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I was first introduced to the concept of Positive Influencing on a leadership course many years ago and I have tried to apply it ever since.
The principle is simple but very effective. If the definition of influencing could be described as "affecting or changing the way that someone acts, behaves or thinks", Positive Influencing adds the caveat "...where both parties are happy with the outcome."
If you enter into a conversation thinking purely about achieving a pre-determined, one-sided outcome, you may succeed but it will probably end up being a Pyrrhic victory. You may achieve a quick win but if one party is unhappy, it's unlikely to be the start of a successful, long term relationship. The objective is to achieve a win-win where both parties view the end result as positive.
There are two main ways to influence people - using push (active) or pull (passive) behaviour:
Being directive and persuasive by:
- giving views and opinions
- expressing feelings
- stating expectations
- providing incentives and pressures
Being collaborative and visionary by:
- demonstrating openness
- exploring options
- practising active listening
- focussing and building on common ground
- painting a compelling picture
As is often the case, one size doesn't fit all and you will need to adapt your approach according to the situation and your relationship with the person you are trying to influence. If your first approach doesn't work, you may need to try another.
Pull techniques are closely associated with Positive Influencing because they facilitate more meaningful, two-way discussions. Consequently, they tend to:
- take more time
- achieve better outcomes
- have a longer lasting effect
- develop strong relationships, built upon trust
There will, however, be occasions where people need you to adopt a push approach - e.g. in a crisis or where an important task needs to be completed urgently. Otherwise you may be seen as a bit indecisive and/or lacking in confidence.
Use push behaviour in the wrong situations and you will probably be seen as over-powering and impersonal. If you choose to adopt it over a longer period of time:
- the other person could feel that they are being manipulated or coerced - especially when push comes to shove!
- you could struggle to gain and/or maintain buy-in
- you may have to keep reinforcing the message
- the other party may look to end or limit your relationship
I have summarised the above points in a Positive Influencing slide.
Using the right techniques to positively influence people will definitely open doors for you. Use the wrong technique and you may be left standing outside in the cold and the rain!
Please check out my full article on LinkedIn: