No matter what line of work you are in, you are likely seeking ways to be more productive and successful. And, regardless of the profession, how effective you interact with and influence other people can greatly determine your fate.
That’s because it is all about relationship, and relationships should always be about the long term.
We now live in a world that no longer tolerates disconnected forms of influence. Spam filters help block emails that are unrelated to our wants and needs. The stereotypical used car salesman is seen as merely comical and not taken seriously by anyone. Shotgun approaches to marketing are considered a waste of money.
Social networking, among other things, seeks ways to connect people and then influence them based on their connectedness. This connectedness means having your virtual friends’ influence what you do, where and when you do it, and especially how you spend your money.
Whether this is good or bad is not my concern. What I am interested in is how important this connectedness is with regard to our ability to influence others.
In a new book titled, “Real Influence: Persuade Without Pushing and Gain Without Giving In,” authors Mark Goulston and John Ullmen discuss how, in this post-pushing and post-selling world, influence should no longer be seen as something you do to someone else to get what you want.
Real influence isn’t even about what you want. Instead it’s about forging strong connections by focusing on other people’s viewpoints and giving something away before asking for anything in return. And always seek win-win outcomes.
This seems to be a new paradigm that’s sustainable and good for everyone.
Goulston and Ullmen offer many tactics to learn how to do this, but the one I think most important—regardless of whether you’re trying to influence someone or not—is by improving your ability to listen to others. Easier said than done.
According to the authors, there are four levels of listening:
- Avoidance Listening – Listening Over
This type of listening is when you may be nodding or even saying “Uh huh,” but you’re not really paying attention. Your mind is elsewhere and the other person is feeling ignored despite your best efforts at appearing to be listening.
- Defensive Listening – Listening At
When you listen defensively you are taking things personally and are too quick to react. You listen at others by taking issue with everything they say without taking the time to consider what is being said.
- Problem Solving Listening – Listening To
Listening in this way is about getting something accomplished, which is a perfectly valid way to listen when the situation demands it. However, when the subject is especially complex or emotionally charged, this can leave far too much room for misunderstanding. You are separating the subject from the speaker and losing that perspective, which is so important to consider.
- Connective Listening – Listening Into
This is the type of listening all speakers crave. It is about listening with the intention to fully understand the speaker and also strengthen the connection. Connective listening is listening from their there instead of your here. It means listening without an agenda focused entirely on responding or helping.
I can think of many examples when I engage in the first three levels of listening. The first two I am not proud of and still struggle to avoid. Problem solving listening I do perhaps most often because I am so anxious to be productive and get something done.
But I know that only when I listen in a connective manner do I truly understand what is being said. I am giving my full attention and listening not only with my ears, but with my eyes, my heart and my body. I am also strengthening the relationship because I can feel the connection being forged.
To gain influence requires a continual focus on the long term, on the relationship, and on giving away something first. More often than not, this begins with your ability to engage in connective listening so you can truly understand the other’s perspective and needs.
Influence should no longer begin with a self-centered perspective focusing only on the immediate opportunity. Instead, it is about looking to gain influence in a positive and authentic manner that strengthens your connections with others for the long term.