others actually helps to grow our influence.

So work on yourself and let your positive influence grow!