We took a break last week from our Secret Handshake series to talk about personal style and branding. This week, we will continue our series with a post on how to cultivate influence. All of the previous posts from this series, from enhancing your personal power to dealing with conflict, are all of significant importance when it comes to accessing the secret handshake. However, if you are not capable of influencing others, it does not really matter how much power you have; arguably, one of the most important aspects of being able to master the secret handshake is being able to influence others.
Persuading others can be a tricky task. According to Dr. Kathleen Reardon, author of The Secret Handshake: Mastering The Politics of The Business Inner Circle, the art (yes, art) of persuasion lies in the ability to listen and learn where the links are among the views being presented (199). The key here is active listening. If all you’re doing while listening to someone speak is thinking about your rebuttal, the person talking will not feel listened to, and you may miss the deeper meaning. In addition, you should be searching, in what people say, for ideas that match your own.
The ACE Model
Throughout her career, Dr. Reardon has studied persuasion extensively and has even consulted on the subject. She has developed what she terms the ACE Model which categorizes persuasive appeals into three primary types: appropriateness, consistency and effectiveness.
- Appropriateness: Uses the opinions or actions of others to encourage someone to do what you would like to do.
- Consistency: The persuader tells the other party that what he or she is considering doing is consistent in some way with their personality, likes or dislikes.
- Effectiveness: These appeals suggest that an action is going to bring desired outcomes.
Being an effective and successful persuader requires you to recognize which appeal fits the situation at hand best.
Frame Your Position in an Attractive Way
Framing, according to Dr. Reardon, is a crucial influence tactic. For instance, we operate daily more on inference and judgement than on fact. This suggests that it is important to think before speaking – things aren’t always as they seem. It is important to edit words and phrases that may hurt us in the end.
More Helpful Tips…
Dr. Reardon suggests some other actions you can take to become a better influencer. They are:
- Think in shades of gray: It’s imperative that you can think gray, when everyone else is seeing black and white.
- Be concise, clear and focused.
- Allow yourself to be gracefully wrong. Remember, there are few things more disarming than a sincere apology when the opposite is expected.
- Chose the right communication channel. Sometimes, email is not the best way to communicate a problem to someone else! Perhaps an in-person visit or phone call is more appropriate.
The art of persuasion can get you extremely far, in life and in business. For some people, persuading others comes naturally; for others, it most certainly does not. However, like every other topic covered in this series, it is certainly a learnable skill, one that will help set you apart from your colleagues, and help you reach the business inner circle and subsequently the coveted secret handshake.
Reardon, Kathleen Kelley. The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of the Business Inner Circle. New York: Doubleday, 2001. Print.