6 Ways to Practice Influence (Then Become a Master)

TED Talks

I love first impressions. It’s a rare occasion to have a complete blank slate with someone, and you get to craft yourself into whoever you want! Maybe you’ll be the funny one, or the mysterious one. But introduce yourself poorly, and you could be forgettable or (worse yet) the boring one. For me, I aim for being immediately personable and relatable, with a touch of humility and humor.

Implement all 6 ideas and you’ll be a true influencer (not just the Instagram-type!).

1. Introduce Yourself to 3 People Today (And Here’s How)

Great article from TED on unforgettable ways to introduce yourself, where I grabbed a few of these gems, along with one of my own.

  • Forget the job title, instead describe the impact of your job.
  • People understand there are problems, and then there are solutions. So describe what you do in terms of problem-solving and how you solve things.
  • Pretend you’re talking to a child. How would you break down what you do that a child can understand. And then build up from there.
  • Power of humor. If there’s an opportunity in there to poke fun at where you’re at or use some self-deprecating humor, I’m down for that. Just beware if it’s a serious work setting.

2. Reciprocate

Although we’re talking about how to Be More Influential, let’s not lose sight of what’s really important — that we do things that will make other people’s lives better. In other words, use your newfound powers in influence for good! If you end up using influence to benefit just yourself, you’ll “live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” [Name that movie!]

Today, be more influential by doing something nice for someone. The only criteria is that it must be (A) personalized and (B) unexpected.

  • Personalized means you actually have to know something personal about the person! Then have fun by making it unexpected.
  • Science says: If the waiter provides one mint, starts to walk away from the table, but pauses, turns back and says, “For you nice people, here’s an extra mint,” tips go through the roof. A 23% increase, influenced not by what was given, but how it was given.

3. Be In Demand

To be more influential, be in demand more. Easier said than done, right?! Yet, we all understand being in demand does lead to being more influential, right or wrong. We see this phenomena whenever there is that attractive person that everyone wants to date, or that guru at work that everybody goes to for help. Let’s explore what we can do to increase our demand.

“The more knowledge you have the more likely that you will propose options that are more attractive.”

Well, obviously. So before you engage in any discussion, go read a few articles on that select topic. This will at least inform you enough to be worth talking to.

“It’s not enough simply to tell people about the benefits they’ll gain if they choose your products and services. You’ll also need to point out what is unique about your proposition and what they stand to lose if they fail to consider your proposal.”

The key words are unique and what they stand to lose. You always need to be thinking, what is the interesting, uncommon, or new idea that you’re contributing to the conversation. If possible and appropriate, you may need to point out what you bring to the table.

4. Namedrop (The Proper Way)

To be more influential, name-drop, but do it the proper way! Turns out I’ve misunderstood what name-dropping means all these years! As I was doing my research, I hadn’t realized how improper people use this tactic, and hence such a negative perception of it, especially in job interviews. It hadn’t occurred to me because I don’t name-drop in the way these articles talk about! Let me explain…

“People name-drop for a simple reason: It’s an easy way to signal our status as a member of an exclusive in-group.”

To me, name-dropping is more like a citation in a thesis paper. I try to come from a place of humility and want to attribute what I’m about to say with who/where it came from. I think it’s a worse crime to take credit for a piece of knowledge that didn’t originate with you. In doing so, I acknowledge the listener may infer there is a relationship there. That’s why we should go a step further and caveat how we know the person and clarify the level of relationship. At the end of the day, we only have our integrity and reputation, so don’t do anything to damage those!


5. Are you dependable?

Take an honest look in front of the mirror and ask yourself, “do people currently depend on you to get things done?” When you do, is it right away? Or a week later? Maybe just before the deadline? If you want to be more influential, then make yourself the go-to person. If you become the go-to person, that’s an acknowledgement that you’ve become important to that person’s life. Now isn’t that the very definition of influential?

“One recent study reduced missed appointments at health centers by 18% simply by asking the patients rather than the staff to write down appointment details on the future appointment card.”

This is the reverse of what we’ve been talking about. To increase your influence, get the other person to commit to something. The pro-tip here is to get them to agree to something small, and then go from there. For example, invite them to a work meeting and when they show up, that’s commitment which you can then grow.

6. Flatter people

Persuasion science tells us that there are three important factors.

  • We like people who are similar to us.
  • We like people who pay us compliments.
  • We like people who cooperate with us towards mutual goals.

No wonder we get along with our friends — they prob share the same hobbies & values, you compliment each other (“way to go bro!”), and they help us whenever we’re in need. Stands to reason, what if we can convert “coworkers” into “friends?”

Which do you behave like?

In a series of negotiation studies carried out between MBA students at two well-known business schools, some groups were told, “Time is money. Get straight down to business.” In this group, around 55% were able to come to an agreement.

A second group however, was told, “Before you begin negotiating, exchange some personal information with each other. Identify a similarity you share in common then begin negotiating.” In this group, 90% of them were able to come to successful and agreeable outcomes that were typically worth 18% more to both parties.

Takeaway: You’ll get more out the situation if you actually care about the other person and create some rapport.


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