A large part of most people’s jobs is spent trying to influence or persuade other people. In other words, to try to get other people to do things, perhaps to start or stop doing something or to change the way they do something.
These people may be peers, employees, people higher in the pecking order or they may be suppliers or customers.
If you’re struggling to get someone to do what you want, there may be a number of reasons for this, for example:
they’re senior to you and don’t feel they have to take much notice of what you say
you don’t have a lot of personal impact in the way you say things or put yourself across
your priorities are not their priorities so they don’t see doing what you want as important
they don’t see any consequence to ignoring you, nothing bad is going to happen to them if they don’t do what you wan
If you want to get someone else to take action, you need to consider two things:
your own impact – how confident and assertive are you in the way you speak to people?
the other person’s position – their personality, their priorities, etc.
This article isn’t going to set out all the ways you can try to influence someone. Instead, I want to offer you 8 questions you need to consider carefully if you’re trying, and failing, to influence or persuade someone. Considering these questions will give you a good idea of where the problems might lie and how to look for solutions.
What do you want them to do? You need to be precise about this. What exactly do you want from them and what can you reasonably expect? For example, let’s say you work for the finance department of an organisation and you need Managers to send you a report every Friday. When they don’t do it on time you might complain about the lack of respect they show for you and your work. But respect isn’t what you can ask of them. What you can ask is that they send their reports to you every Friday.
Why are they not doing what you want them to do at the moment? This will tie in with the other questions but it’s worth jotting down your initial thoughts. Is it lack of time, lack of consideration, pressure from other people, other priorities?
How do they see you? How do you think you come across to them? Do you seem confident, professional, polite, calm, assertive? Or do they see you as somehow inferior, someone to be ignored, nagging, annoying? Be honest about the impression you think they have of you. This impression may not be fair, but perceptions are very important. If you don’t like the way you come across to them, what are you going to do about it?
What motivates them? If you’re going to persuade someone to do something, you need to answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” What will happen if they do, or don’t do, what you want? If you don’t know what motivates them, you don’t know what to use to bargain with. Are they looking for recognition, promotion, an easy life, the grateful thanks of their colleagues, money, chocolate biscuits? (If it’s chocolate biscuits, your job is a lot easier.)
What are their priorities? Where does what you want them to do stand in the order of things they see as important? If you’re in the sort of business that has “fee-earners”, e.g. accountancy or law, you’ll know that those people see anything which isn’t directly related to fees as unimportant. If you deal with “creatives”, e.g. in a marketing firm, you’ll know that those people are motivated by…well, it’s probably a mystery, but it’s nothing to do with administration or accounting.
What sort of decision maker are they? If you want someone to do, or stop doing something, that involves them making a decision. People make decisions in different ways. Some are risk takers, others play it safe. Some gather all evidence and take their time, other fly by the seat of their pants (that may be a new phrase to some of my overseas readers). Some base their decisions on logic and reason, others do what “feels right”. What sort of decision maker are you dealing with and what does this mean for the way you need to approach them?
Who or what does influence them? If it’s not you that’s influencing them, who is? Who do they listen to, who seems to be successful in getting them to act? That could give you a clue as to how to tackle them, or as to who you need to get on your side to help you.
What do you need to that you’re not doing now? Having considered all the other questions, this is the big one. What do you need to do now? The answer can’t be – the same thing you’ve been doing because that isn’t working. How are you going to change your approach?
If you give some thought to each of these questions, you will have a clear idea of what needs to happen to make you more successful at influencing or persuading the person you’re dealing with.