Use influence to improve people

Getting people to think the way that you think is quite difficult. Take, for example, all of those politicians who struggle on a daily basis to get people to embrace their viewpoint. Often times they fail, with the exception of a few, who are able to get to a rank of power. However, it is possible to win people over. You just have to become an influencer.

So, how do you become an influencer? Funny you might ask, considering the fact that this is what the article is about. You can gain knowledge about a few key techniques to get the most people by your side by nearing the act of influencing from fields like sociology and psychology. Those are crucial to read into if you work in either a client-focused role or in public policy.

To influence people effectively, you must first learn what it means to be a real influencer

Most of us strive to influence the world by making it a better place not only for ourselves, but for everyone else, too. However, what is the best method to use to accomplish this? The thought alone of improving things isnt exactly the same as actually making those improvements. In that case, what do we need to do?

First of all, you need to identify the goal that you are working towards. A large number of us have a distant idea of what we want to accomplish, and so, as a result of this lack of clarity, solid plans are never created. Thus, we end up failing more than necessary.

Therefore, if you want to make a difference in this world, you must start with a tangible and measurable goal with a set timeframe to get there. For example, former CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), Dr. Don Berwick, wanted to decrease the rate of mortality amongst people who actually use health care by checking into a hospital. He actually believes health care is one of the biggest causes of deaths in the United States. As a result, he made a solid goal to save 100,000 lives by nine in the morning on June 14th, 2006. With that kind of precision, you are already taking a step in the direction of effecting change.

To get a start on your goal, it is crucial to focus on different behavior that will get you there. A real influencer doesnt pay attention to behaviors that are unrelated to the influence that they want to have. Rather, they place a heavier emphasis on two to three behaviors that will produce the biggest influence once you have become an expert.

Take, for example, Dr. Wiwat, who is Thailands Minister for Public Health. He decided to set a goal that immensely decreased the rate of AIDs in his homeland. Having discovered that 97 percent of HIV infections had come from heterosexual intercourse by sex workers, he noticed that the behavior that actually needed to be changed was the decision of the sex worker to either choose to use or not to use a condom. By simply targeting this behavior alone, Wiwat managed to stop Thailand from becoming the country with the biggest rate of people that are infected by HIV.

Influence people with storytelling, motivational techniques and direct experience

Persuade people to think the way that you think in order to make an impact on peoples behavior.

So, what is the best way to do this?

If we think that we are forced to change, then we feel that we are giving up our free will. Thus, persuasion is a better method. A technique that you can utilize is motivational interviewing. Developed by Dr. William Miller, use open questions to help give pointers to the interviewee so that they think about their own behavior.

For example, suppose that you are talking to an alcoholic. First, you might ask them about their daily life and general happiness before then moving onto what they eat. Only after that would they begin to question them about drinking. This buildup of questions gives the person the chance to enter the topic on their own terms, and without any pressure from yourself.

However, there are moments when verbal persuasion doesnt make the cut. In these situations, you need to give them the opportunity to get some actual experience about it. Dr. Don Berwick did exactly that after leading a Harvard seminar about patient safety for the CEOs of hospitals. Although the seminar had been a success, the CEOs had not managed to put the theory into practice. Having realized this, Berdwick suggested that CEOs should take a look into a few of the injured patients with their own eyes. This firsthand experience had greatly reinforced the CEOs engagement with the problem.

Another great tool for influencing is storytelling since it establishes a never ending change in behavior. For example, in 1993, Martha Swai altered the behavior of the Tanzanian people with the help of storytelling. Twende na Wakati (Lets Go with the Times), was her radio program which included the character Mkwaju, who had abused alcohol and who had unprotected sex with prostitutes. After listening to the show, quite a few husbands had responded by saying that they identified with Mkwaju. He represented their own sinful transgressions. However, he had transformed their behavior from worse to better as well as allowed them to reflect.

Storytelling is a good tool for gaining influence, but dont eliminate the real experiences so that others dont get caught up in just thinking or imagining about various circumstances.

If the individual cant be influenced, addressing the social environment might be the solution

A lot of stories tell a tale of a lonely, but courageous hero who fixes every problem of humanity. However, this kind of stuff rarely happens in real life. A real influencer is one who both works with and encourages others so that together, you can achieve your goals instead of being the only one who saves the day. A good way to impact people is by helping them get to their goal that many other people share with them. People have an instinctual drive towards a common mission, and often times, the influencers position is to just identify those members of the group and try to provide them with a good opportunity to attain their goal as a whole.

Dr. Muhammad Yunus did exactly that when he noticed the poverty in Bangladesh. They couldnt get out of poverty because they couldnt get even the smallest credit from their local banks. As a result, they couldnt create their own small business that could give them some kind of profit. Therefore, Dr. Yunus decided to start the Grameen Bank. He gave credit to people in groups of five because he understood that getting those people to work as a team to get themselves out of poverty would incite a common drive, goal and would create the best ideas. His action worked and so poverty in Bangladesh significantly decreased. Today, Grameen Bank is worth millions of dollars.

Talking about your own, individual, problems with each other is also a part of working together. Often times we are scared to own up to our problems or mistakes. However, there is only one way that we can find the solution to them and that is to share and ask for the help of others as well.

In software-development culture, for example, not owning up to not being able to meet a deadline in a timely fashion happens frequently, so it now even has its own term called project chicken. In this case, the first person in a meeting who actually does own up to the fact that they need an extension is referred to as the chicken. That may not be the most glamorous title ever, but its actually beneficial since it shows how only when things are shared, can we find a solution to fix the issue. As soon as it is common knowledge, the team can move on in the right direction.

Great influencers use rewards in a beneficial way

It is often not the easiest thing to choose to do the right thing. When we make an attempt to impact other people to change what they do for the better, we actually force them to doing something that they dont want to do. So, this is where rewards come in handy. When used correctly, they can be very helpful.

If a person naturally has a lot of motivation to do something, a reward will only motivate and enhance their commitment. People can even be encouraged by smaller rewards to create good results out of the blue.

Dr. Stephen Higgins, for example, helps people who are addicted to cocaine. On many occasions, the people who are fighting their addiction tend to drop out of rehabilitation programs earlier than they are supposed to and as a result, they have a relapse. Therefore, in order to make the percentage of people who actually complete the program greater, Dr. Higgins gave all of the participants vouchers. Every month, they were tested for cocaine once, and if all three of the tests were negative, then they could get goods by exchanging the voucher. This simple notion created some of the best results. That voucher was the key that unlocked the door to sobriety with 90 percent of the recovering addicts that are close to the finish line of the three-month treatment program. Those who didnt receive a voucher only had a 65 percent rate of people who completed the program.

It is crucial to be aware, however, of the fact that misused rewards can backfire on you. Thus, you need to take a few psychological patterns into consideration when attempting to impact someone in a positive way.

It is only human for people to make the assumption that their behavior is correct no matter how bad it actually is. Therefore, the reward only helps people if it doesnt decrease the confidence in their behavior. The theory known as overjustification hypotheses explains the phenomenon of rewards provoking negative behavior. It says that often, people think of rewards as a way to maintain particular behaviors. For instance, an alcoholic may continue to drink with the thought that when they do actually choose to quit, they will be rewarded.

Additionally, it is crucial not to forget that rewards are not a substitution for motivation. The person that you are trying to impact could only behave in a different way because of the reward, and that is barely enough motivation to make a significant difference in the long run.

Changing a persons surroundings is a subtle, yet profound means of having influence

In our everyday lives, we take the environment that surrounds us for granted. However, changing them could have a significant impact on our behavior. The same applies to others and the impact that we have on them.

Lets begin with space. It is a very influential tool that works in a subtle way and without any pressure. If we were to try to impact people without directly capturing their attention, then one of the greatest ways to do so is to try to change their space. How is this done, though?

Our psyche is hugely effected by distance, but at the same time, it is not that hard to overlook as soon as weve become comfortable with the structure of our surroundings. The clear, but the strong characteristics of a room, like its dimensions or the length of the windows, have a heavy impact on us. Take, for example, long distances or large rooms. Both make a powerful atmosphere, which is common in a business space. Therefore, if you want to create a bond amongst your team, then you should select smaller rooms. One CEO that wanted to become closer to his employees did not take this advice into account and instead, built a building with six long hallways and four secretary stations. That is definitely not the model way to build a closer relationship with your employees.

Apart from the dimensions and the features of a room, the quality of things that make up your surroundings also impacts behavior. An environment that is chaotic, for examples, upsets us, and maybe even makes us angry, even if wed usually be calm in that circumstance. Additionally, the broken windows theory, which in short means that squalor leads to more squalor, explains to us that a disorganized environment can lead to antisocial behavior since no order shows how there is a lack of authority.

Quite a few customer service departments keep track of every connection that is made between the environment and mood. They do so to, for example, make sure that customers remain relaxed by constantly cleaning service areas, having comfortable seats and incorporating nice artwork on the walls.

Influencers understand the effect that objects have on behavior

From the second that we open our eyes to the second that we close them again, objects play a key role in our lives. Real influencers understand what they need to do to take control and alter behavior using those objects.

Objects, which are similar to space, quietly impact us by invoking no resistance. Firstly, take for example the lovely things that makes us wonder. We cant keep our eyes off of them, we want to feel them and we want to see how they work. As a result, if you want people to read the book that you have written, you need to make sure that you create a captivating book cover for it. Another example of reigning in the power of the freebie is by playing towards our inclination to reach for equality in our social relationships. According to John Stacey Adams equity theory, the psychologist claims that we are constantly trying to pay back the offers that we have received from other people in order to re-establish that equality. Thus, begin to give things away for no reason as a way to influence other people to do the same.

The way that you showcase things is yet another factor in influencing peoples behavior. Packaging, for example, has a big impact on our consumption despite us not realizing it. Brian Wansink, a social scientist, gave moviegoers various sizes of popcorn bags. Even though all of the moviegoers had the appetite, the ones with larger bags ate 50 percent more than the ones with smaller bags.

You can also make sure that goods are being used in the most efficient way possible by making invisible quantities visible. For instance, international shipping containers had once only been filled to capacity about half the time until the fill to here line became the standard. As soon as that line had been introduced, the percentage increased to 95 percent.

Finally, if you want to make sure that you have results, you can make an additional step to suggesting behavior with the help of packaging and objects; you can get rid of every behavior that you do not like. That is the most extreme method of influencing. You can find many examples of this in the automatization of customer service like when a customer can order quickly at fast food restaurants with just the click of a few buttons.

Final Summary

If you want to be able to make an impact on people and become a real experienced influencer, you need to sharpen the needed communication skills, know about psychological patterns and understand how objects that surround you on a daily basis and your environment mold and take charge of our behavior.

Practical advice:

Work on your storytelling skills.

You need practice in order to tell a captivating and convincing story. At the same time, it would help you become a good influencer. If you want to strengthen your skills in persuasion, try going to a few public events that are related to your goals, but where no one knows you. Once you have given the attendees an introduction about yourself, try telling them about a project that youd like to start and try to get them to take part in it. The more often you get practice in telling your story, asking people questions about themselves as well as using direct experience, the stronger your skills will get for influencing others.