Having something to say is only half the journey, how can you make more people sit up and listen?
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Some people influence with the words they use, the ideas they share, the stories they tell and the inspiring actions they take. Others have influence because of the positions they hold, the wealth they have or the company they keep.
There simply is no right or wrong way to influence. Everything is a factor. We are all influenced by people, places, events and situations. . . all of the time!
In a nutshell, influence is about affecting an outcome. It is about motivating a behavioural change or an action. It is about you, and understanding the impact you have on other people and their perceptions of you. It’s about progressing things without forcing them or being pushy.
For me, when I imagine someone who is highly influential, a ton of words spring to mind to potentially describe them:
Imagine a business leader, celebrity or politician, for example. They probably get inundated with requests for media interviews, they are wealthy, maybe they have a best-selling book and speak/ perform on stages across the world to huge audiences.
But is influence really restricted to celebrity? I don’t believe you have to be a person of influence to be influential. We all influence behaviours every day, mainly without even knowing it. People change my perspective, my behaviours and my decisions all the time without the faintest idea of the impact they have had on me.
She's influential, but you can be too
Think about the most influential people in your life. Mum and Dad will be right up there for most people, but it is unlikely that they are captains of industry.
Yet their social conditioning from day one has helped you form your values and your moral compass – maybe even your political or religious leanings. Teachers can have the same profound effect.
Most of us, I am sure, can name at least one teacher who really got through to us. Mine was Mr Nesbitt, my English teacher, who understood my disruptive nature and challenged and dared me instead of being authoritarian.
He turned learning into a game, which appealed to my competitive nature. As a result he got the best of me compared to every other subject. I doubt Mr Nesbitt remembers who I am, but I shall never forget him. (In the unlikely event you are reading this Sir, thank you, I doff my cap...and who knew I would end up writing a book. ;-)
The influence of a good teacher, mentor or boss can never be erased. What mark do you leave on those who look up to you?
Sometimes we are influenced to revolt against the examples we are set. We adopt contrary behaviours based on consequences or our own disapproval of the authority figures in our lives.
Some of the people who have influenced us over the years did so intentionally, but I am sure many will have had no idea of the impact they had or the value they added.
Many of the things that influence us day to day go completely unnoticed on a conscious level, yet can change our attitudes and behaviour patterns.
For example, witnessing and being moved by a simple act of kindness is far more likely to make us more generous in the hours that follow. Or getting caught up in an angry exchange might make us more irritable for the rest of the day.
Human beings are like sponges, emotionally we are affected by the world around us every day. We subconsciously pick up on other people’s micro expressions, on advertising messages, and on moods and atmospheres in the world around us.
These in turn can have a knock-on effect on others. Which means we are potentially being influenced by people we haven’t even met.
Your job requires you to influence people pretty much all of the time. It may be persuading people to advocate for you, creating new relationships, encouraging support or inspiring ideas. Whatever form it takes, the better you are at influencing, the better the results you will achieve.
Our physical state can influence others and even affect our attractiveness. Therefore, by simply managing our physical state we can become more influential.
For example, have you ever been in a crowded room and watched the domino effect as one person yawns and many others follow suit? Or seen someone laughing hysterically and, without knowing why, found yourself laughing along too?
Many studies have concluded that this is because we are empathetic creatures, some of you will have just yawned even imagining a room full of people yawning. I have influenced you right here, right now.
Here’s something to think about...Every great person, throughout history, has in turn been influenced by others. Influencers are influenced, great leaders have been led and are willing to follow.
For example, Woody Allen was influenced by Hemmingway, Muhammad Ali by Martin Luther King, Tim Burton by Bram Stoker, Jane Austin and Charles Dickens by William Shakespeare, Stephen Fry by Oscar Wilde – the list goes on and on but I am sure you get the point.
Everyone is influenced by someone...
So, what does this tell us? It tells us that we all need to be receptive students as well as generous teachers. We need to be open, with a thirst to learn more and be exposed to new ideas. I have heard people say on many occasions (especially in speaker’s circles) that there are no new ideas, just old messages repackaged.
Whilst I don’t subscribe to this entirely, I do believe all great leaders accept the influence of others, but have the ability and vision to apply their own experiences to what they have learned to evolve ideas, thereby pushing the boundaries and challenging the next generation.
From a business perspective, influence is an essential weapon in your armoury: leaders need to inspire their teams; marketers need to influence consumer spending decisions; and investors need convincing of viable opportunities.
As an individual, your personal influence in your job, business and social networks has a profound impact on your love, life and career prospects.
As a brand, if not carefully managed, a reputation that has taken years to build can be destroyed in an instant. Great influencers, who use their skills well, increase their popularity.
People like to be around them and get excited about the potential things that can happen while they are around.
They are known as doers. They don’t play the victim card, moaning about things and wishing they were different. They don’t blame or complain, they just get on with it.
Great influencers adapt to the situation. They modify their communication style depending on who they are talking to, but without compromising authenticity. They are able to change behaviour and attitude, not who they are!