One of the most important skills for success, if not the most important, is the ability to get people to do what you want them to do, willingly. Some people have been paid millions of dollars for this skill, other rose to fame and power thru its mastery. No matter how knowledgeable you are in your field, you will only be average until you master this skill or better yet this art. The art of influencing others. In today’s post I would like to share some ideas that I gathered thru reading and personal experiences on this subject. This post will be in two parts. In the first one I will be addressing the importance of communication in the art of influence. In the second part, which will be posted next week, I will explore the other aspects of influencing others thru persuasion, hard power and soft power.
Unless you are living under a rock, communication is a very important aspect of your life. We can even go as far as to say that it will determine your level of success in business and in life. Since “the most important successes in life are rarely birthed alone” according to Robert Holden, author of Success Intelligence, you will need people to help you along the way in your journey. So the way you communicate with them will have a great deal of impact on your achievements.
When communicating, be clear and concise on what you want, but the way you express it should not be selfish. Communication should always be a two-way street, always try to create a win-win situation. Most people are always tuned in to the station W.I.I.F.M, What’s In It For Me, if you will. So the clearer you can be on what’s in it for the other party, the more responsive to you they will be. There is a beautiful story that I would like to share with you, it perfectly illustrates this idea.
A blind boy sat on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet. He held up a sign which said: “I am blind, please help.” There were only a few coins in the hat.
A man was walking by. He took a few coins from his pocket and dropped them into the hat. He then took the sign, turned it around, and wrote some words. He put the sign back so that everyone who walked by would see the new words.
Soon the hat began to fill up. A lot more people were giving money to the blind boy. That afternoon the man who had changed the sign came to see how things were. The boy recognized his footsteps and asked, “Were you the one who changed my sign this morning? What did you write?”
The man said, “I only wrote the truth. I said what you said but in a different way.”
What he had written was: “Today is a beautiful day and I cannot see it.”
Do you think the first sign and the second sign were saying the same thing?
Of course both signs told people the boy was blind. But the first sign simply said the boy was blind. The second sign told people they were so lucky that they were not blind. Should we be surprised that the second sign was more effective?
I believe the answer here is obvious. Even though the first sign only focused on the condition of the little boy, it should have been enough for attracting sympathy. Unfortunately it violated a cardinal rule of communication, what’s in it for other people, and therefore got the result it did. The second sign however, reminded passers-by of a blessing that are enjoying day in day out, the possibility to open their eyes and admire a beautiful day or just contemplate the sight of a loved one.
Next time we open our mouth to say something, or get a pen and paper to write, or just get on our computer to key in a few words, let’s be reminded that it’s not what we say, that matters at the end of the day, but rather how we say it.
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