To Influence Others, start with Yourself

When I was a young man, I had no idea how much I rubbed other people the wrong way. I was pretty oblivious, terrible at reading people and short on empathy.

I was terribly impatient and unforgiving. I held myself (and everyone else, for that matter) to impossibly high standards. Through the binary, good/bad, black/white lens of youthfulness, it was so clear when I was right and “they” were wrong. Facts were my friends and feelings were largely irrelevant.

40 years later I have a deep understanding of what makes me tick and how I choose to interact with the world around me. Most importantly I understand, to a good degree, the perception others have of me. I know my strengths and personal challenges. I’m so much more aware of the need to anticipate and acknowledge emotions in order to create connectedness. I’ve learned to think beyond interactions to shared outcomes that benefit both parties. I’m still tough and direct, hard on myself and others, but it’s tempered now with the goal of seeking a win-win for both parties, rather than the win-lose world I used to live in.

So why does this topic matter to a business person? Because, at the end of the day, business is fundamentally about wielding influence. We influence others to buy from us. We influence others to work for us. Influence is our stock in trade, and your ability to influence others is a key determinant of business success.

The most effective influencers recognize that their own perception of “the way the world works” is unique and likely not shared by the majority of people they come into contact with. They’re keenly aware of their own personal preferences, motivations and go-to behaviors. They’ve learned how to adapt their behavior, their communications and their messaging to the audience they’re trying to influence. Adaptation isn’t about manipulation: it’s about acknowledging the power of another person’s core behaviors, needs and concerns in order to communicate in a way that lessens misunderstandings while building trust.

The more skilled you are at adapting your communications to the emotional framework of your audience, the more influence you can wield. But you can’t learn to adapt your own style to others’ until you know what yours is! This is why the maxim “know thyself” is so important. It’s only through a deep understanding of the way we prefer to operate and interact that we can become sensitive to the often very different way others prefer to engage with us.

There is a plethora of assessment tools available to leaders who want to know themselves better. In our practice, we prefer DISC and related behavioral assessments because they equip our clients with the knowledge and tools to recognize, and adapt to, the preferences of others. Armed with that knowledge, our clients are more effective in the key influence arenas of business, selling and leading.

With self-knowledge comes self-mastery. And with self-mastery comes awareness of one’s own limitations in creating successful outcomes for those in your life who you’re trying to serve. The more we know our own limitations, the more effectively we can influence others for mutual benefit.

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