How to Gain More Influence

Mar 8, 2013
9 Min Read

If you sometimes feel powerless at work – even if you’re in a position of authority – you’re not alone. You may have tried pleading with others to cooperate, or even issued more than a few subtle threats.

Such tactics may work for a while, but they’re usually not lasting and others will soon become resentful of your behavior.

So how do you become one of those people that others really listen to? One of those people like Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh who has become a real influencer?

In a new book, “Real Influence: Persuade Without Pushing and Gain Without Giving In,” authors Mark Goulston  and John Ullmen  provide insight into how some people become successful like Hsieh while others remain frustrated in their efforts despite their intelligence or good intentions.

The problem, the authors say, is that you cannot view influence as something you “do” to get your own way, as a means to an end. Instead, you have to make a commitment to try to really understand others, collaborate with them and seek to inspire them with your actions.

In a recent interview with Anita Bruzzese, Goulston added more insight into the idea of having real influence.


AB: What is a “power influencer” and how do you become one?

MG: A power influencer is someone who influences you for a lifetime. They are the people who interact with you in such a way that it changes your life forever.  Common, but not universal qualities of a power influencer are that they will: a) stand up for you in public when you cannot stand up for yourself; b) stand by you in a crisis and not let you fail; and/or c) stand up to you in private and push you to do things you didn’t think you were capable of or stop you from doing something foolish that would have seriously damaged your results, reputation and relationships.


AB:  In the book you talk about “disconnected influence.” Can you explain?

MG: A person becomes disconnected when the pressure of getting results in any way or any cost (as long as it is this side of illegal and blatantly unethical) corrupts their core values.  It’s when they lose their essential goodness and sell out.  The fallout is that they get better results and make more money in the short run, but if they are people of good conscience, they will start to drink, eat more, act out and at the end of their life fail as a person.


AB:  Why is it important that if you want to influence someone else, you have to be “influenceable” yourself? And what does that look like?

MG: It’s not critical, but it is very helpful to have been influenced by another person, because then you know what that feels like and you know both ends of the influence process, both as an influencer and influence.


AB: What should you do if you find your attempt at trying to influence someone results in an argument? How does someone turn that around?

MG: First, if it is a person that you frequently get into arguments with (and we’re assuming, they are more often the instigator, because if you’re the instigator, we don’t think you’d be reading this article), don’t expect them to not argue if they are pushing you to do something they want you to do or you are asking them to do something they don’t want to do.  That way you won’t be blindsided.

Then when you’re dealing with them, hold a little of yourself back and when they act up, calmly but intently look them straight in the left eye (which is connected to their right emotional brain and will center you), pause, let them finish and say in a calm “big brother” or “big sister” friendly tone, “What was that all about?”

When they realize they haven’t been able to fluster you or knock you off balance, they may escalate a little, but you will be so centered that you can then repeat, “And that too. What are you so upset about so we can see how to fix it?”

When they realize you’re unflappable they may calm down or just walk away.  In either case that’s better for you.


AB: Is there anything you can do to prevent it from turning into a tiff in the first place?

MG:  Take them aside and have a “solution” conversation focusing on the future that nobody has messed up yet.  In that conversation, say to them, “I don’t know about you, but life is too short for me to get into unnecessary arguments.  Going forward what ground rules that are fair to both of us could we follow so that you and I don’t have to get into any more arguments?”

Then when they answer, say, “This is too important for me to not get it right, so what you’re saying is that if we do ___________, that will avoid the arguments we tend to get into. Is that right?” Then wait for them to give you a confirmatory “Yes.”


AB: In the book you talk about opening your heart to how others feel. Is this something that is easier for women than for men? And, do you think our reliance on technology has diminished our capacity to do this?

MG: It’s slightly easier for women to do it because of their easier access to their emotions, but it is now getting as difficult for them as it has always been for men.  Technology and our resorting to a 140 characters- or-less world has made it more difficult to open our hearts to one another.  Keep in mind that becoming and getting emotional is not opening your heart to another person, it is venting and blaming.  Opening your heart is reaching down underneath your superficial reaction – be that be coldly logical and analytic or hotly emotional and histrionic – to what you feel underneath which is often hurt, fear or disappointment (in others or yourself).

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