Are you using the right influencial language when consulting to your clients or other stakeholders? How diplomatically assertive are you?
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Influencial Language – Background
In German we use a saying: “the tone makes the music“. Meaning it’s often not so much what‘s being said that matters. But also what’s not being said. And most importantly how it is said that can make all the difference.
In Questions and Statements, I emphasize how much more effective the use of questions can be in guiding conversation outcomes, than statements. No matter how true or relevant. Particularly in important discussions, with lots at stake. Where you want to be sure that your influencial language is at its best.
Old school still thinks telling (dare I say yelling?) is a strong form of confident influence. Wrong. I have learned that guiding the meeting, presentation or negotiation to the outcomes you seek, works significantly better with good, incisive questions.
And then actively listening “with all your cognitive senses”, that is observing and noticing degrees of animation, posture, gesture etc. Why? So that we can match and mirror that in adapting our communication style to theirs. Why? To influence their unconscious mind to pick up that “hey, this person’s speaking our language – I’m starting to warm to them“. That’s how we build influencial language rapport.
And I’ve further learned how important playing back your understanding of what you’ve just heard can be. That level of listening builds trust, and proves to the others that you are truly engaging. Not just to respond. But to understand. That’s a fundamental of influencial language.
So What Does Influencial Language Look Like?
I’ve learned that it doesn’t take a lot to develop influencial language. It needs a solid awareness and lots of practise. It pre-supposes you take your eyes off yourself. And put your focus firmly on the person(s) you are communicating with. Using influencial language that is always focused on them. This is about you finding out what they want, so you can help them get that first and foremost. Which usually means you’ll also end up getting what you want, right?
Agreeable words implying “yes” like “excellent” or “of course” or “too right“, or phrases like “I hear that all the time” put a positive spin and help make you more relatable. Here’s a few more in that same context:
My (or my other clients) experience suggests people often do x in this situation. Do you think that reasoning could apply here too?
Instead of saying “you must do x” rather suggest “shall we go through the options together? These are the ones I can see. Can you think of any others? Lets go through and test each one.”
Do we want to spend more time on this or are we ready to move on?
Influencial Language Preparation
Before facilitating an issues session I like to be sure to know each key player’s take on the issues, even if I have to call each before the meeting.
And then be sure to extract or offer a summary or conclusion at the end of the conversation and again afterwards with a note to all (particuarly to those not present).
I like to check: I can see why that mightn’t work. What makes you uncomfortable with it?
You know, if I were in your position I would have wondered about x. Is that possibly an issue for you?
Also, try to get a metric. How often does that occur? What is its proportion to the total? etc. Always test for relevance. Remember the old question: what has this cost or lost you so far?
Influencial Language Trust Components
Building trust is a critical component in the use of influencial language because it leverages and helps build:
I’ve seen the 5 stages of trust building described as:
- Engaging (being noticed to give full attention)
- Listening (understand the problem / need)
- Framing options (needs insight & emotional courage)
- Envisioning (needs collboration & creativity)
- Commitment (generate hope & manage enthusiasm)
What I like about your idea is x. Can you help me understand how we might use it to accomplish y?
Reflective listening : “what I hear you saying is”
Supportive or empathetic listening : “gee, that must have been tough”
Listening for possibility : “so what have you thought of so far to deal with that? Are you open to some further suggestions?
Or: I’d like to be sure that I have heard and understood what you have said / asked – do you mind if I try and summarise it?
Remember always to look for emotional reaction from the client and always ask if you observe: “you look angry or surprised or x – is something wrong or how can I help?”
Responsibility Taking Caveats Also Work Well:
It’s probably just me, but…..
I must have tuned out for a moment, could you please repeat….
I’m sorry to dwell but I can’t seem to get this out of my head about….
You’ve probably thought of this already, but….
I wish I knew, but I just don’t know how to handle this concern….
I realise you have a strong preference for, but….
I may not have uderstood this right, but…
I’m not sure if I’m being inappropriate in bringing this up, but….
I hope you’ll forgive for not knowing how to say this, but…
And if you have a “difficult topic” to address, please remember the “diplomacy question”:
I could be completely wrong here, but is it OK if I share an observation with you? Sure. Could it be that…?
Completely non-confronting, but assertive nonetheless. This leaves them every opportunity to either engage with your observation or not, thereby leaving them somewhere to escape – to save face. And if they disagree, your message is usually home anyway, isn’t it? Enough to follow up another time.
Influencial Language – So What?
What I’ve found is that most people dislike “being sold to“. How often have you experienced that yourself and how frquently does “your shutter drop” when it does? Annoying isn’t it? But very, very common, right?
So it isn’t really that hard as a consultant, to differentiate yourself from those “talkers”.
I’ve found influencial language is actually about awareness and attitude. Towards our client or stakeholder. That this approach panders to their WIIFM. And gently infuences them to allow you to “win them over”. Like I outline in Are You Selling Or Do They Buy?. No matter how good you are or how much you know, this isn’t about you doing all the talking (dare I say selling?). This is all about finding out what they need or want, so that you can focus your “pitch” very specifically on how best to meet those needs. And nothing else.
Taking your eyes off you and your agenda (dare I say KPI’s?) and placing you attention firmly on them and their agenda(s) is key. And best supported by the right level of “them focussed” influencial language.
What if you “had a go“? And what if it worked for you?