Most discussions on how to influence people eventually touch on Dale Carnegie’s seminal work, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Written more than 83 years ago, the book touches on a core component of human interaction: building strong relationships for positive influence.
Everything that we do hinges on our ability to connect with others and formulate deep relationships. You cannot sell a house, buy a house, advance in most careers, sell a product, pitch a story, teach a course, etc. without building healthy relationships. Managers get the best results from their teams not through brute force, but through careful appeals to their sensibilities.
Using these tactics, they can use positive influence others to guide others towards excellence, productivity, and success, impacting the world one person at a time.
Carnegie’s book is great, but there are other resources, too. Most of us have someone in our lives who positively influences us. The truth is that learning how to influence people is about centering on the humanity of others.
Chances are you know someone who is really good at making others feel like stars and having positive impacts. Where the requests of others sound like fingernails on a chalkboard, the request from this special person sounds like music to your ears. You’re delighted to not only listen but also to oblige.
Here are some tips on how to influence people in a positive way.
1. Be Authentic
To influence people in a positive way, you need to be authentic. Rather than being a carbon copy of someone else’s version of authenticity, uncover what it is that makes you unique in order to start making a positive impact on others.
Discover your unique take on an issue, and then live up to and honor that. One of the reasons social media influencers are so powerful is that they have carved out a niche for themselves or taken a common issue and approached it from a novel or uncommon way. People instinctively appreciate people whose public persona matches their private values.
Contradictions bother us because we crave stability. When someone professes to be one way but lives contrary to that profession, it signals that they are confused or untrustworthy and, thereby, inauthentic. Neither of these combinations bode well for positive influence on others.
If you’re not sure how to discover your own sense of authenticity, you can try Lifehack’s Free Life Assessment. It can help you identify the areas where your life may be falling short and causing you to feel inauthentic.
Growing up, my father would tell me to listen to what others said. He told me if I was a good listener, I would know all I needed to know about a person’s point of view, character, desires, and needs.
To learn how to influence people, you must listen to what is spoken and what is left unsaid. Therein lies the explanation for what people need in order to feel validated, supported, and seen. If a person feels they are invisible and unseen by their superiors, they are less likely to be positively influenced by that person.
Listening and being genuinely interested in them meets a person’s primary need of validation and acceptance, which builds positive energy.
Take a look at this guide on how to be a better listener: How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)
3. Become an Expert
Most people are predisposed to listen to, if not respect, authority. If you want to positively influence others, become an authority in the area where you want to motivate others. Research and read everything you can about the given topic, and then look for opportunities to put your education into practice.
You can argue over opinions. However, it is unwise to argue over facts, and experts come with facts.
4. Lead With a Story
From years of working in the public relations space, I know that personal narratives, testimonials, and impact stories are incredibly powerful. But I never cease to be amazed with how effective a well-timed and well-told story can be.
If you want to influence people, learn to tell stories. Your stories should be related to the issue or concept you are discussing. They should be an analogy or metaphor that explains your topic in ordinary terms and in vivid detail.
A story told in the right way can be the perfect way to grab hold of someone’s emotions, which can help you as you learn how to influence people positively.
5. Lead by Example
It is incredibly inspiring to watch passionate, talented people at work or play. One of the reasons a person who is not an athlete can be in awe of athletic prowess is because human nature appreciates the extraordinary. When we watch the Olympics, gymnastic competitions, ice skating, and other competitive sports, we can recognize the effort of people who give their all day in and day out.
Case in point: Simone Biles. The gymnast extraordinaire won her 6th all-around title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships after doing a triple double, becoming the first woman to do so. Even non-gymnasts and non-competitive athletes can appreciate the talent required to pull off such a remarkable feat.
We celebrate remarkable accomplishments and believe that their example is proof that we too can accomplish something great, even if it isn’t qualifying for the Olympics. To influence people in a positive way, we must lead by example, lead with intention, and execute with excellence.
6. Catch People Doing Good
A powerful way to use positive influence is to catch people doing good. Instead of looking for problems, look for successes. Look for often overlooked, but critically important things that your peers, subordinates, and managers do that make the work more effective and more enjoyable.
Once you catch people doing good, name and notice their contributions. Show them you are interested in other people’s success, as this will positively impact all of the personal and professional relationships you set out to create. Making an impact on someone’s life is as easy as offering a compliment.
7. Be Effusive With Praise
It did not take me long to notice a remarkable trait of a former boss. He not only began and ended meetings with praise, but he peppered praise throughout the entire meeting. He found a way to celebrate the unique attributes and skills of his team members. He was able to quickly and accurately assess what people were doing well and then let them and their colleagues know.
Meetings were not just an occasion to go through a “to do” list; they were opportunities to celebrate accomplishments, no matter how small they are. This is key when learning how to influence people.
This inevitably has a positive influence on those around you. Remember that a person who feels appreciated will be more willing to go above and beyond with anything you request of them.
8. Be Kind Rather Than Right
It’s easy to get caught up in a cycle of proving oneself. For people who lack confidence or people who prioritize the opinions of others, being right is important. The validation that comes with being perceived as “right” feeds one’s ego.
However, in the quest to be “right,” we can hurt other people and arouse resentment in others. Once we’ve hurt someone by being unkind, it is much harder to get them to listen to what we’re trying to influence them to do.
The antidote to dealing with people via bullying is to prioritize kindness above rightness. You can be kind and still stand firm in your position. For instance, many people think that they need others to validate their experience. If a person does not see the situation you experienced in the way you see it, you get upset, but your experience is your experience.
If you and your friends go out to eat, and you get food poisoning, you do not need your friends to agree that the food served at the restaurant was problematic for you. Your own experience of getting food poisoning is all the validation you need. Therefore, taking time to be right is essentially wasted, and if you were unkind in seeking validation for your food-poison experience, now you’ve really lost points.
9. Understand a Person’s Logical, Emotional, and Cooperative Needs
The Center for Creative Leadership has argued that the best way to influence others is to appeal to their logical, emotional, and cooperative needs.
Their logical need is their rational and educational need. Their emotional need is the information that touches them in a deeply personal manner. The cooperative need is understanding the level of cooperation various individuals need and then appropriately offering it.
The trick with this system is to understand that different people need different things. For some people, a strong emotional appeal will outweigh logical explanations. For others, having an opportunity to collaborate will override emotional connection.
If you know your audience, you will know what they need in order to be positively influenced. If you have limited information about the people whom you are attempting to influence, you will be ineffective.
10. Understand Your Lane
If you want to learn how to influence people, operate from your sphere of influence, your place of expertise, and leave everything else to others. Gone are the days when being a jack-of-all-trades is celebrated.
Most people appreciate brands that understand their target audience and then deliver on what that audience wants. When you focus on what you are uniquely gifted and qualified to do, and then offer that gift to the people who need it, you are more effective. This effectiveness is attractive.
You cannot use positive influence on others if you are more preoccupied by what others do well versus what you do well.
Learning how to influence people is about centering your humanity. If you want to utilize positive influence, focus on the way you communicate, and improve the relationship with yourself first.
It’s hard to influence others if you’re still trying to figure out how to communicate with yourself. Get comfortable with your uniqueness first, and then get out there and influence others.
More Tips on Influence
- 20 Powerful Books to Win You Friends and Influence More People
- How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship
- Leadership vs Management: Is One Better Than the Other?