Would you like to be more influential? In some contexts, such as sales, the answer will be a no-brainer – “YES!” And actually, being more influential will benefit you in pretty much any situation – making sure that people are open minded enough to make the right decision, contributing to a more positive emotional climate at work, or convincing an interview panel that you are the right person for the job.
I’m focusing particularly on business and work here, but you may find these tips helpful in other contexts too.
NLP generally teaches us that establishing rapport is the first step to getting people to listen to you. In business (and increasingly in other areas of life), however, there is a vital step that you need need to do first:
Establish Your Credibility
People are busy, especially in business, especially these days. They don’t have time (or just as importantly, they don’t feel they have time) to indulge people or to hear them out on the off chance that they might have something interesting. Instead, they employ quick-and-dirty mental strategies to save them time and energy.
One of these strategies that comes into play when you call them, or start your presentation, or even just meet them socially, is to ask themselves, before they’ve even heard the first word you say, something like “Is this person worth spending time listening to, or are they a time-waster?”
From their point of view, you are worth a listen if:
- you seem to know what you are talking about
- your knowledge and experience is relevant to them, AND
- you are someone they can take seriously
They will make their judgement based largely on non-verbal factors – how you dress, how confident and at ease you seem, and (for certain situations) other factors like how educated you seem to be.
Of course you can’t please everyone. In the 2008 US presidential election, there was a certain section of the white electorate who were never going to vote for a black candidate, no matter how inspiring his oratory or how well-qualified he was for the job. But because Barack Obama did everything that was within his power to establish his credibility, he was able to change enough people’s minds to achieve his historic victory.
Now, you may not have President Obama’s powers of oratory, but there are other things you can do to reassure people that you are worth listening to. The most important – far outweighing the content of what you say – is to be at ease with yourself.
Here’s why: when a group of people show up for a meeting, they are unconsciously looking for a leader – and while you’re presenting, that leader had better be you. In these situations our unconscious minds are constantly scanning the body language, facial expressions and voice tonalities of the people present to pick up clues about the state of their relationships to each other, and their relative status. One of the more obvious clues to low status or inexperience is: does this person look nervous? Are they sweating, is their voice trembling, do their facial expressions express discomfort? Do they sometimes look around as if trying to find an escape route?
All of these manifestations are the outward signs of an unresourceful internal emotional state. If you get your state sorted, they won’t happen. You won’t have to put up a front of confidence, because you will actually be confident. So how can you do this? In the next few articles I’ll be sharing some practical tips to make yourself more confident – here’s the first one:
Relax – instantly!
Body and mind are one system. If your body is relaxed, it’s impossible for your mind to stay nervous. So use quick, effective techniques like peripheral vision and centring to get yourself calm yet alert in the moments before you step up to speak. These methods are described in this blog article: 5 Ways to Relax Instantly.
Next in this series: How to develop your credibility and confidence by rehearsing success