Influence happens when those we are trying to influence think we care and want to help them. So the way to influence is to show you care and are coming from a place of helping. Trust is such an intangible thing, but it's far more valuable than everything else put together,
When I'm writing about a business challenge my readers face, something I do every single day, I begin by tuning into my own empathy and imagination. How would I feel if I were the small business owner, the HR Director, or the CFO confronting that same challenge? It's not an intellectual question at all, but an emotional and very human one.
Imaginative empathy grounds me emotionally in the topic and connects me to my readers in a very human and caring way BEFORE I begin my research. Yes, my articles present evidence-based options to meet business challenge and offer my readers ideas to improve what they do. But engaging with the heart, the emotions is where everything worthwhile begins. If you don't begin with some sense of emotional connection with the issue and the reader, you'll never write anything read-worthy for business audiences (or anyone else).
Yes, I present data and facts and anecdotes that support what I'm saying, but facts don't convince anyone of anything, as our recent presidential election showed. We make judgements about people based on our feelings and emotions. Only later do we develop rationales to back up our feelings, pulling together the data that supports us while rejecting the rest. Data almost never impacts what the heart feels, for better or worse.
Anyone who tells you people are rational is trying to fool you. We are emotional beings first and foremost -- some of us can be rational too, but only after our emotions have done their work.
So if you want to influence anyone, begin by seeking to forge an emotional connection. Enter through the heart, not the head. Show that you care enough to listen, to ask good questions, to empathize. They will like you because they'll believe that you like them. It's a fool's errand to try to impress others by what we know or by how "beautifully" we might write. May God protect us from all the writers who are trying to impress. Does anyone like people who are determined to show us they're smarter or better than we are? I don't.
We actually prefer people who know less than we do, who are more imperfect than we are. These people make us comfortable and have the chance to influence us. I can still remember watching actor Peter Falk play Detective Columbo on television with my mom, who adored the show. The people he investigated were always glamorous and smart, and Columbo would shuffle around, hemming and hawing in his tattered old raincoat, talking about his old dog and his beat-up car.
Columbo would gain the trust of these suspects by acting in a completely unthreatening way, and seemingly a step behind everyone else. He'd let the suspects talk about themselves, the famous people they knew, the "impressive" books they'd read, the exclusive parties they'd gone to. Some of them had such disdain for Columbo that they'd let their guards down around the guy, and dtart making jokes at his expense.
That's when he'd trip them up, asking them about how they could explain a contradiction or a detail that didn't quite fit with the facts. "I was wondering if you could help me understand one more thing?" he'd say during every show after some smartypants suspect thought he's committed the perfect crime. Columbo's approach was to disarm those around him, winning their trust by pretending to know less than he did. It worked every time, and Columbo always got the crook to blow his or her cool under pressure.
Better to have others assume you know less than you do. I use this same tactic when I interview people. Disarming people is a good idea, and it can open doors to influence. Asking people to "help you understand something" is incredibly powerful. Try to act superior, and see how many people like you.
If you want to influence others as a creative professional, begin by caring and then move toward helping. And don't ever approach anyone with the goal to "impress" them, because you're playing a losing game. Be yourself, always, because if you can pull that one off, you're sure to get people's attention. Even a tattered old raincoat and a beat-up car can be forgiven, as long as you care and come from a place pf helping.