When you play games like “The Sims”, making people like you seems incredibly easy – you just chat, tell a joke, give a compliment, and then you repeat it several times and people like you. Being fun and interesting or at least likeable, is just the first step to gaining influence and power over other people. Reality is quite different from video games, and it is not that easy to make somebody love you. It takes a lot more than just getting along with people and leaving a good first impression to gain influence.
Having a high position in the company doesn’t necessarily mean that you have influence over your coworkers. So, what do you need to boost your influence at work? Being arrogant certainly won’t help you, but making a connection with them will certainly improve your reputation. Your coworkers need to see you as a professional who is trustworthy and has plenty of understanding for others, in order to be influenced by your opinion and never doubt your decisions.
1. Create the Image of Yourself
In order to be able to leave a good impression and boost your influence, you need to create a clear image of yourself. Start with what you think of yourself, and then focus on what you want others to think of you. Wearing cool Ray Bans and an expensive watch, and acting a bit arrogant will make you look ignorant and conceited. If this is the image you project, no one will even want to talk to you.
Take a piece of paper and write down all of your weaknesses and strengths. Then, write down who you are, and what you want other people to see. This may sound irrelevant, but self-awareness plays a huge role in creating a positive image. Always be confident with what you have to offer.
2. Learn to Listen, and Talk Less
This may sound like Oprah’s advice, but you need to learn to listen in order to gain your coworkers’ trust. Another great benefit of listening carefully is that you will learn a lot more information, which can come in handy.
Research conducted by Columbia University has shown that people who are listeners, and talkers, have a higher influence and a better reputation. Moreover, as you want to be a good listener, you need to forget about interrupting people mid-sentence. This will only mean that you don’t respect the opinion of the other person, and that you are not interested in what they have to say.
Don’t forget to ask follow-up questions, as you want to prove that you are actually listening and are interested in the topic of discussion. When you focus on the speaker and really think about what he or she is saying, you build trust and respect between the two of you.
3. Strike the Right Listening Pose
Let’s assume that you have adopted the listening strategy – listen, don’t interrupt and ask follow-up questions. Now is the perfect time to perfect your neutral listening pose, and the right facial expression to go with it.
When listening to someone our body leans in and we might even turn one ear towards the person, the index finger and thumb might touch the face, we might rest our chin on a closed fist or interlace the fingers of both hands and so on. We also have a natural tendency to make subtle facial expressions, such as raising the eyebrows, frowning a bit as we concentrate, smiling, mumbling something inaudible and even breaking eye contact and staring into the distance while contemplating the information that the person told us.
However, when we are disinterested we add all kinds of body language giveaways, including leaning away, crossing the hands in front of the body, scratching our head and allowing our eyes to wander around the room. Practice your neutral pose, which will enable you to turn off all unnecessary body language. You can smile and nod, and even show some disapproval, but don’t exaggerate. By practicing this, you will increase your credibility, and your opinion will actually matter.
4. Get Personal
Except for building trust in order to increase your influence, you need to show that you understand your coworkers and that you can put yourself in their shoes. Appeal to their emotions and forget about cold facts or numbers. Feel free to get personal and show that you are not C3PO, but an actual human being. If your coworker has made a mistake that is bothering them, it’s better to tell a story about a time you did the same thing or made a similar blunder, and encourage them to keep their chin up.
Getting emotional with your coworker will cause dopamine rush, which will stimulate the pleasure-reward area in their brain. Don’t tell them a heartbreaking story, but use emotions to show some empathy. This will instantly boost your influence, as they will feel that you aren’t judgmental, and your empathy will help you establish trust.
5. Motivate by Being Charismatic and Focusing on Solutions
We all hate those people at work who panic about unimportant things and always have a negative attitude towards their projects. Now, when you have pictured those people, ask yourself whether they are influential at work. When going through the worst day at work, you need to learn to stay calm and focus on coming up with solutions. Facing a terrible day at work makes everyone weak and unproductive, which can be changed by just one person with the right attitude. Focus on solving the problem, and you will be the strongest link in the office.
People who have a strong positive attitude can easily motivate others to work better, which is one of the main characteristics of highly influential people. This doesn’t mean that you should be a happy, shiny person who is always extremely positive and loves everything.
MIT Media Lab research has shown that people won’t remember what you said, but how you said it and in what manner. Yes, this holds true for both men and women, despite what sitcoms from the 90’s would have you believe. It’s not your motivational speech and brilliant solution that will leave a long lasting impression, but your charisma, the way you kept your cool during a stressful situation, how you presented the solution and the fact that you came to the rescue.
6. Sorry and Thank you
These two are the most powerful things that you can say to your coworker. However, saying sorry and thank you are only effective solutions when you do something wrong or when somebody does you a favor. When you say sorry and thank you every five minutes, these words lose most of their power.
Telling someone you are sorry and thankful can have a huge effect on your coworkers, but only when they are least expected. Be thankful when you truly are, and say you’re sorry when you really make a big mistake or hurt someone’s feelings. This way your “sorry” and “thank you”, will make the people around you feel respected and pleased that you truly appreciate them.
All in all, the key to gaining and boosting influence at work is making your opinion matter. You can do this by inspiring trust, being understanding and making your coworkers feel respected. Give support, but leave apologies, thank you’s and praise for special occasions when they can really hit home. The less you use these phrases, the more they will be appreciated when you eventually do say them.
Can you think of any other ways to boost your influence at work? Let us know below...