Thoughts on influence, persuasion, relationships etc. to make us more aware of the responsibilities and possibilities that come with influencing
When I created a mind map to collect ideas and thoughts for this article, my mind map got a bit crazy.
All of a sudden words like persuasion, purpose, expert, consistency, relationships, freedom, awareness, quest or movement popped up and made my mind map look like it’s been created by a deranged person.
After some deliberation, I can say that one article will never do the topic of influencing justice – but I want to take a bite out of the topic and write it more as a stream-of-consciousness piece rather than organising it in a “proper” structure.
However, I definitely want to pursue a purpose with this article – and that is to inspire you to think about your interpretation of influencing and to how you are influencing others and to which purpose.
So, the first concept that I wanted to explore is to look at influence versus persuasion
I found a very interesting definition online:
“Influence is having a vision of the optimum outcome for a situation or organization and then, without using force or coercion, motivating people to work together toward making the vision a reality. Persuasion can be used to spur someone to action or to make a decision without actually earning their sincere buy-in.”
Based on this definition, persuasion is episodical whereas influencing is a long-term process.
Jane Austen’s novel “Persuasion” comes to mind where the heroine Anne Elliot was persuaded by her snobbish family to decline her suitor’s proposal because they deemed him socially not acceptable due to his low rank in the Navy.
Anne regretted the actions she took and for many years, she lived an unhappy life.
In this context, persuasion has a negative connotation because it implies that this action was taken against Anne’s conviction which had a negative impact on her life.
Now, as a copywriter, I am aware that there are techniques that persuade the audience to take action – sometimes against their better judgement.
Using techniques like scarcity and urgency is only too common in copywriting and it is something that I recommend using only very sparsely and for occasions that are time-driven like launches and workshops etc.
I believe that people should make well-informed decisions after processing all available information. That significantly reduces the risk of buyer’s remorse and increases the excitement, motivation, and ability to enjoy their investment – whether it’s in an online course or a car, a pair of shoes, or hiring a virtual assistant.
Many salespeople are very persuasive but don’t always have the good of the buyer on their minds, but rather think about their commission.
All that is very negative but are there situations where you should persuade people to take a certain action?
I am thankful for family and friends who have occasionally persuaded me not to make a dumb decision that could have ended badly for me.
And there are definitely offers that help specific people overcome their obstacles (which you can probably see clearer than they can).
So, persuading someone not to drive because they’ve had a few glasses of alcohol, or making an investment without reading the small print and doing some research…
There are many examples where persuasion is used to the benefit of a person and where the short-term goal is to prevent people from suffering negative consequences or helping them overcome an obstacle that is holding them back.
That’s the kind of persuasion I prefer. But it is a fine line to walk. Especially since you are going against someone’s conviction or better knowledge.
But let’s return to the definition I shared earlier:
That statement contains a few elements that I find rather important. Influencing is a long-term process that is tied to a purpose and a vision. It is not a spur-of-the-moment decision but a well-thought-out, strategic and intentional endeavour.
And it is about giving people the time, support and information that they need to consciously make a decision that they fully own.
Influencing someone is a process that allows a person to go through a transformation of thoughts that leaves them changed.
When you raise your children, you have to show up every day, share your knowledge, help them experience and process situations, and challenge them to think so that they grow into kind and mindful people.
You cannot walk into their room and say – “Look here – you have to be more mindful!”
You have to feed their minds and guide them consistently towards becoming a wonderful person. You have to lead by example, take action, and share your values, beliefs, stories, failures, successes, and thoughts. You have to allow them to experiment, fail, and learn in a safe environment.
Now, when it comes to you and your business – ideally, you serve with a purpose and have a vision or dream that you want to achieve.
There’s an element of positive change that you want to achieve. There could even be a movement that you want to lead.
And that involves people - implying that you need to understand the people you want to influence and that you have people skills that allow you to lead without force but rather with inspiration.
That implies that you need to be a rather good communicator.
If you have been following me for a while, then you know that I am quite vocal (and repetitive) about understanding yourself (including your purpose, values, beliefs etc.), having messaging clarity, and listening to your audience and understanding their needs, wants, desires, and aspirations.
That allows you to attract people into your community who are aligned with your values, beliefs and messages.
As a consequence, you have a base for connecting with like-minded people and building relationships.
And you can nurture these relationships through high-quality and meaningful content that shapes your audience’s understanding by sharing your thoughts and ideas, challenging them to grow and stepping out of their comfort zone, by showing them opportunities of what they could achieve, and how they could achieve an awful lot more if they don’t muddle on by themselves.
Your content has the power of changing minds, emotions and feelings – and with that change lives.
All that and so much more is possible through the power of effective communication.
To bring this train of thought back to my area of expertise where I help people to find their voice that makes them visible, valued, and trusted…
I believe that influence is amplified by showing up authentically with messages that matter. Sharing knowledge, educating people, and sharing stories are all ways of influencing people to process and grow. They are inspiring people and challenge them to think.
By sharing your point of view, you are teaching people to think and open new perspectives that lead to them behaving differently in the world.
And that is a huge responsibility because you can influence people to change their beliefs and their course of action.
We need to be mindful to use our power to influence others with care and caution, being mindful of the consequences that the change that we are driving is bringing to this world.
In closing – I believe that influence should be motivated by values and purpose that have the good of people and the world in general in mind.
That avoids ethical conflicts but rather affects positive change that improves lives.
Understanding that we have the power to do that is amazing – taking action and start influencing towards a greater purpose is magic!
If you’d like to continue this conversation, then send me a message and we can find a time to talk!