In business, your ability to influence people is everything. You need to inspire smart, hardworking experts to join your team and help you grow your business. A customer needs lots of convincing before they open their purse or wallet to buy your products. In both cases, persuasion is your best tool for steering people in the right direction.
Could you be the next marketing pro in your industry? Follow these four steps to practice subtle persuasion and grow your business.
1. Be original.
The first step is believing, without a shadow of a doubt, that you are one of a kind. No one can be you, and it’s impossible for someone to operate exactly as you would. Go to any big-box retailer, and you’ll see the truth of that statement in real time. If 10 entrepreneurs develop a smartwatch, each one will differ. The watches will have “smart” mechanics, but the usability, design and features will vary. That’s one reason entrepreneurs can thrive in saturated markets. Each brand or company creates a familiar product while finding powerful ways to stand out.
You can do the same thing in your personal life. No matter what your goal is, all you have to do is embrace the quirks you were born with. The sooner you do that, the sooner people will notice your talents, which is the first step to gaining influence. After that, it’s a matter of consistency. Ignore those safe, well-traveled paths that people love to suggest but aren’t quite you.
“Follow your instincts and your gut,” Harris says. “Don’t listen to what the world is telling you to do.”
2. Have a generous spirit.
Sometimes, influencing others has less to do with convincing and more to do with giving. Think of the last time you were in a food court mall, and a restaurant employee handed you a sample of food tacked to a toothpick. Sometimes that small, delicious bite is all the convincing you need to get in line and order a plate.
So that’s step two in the art of persuasion: Be a giver. Offer something of value expecting nothing in return, and people will respond in kind. A customer might buy your product after months of deliberation. An employee might produce better work after one mentorship meeting. You never know exactly how things will come back around, but they always do.
Harris learned this lesson after building his first company by himself. In hindsight, he would have enjoyed some help and the opportunity to build others up.
“I was a selfish entrepreneur,” Harris says. “I kept my contacts close to my vest. I didn’t connect people with my contacts. I didn’t try to make connections. I was very closed off, and I thought that was the way you [become] successful. I burned out on that job doing it all by myself after about 15 months and almost had a nervous breakdown because I was living in a way that I thought, ‘That’s how you run a successful business.’”
3. Practice empathy.
Do you understand the people you want to lead and influence? If not, figuring out what makes them tick is step three. You don’t have to agree with everyone’s outlook. But on a basic level, you should understand belief systems and how to find common ground with others.
Empathy will help you cross that barrier. When you can’t imagine why someone would hold certain beliefs or do certain things, don’t judge them. Start asking questions.
“Being empathetic starts with this principle that we share 99% of the same DNA,” Harris says. “We are that similar, as people on this planet…. When you start with that headspace, it really helps you understand that you can respect other people and understand their point of view if you just take another look at it, and don’t assume they’re an idiot because they believe [something]. You want to know, ‘Why do they believe that?’”
That’s easier said than done, but here are three ways to broaden your perspective:
Look for commonalities instead of differences when you connect with others.
Focus on the other person, and listen before you speak.
Find the value in diversity. Immerse yourself in new cultures and philosophies.
4. Nourish your soul.
A soulful person has two unmistakable qualities. The first is skill-hunting, a term Harris uses to represent curious people. Skill-hunters want to learn as much as they can, whether that’s marketing, negotiating or foreign languages. It doesn’t have to be strictly professional, either. Skill-hunters explore whatever nourishes their soul.
The second quality is inspiration. Soulful people inspire others to live their most authentic lives by simply doing what they love. It’s a subtle form of persuasion that creates more influence and impact in the world.
But how does one pick up new skills, inspire others and become soulful? Harris has three suggestions:
Pick one thing to learn in the next six months, year or couple of years. When you feel competent, repeat the process with a new skill.
Fight the urge to quit. Everyone sucks when they’re learning something for the first time.
Apply your skills in a way that helps your community.
Put these four traits together—originality, generosity, empathy and soulfulness—and you’ll persuade the right people as you grow your business.
DISCLAIMER: The people interviewed are well-trained experts and highly skilled in their areas of practice. They take many safety precautions prior to attempting the activities described. The activities or research discussed in these podcasts should not be attempted without qualified supervision and training with professionals.