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The Art of Influencing

What is influencing?

Influencing is the ability to alter another person’s thinking or behaviors. If you have ever tried to persuade another person to understand your point of view, then you know that influencing is easier said than done.

Conger’s four steps

In his article, The Necessary Art of Persuasion, Jay A. Conger identified four steps to effectively influence another person to consider new ideas.

As you learned earlier, those steps are:

  1. Establish credibility
  2. Frame for common ground
  3. Provide evidence
  4. Connect emotionally

Throughout your career in project management, there will be times when you will need to influence someone to consider an idea, approve a plan, or complete a project task. Conger’s four steps provide a useful framework for thoughtfully approaching conversations that are important to project success and influencing stakeholders. Let’s explore each step further before applying them to an influencing statement:

1. Establish credibility

When trying to persuade another person to listen to you, it helps to establish credibility. Ask yourself, why should this person listen to you? According to Conger, it is best to draw credibility from both expertise and relationships.

You can build credibility by showing a level of expertise on the topic at hand. It also helps to have “a history of sound judgement.” If you find that you lack expertise on a subject, don’t worry! You can work to increase your knowledge through education or research, or you can even ask an expert for help.

You can also build credibility through strong relationships with your audience and others around you. Conger found that influential leaders tend to show their trustworthiness and willingness to do right by their colleagues over time, and in turn, people are more likely to listen to them.

2. Frame for common ground

The next step in effectively persuading people is to frame for common ground. You can do this by making a case for how your idea would benefit your audience, and you can determine how your ideas will benefit your audience by gaining a strong understanding of them and what they value. Pay close attention to what matters to your audience by listening carefully and gathering information during meetings and conversations. Then they frame your ideas based on your audience’s needs and interests.

3. Provide evidence

The third step is to provide evidence that supports your ideas. As Conger notes, though numbers are important, the best persuaders pair numbers with vivid language. They share stories, examples, and metaphors to help influence their audiences. Using vivid language can help bring your figures to life and draw stakeholders’ interest to your proposal.

4. Connect emotionally

The fourth step is to connect emotionally with your audience. In this step, you illustrate that you are emotionally invested in the idea that you are presenting. But crucially, Conger notes, you must also do your best to determine and match the emotional state of your audience

 

By opening with a strong influencing statement, you can set yourself up for a successful conversation that is more likely to persuade your audience and achieve your goals.