Influencing Skills and Soft Language

When attempting to influence another person or situation, it's all too easy to just jump straight in chase our own desired outcome. Our education system rarely (if ever) demonstrates the need for and value of influencing. Sure, it may cover 'why to' influence and review some case studies, but the 'how to' seems to remain elusive.

A few key points to bear in mind when preparing for, or while involved in a situation you wish to influence are these:  

  • Always be honest - it develops trust, reflects authenticity and is far easier to remember than a pack of lies. 
  • Take time to understand and appreciate what might be most important to the other party rather than just considering your own wants and needs. 
  • Close your mouth and open your ears, because you never know what you might hear and learn.

Some influencing situations are 'tough talks' or 'crucial conversations' as I call them, and they need to happen more often in organisations. All too often inadequate performance is tolerated, partly because bosses either daren't or don't know how to facilitate a conversation that will not only address the issue/s effectively, but also restore trust and faith in the relationship.

Here are some starting points which you can use to introduce an idea or point of view and to help the other party want to listen and be involved in the dialogue. Remember, you're speaking with them, not at them.

  • Please could you help me understand.....?
  • May I just check a point with you to ensure that I've really understood your point/what you've said/recommended?
  • I just want to check my understanding...please do feel free to correct me if I've misunderstood any point. Would you do that for me?
  • May I just check with you that my understanding is accurate or inaccurate?
  • I'm sure that you understand the importance of (a) being achieved/undertaken. I'd really appreciate getting your thoughts on how it could work and what needs to be in place to ensure a successful delivery.
  • I'm sure you recall that we agreed that (b) would help us to deliver (c) and that any challenges or obstacles were to be shared in person immediately.
  • I'm interested to know....
  • I'm curious about what/how...
  • Please will you share with me your thoughts/ideas concerns on...?
  • What are your thoughts on how (a) should commence/be delivered/potential obstacles we should anticipate?
  • May I just check with you, is there information that you possess that I don't know which could/will impact the direction of my focus/attention/the project?
  • Shall we both commit to resolving the issue/making a considered decision on (a) within the next 60 minutes?
  • Prior to agreeing to take on this project/achieve the deadline you mentioned, I want to really ensure that I understand the resources you are to make available.


Use these phrases as part of a worthwhile dialogue and you are likely to get far more value from conversations, and accelerate the pace at which intelligent action is taken and decisions made.

Posted by on June 3, 2016

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