Have you ever found yourself trying to persuade someone to see your point of view?
I used to make this mistake. Then I realized that when I showed up in “persuasion mode,” I was creating resistance in others, not agreement!
When someone is dead set on making us see things their way, our brains go into “defense mode.” We start to feel the way we do when we realize a salesperson is trying to sell us something for the sole purpose of earning a big commission.
So how do we influence people to see things our way?
One of the most effective and simple influence tools we have is curiosity…
1. CURIOSITY ABOUT WHO OTHER PEOPLE ARE
There’s no better way to increase our influence than to invest in relationships.
Consider who you allow to influence you. I’m guessing it’s people who’ve demonstrated respect for you and some care for your well-being. In other words, people who’ve invested in having a relationship with you.
Like many of the Executive and Leadership Coaching clients I work with, you may benefit from being more intentional about setting up time to connect with your direct reports, peers, senior leaders and others.
Creating opportunities to get curious about what makes the other people tick is an important first step in setting the groundwork for influence.
2. CURIOSITY ABOUT WHAT OTHERS WANT
Assume that the people we want to influence have a placard on their head that reads “What’s in it for me?” To make any headway with an individual, we need to get curious about what it is that they want.
Curiosity starts with asking open-ended questions. For example, asking:
- “What’s most important for you and your team to accomplish this year?”
- “What’s most needed to achieve success?”
- “What’s impacting your success?”
Equally important to asking the questions is the way we respond to their answers. Staying genuinely curious in seeking to understand what the world looks like from the other person’s perspective.
3. CURIOSITY ABOUT HOW OUR AGENDA CAN WEAVE INTO THEIRS
Once we understand the other person’s agenda, it gives us the opportunity to get curious about how our two agendas overlap.
If there’s great agenda overlap, it could then be as simple as ensuring that we serve up our idea in a way that’s framed around their agenda. For example, if their primary concern is increasing profitability, we might offer: “I’d like to talk to you about a new service offering that can help us grow profits this year.”
4. CURIOSITY ABOUT HOW TO MEET THE COMMON GOAL
Things get more interesting when there is no overlap between our agenda and theirs. More interesting still if our agenda is in opposition to theirs. And this is where our real growth opportunity lies.
Ultimately, we won’t have influence unless we are willing to be influenced.
It can be tempting to stay attached to our agenda. But having real influence means that we are genuinely open to staying in curious dialogue about everyone’s concerns. Open to respectfully coming to an outcome that meets the common goal, and not necessarily our individual goal.
Putting energy into persuading someone to accept an idea they don’t feel is in either their interest or the common interest, is futile. Even if we manage to wear them down, the long-term relationship suffers and we’re setting ourselves up for future struggles.
Remaining open and curious with an honest intention to serve the other person’s goals and the greater common interest – this sets us up to be seen as a trusted partner both now and in the future.
A challenge for you…
The next time you find yourself wanting to push an agenda…try shifting into “curiosity mode” and start asking questions about what’s important to the other person.
Enjoy being curious!