Have you ever had a brilliant idea that would clearly benefit your company, but your boss or colleagues shut you down?
If you have, you’re not alone. And you’re also likely violating some simple cardinal rules. Disobey them and getting the world on your side is near impossible. Abide by them and decisions are so smooth, you hardly notice.
I recently sat down to interview the modern day father of persuasion (and bestselling author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion), Robert Cialdini, who I’ve crossed paths with a bit over the years. His lessons continue to move mountains.
No matter where you are, the ability to influence is worth its weight in gold. Every social and business interaction involves it – be it your wife, friend, co-worker, waiter or the guy down the street trying to sell you a new Prius. Someone is always being influenced.
If you disagree, then it’s likely you were the one being persuaded.
This stuff is simple, powerful and best of all it works. Next time you need an office buy-in, remember the following…
1. Be their friend.
This is where it all starts. People do things with people they like. Business or pleasure, it’s all the same. Sounds simple, right? So why are there so many little office squabbles out there? Why have enemies or acquaintances when you can have friends?
Treat coworkers like anyone else close to you. Get to know them. Talk about life. Do it because you care, not because you need something.
It’s not enough to come up with the best ideas. An office mate or boss can still make implementing it plenty painful. We’ve all been there.
Make a connection. Have fun with it. Is there any other choice?
2. Show that others are doing it.
Sadly, most people find comfort in the crowd. Social proof is huge. Search out examples of how your idea is being used in other departments, companies or industries. What famous people have done similar things? What books have been written about it? Search out case studies (HBS has an awesome case library) and news articles if necessary.
Don’t assume your idea is too original to have been done in some capacity somewhere else. They’re out there — find them. You don’t need a perfect match, just a similar concept and application.
Often people see too much risk in being first.The fear of being wrong and ridiculed (or perhaps fired) far outweighs the excitement of being innovative. If it’s been done before them, it’s probably going to work here as well. Which means it’s less likely to screw up and they get to look good. There’s safety in numbers.
3. Make it their idea.
What’s the first thing you do when you hear someone’s new idea? Most people poke holes. For some reason we’ve been trained to be skeptical. Maybe it’s because the world tries to sell us an average of 300+ products a day. Who knows?
Imagine two scenarios:
- You get an email trying to sell you on a new email marketing program or;
- You’re about to launch a new product so you go surfing the web to find an email marketing application to manage the event.
When is a sale more likely to happen — when someone else thinks of it or when it comes straight from your head?
When life pushes, we tend to push back. Don’t try to force someone onto your side. Don’t bring the idea up directly; instead mention related thoughts. Ask questions. Dance around the topic. Give them a chance to come to the same conclusion you did. The relationship and project will be far more powerful if you both come up with it independently.
I once wanted to interview a famous entrepreneur in my space. Instead of asking directly, I approached him in search of his best tips on conducting engaging interviews. For an hour he told me all he knew. Then when we were finished he asked if he could be my first subject. Now that’s a win/win.
What’s more important:
- Getting credit for the idea?
- The idea actually becoming reality?
If it’s the former then you might want to start looking for work where the latter is the goal.
4. Make it worth their while.
Whether we want to admit it or not, people are selfish. That’s how it goes and it’s what makes things tick. Survival is required in order to be useful to others. If you did #1 well, then you know your friend’s goals and plans. Think about them in the context of what you are proposing. How can your idea advance them? How will it directly benefit a goal of theirs? This can be as simple as a small shift in perception. Think about them before you open your mouth. The rest will follow.
5. Support their ideas.
If someone does something for us, we naturally want to return the favor. No one likes being a freeloader. Be open to exploring the new ideas that come across your desk. Help your colleagues follow through with them. They will naturally want to reciprocate when your stroke of genius hits.
Be genuine. The rest will follow.
The above practices are basic. They’re as basic as human interactions get. They also happen to work like clockwork. Don’t over think this stuff and don’t try to game the system. If you aren’t genuine and don’t use it for a meaningful cause, people will see right through you. And they’ll never forget it.
Appeal to the needs of those around you and the world will be on your side. Genuine interest trumps everything. How you use it is up to you.
It’s time to start making some friends.
Care to sharpen your influence even more? Check out these deeper resources:
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