Influencing skills are a set of skills that every leader should have. They can help you encourage your coworkers or your employees to listen to your ideas to reach company or department goals. Depending on your position, influencing skills can promote teamwork among employees you supervise and motivate them to put their best efforts toward projects you assign them. If you’re not in a leadership position yet, working on your influencing skills could boost your chances of being considered for one. Use these skills to persuade your supervisor to consider your ideas for boosting sales or reducing operating costs, for example. When you put these skills to use after improving them, this also helps your supervisor see your potential as a leader.
What Are Influencing Skills?
Think about the kinds of skills you might need in order to effectively communicate with people, handle conflicts, or conduct negotiations. These are known as influencing skills, since they help you persuade others. With these, you can help your department, team, or individual employees increase their productivity. You can also use influencing skills to maintain a good work environment and reduce conflicts between employees. The following are some of the most useful skills successful professionals use to influence others at work.
When you establish a rapport or build relationships with others at work, you're using interpersonal skills. They help you communicate with others and understand them while building trust with them. With these skills, you can work better with other members of your team or colleagues. You can develop and improve several interpersonal skills, such as teamwork, flexibility, patience, empathy, and active listening. Understanding how to read others’ body language is another interpersonal skill that is useful to have in the workplace. All of these skills make it easier to handle day-to-day interactions at work, as well as any complex problems that occur.
Being able to negotiate with others is a technique that allows you to reach a compromise with the other party that satisfies both of you. To do this, you might need to be flexible with your own ideas and be willing to consider theirs. For example, you might find a way to use both ideas, or you might use your idea on one project and theirs on another. Becoming familiar with negotiating techniques and practicing them at work can help you improve this influencing skill. Keep in mind that negotiating involves using several skills, such as effective communication, emotional intelligence, adaptability, integrity, and persuasion.
No matter how well people at work get along, conflicts can occur from time to time. Team members might come into conflict over how a project is handled, or supervisors might disagree on new policies. Being able to resolve conflicts takes considerable skill and influence. Staying impartial, being patient, keeping communication open, listening to both sides, and understanding each side’s emotions will serve you to successfully handle conflicts that come up at work. Part of conflict resolution also involves helping both sides collaborate or compromise as needed. When you improve your conflict resolution skills, you’ll be able to smoothly deal with minor and major conflicts that occur at work.
Strategic and Persuasive Communication
Having solid communication skills is a necessary part of maintaining influence at work. Being able to communicate with team members or colleagues in a persuasive way helps them understand your viewpoint, your ideas and goals. When you use strategic communication, you’re persuading or convincing others to consider your ideas for achieving long-term goals for your department, team, or company. This type of communication involves being able to effectively communicate your intended outcomes and explain how to reach them.
Why Do We Struggle With Influence?
Failing to influence others can happen for several reasons. Using coercion instead of persuasion to try to get others to listen to you or do something for you, for example, often results in failure. Persuading others involves treating them with respect, while coercing others does not. Instead, coercion is more like manipulation. Relying on manipulation or coercion to influence others can have the opposite effect and cause them to refuse to listen to you, since these are not tactics that a leader would use. You might also fail at influencing others if you are judgmental or talk down to them rather than respecting them. Not being flexible can cause others to refuse to listen to you as well. For example, if you insist that a project be done your way without any input from others, this lack of flexibility can lead to a failure to influence others.
Tips for Developing Influencing Skills
Improving your influencing skills can help you advance your career and gain a leadership position. If you’re already in this type of position, working on these skills can help you become even more successful and be an effective leader. You might be good at some of these skills, but keep in mind that there’s always room for improvement. For example, you might work on using a different negotiating technique or conflict resolution strategy. When working on developing these skills, you can choose to focus on a certain one or do a bit of training in multiple skills at the same time. The following tips can help you improve or develop your influencing skills.
Improve Your Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence refers to your ability to identify and manage your emotions, while also being aware of emotions in others. This can help you avoid letting strong emotions cloud your judgment or affect your reasoning when making important decisions and handling conflict. With greater emotional intelligence, you'll also be able to perceive other people's emotions better. When you can identify others emotions, this can help you influence and encourage them. For example, being aware of others' emotions, such as anger or frustration, can help you resolve a conflict at work. You can improve your emotional intelligence in several ways, including practicing being an active listener and responding to conflicts rather than reacting to them. Other ways to work on having better emotional intelligence include using an assertive communication style instead of an aggressive one, maintaining a positive attitude on the job, and practicing self-awareness. When you improve your emotional intelligence, you’ll be in a better position to influence others, whether you’re trying to resolve a conflict or persuade others to use your ideas for a project.
Do Your Research
Taking time to do research can help you improve and develop influencing skills when dealing with others. You might explore understanding audience motivation in order to better persuade or influence others. When you research this motivation, you’ll learn more about what inspires your audience, which can help you understand how to connect with them more effectively. Finding common ground or identifying mutual benefits allows you to form a connection with others and show them how your ideas can benefit them. When others think you know what you’re talking about, they’ll be more likely to listen to you and consider your ideas. Positioning yourself as an expert can help you achieve this and make it easier to convince or persuade others on a regular basis.
Networking and Relationship Building
Forming connections with other professionals through networking and relationship building are essential parts of improving influencing skills. Networking allows you to get to know other people in your industry, which can open doors and provide opportunities to influence others. Look for networking opportunities such as conferences or other events in your industry. Relationship building with people at work can help you gain influence within your department, organization, or team. Focus on establishing genuine relationships with colleagues or team members based on mutual respect and trust. You can work on building these relationships on a regular basis at work.
Take a Professional Development Course
Going back to school is a great way to work on your influencing skills. Some schools offer professional development courses that focus on specific areas or skills necessary to influence others. Through these courses, you can learn from experts in your industry and develop new skills that help you persuade others. For example, you might take professional development courses on Intentional Influence, Emotional Intelligence, Conflict Resolution or other courses that focus on improving communication with others. Other courses that can help boost your influencing skills include leadership skills courses and teamwork courses. Going through these kinds of courses can help you better understand the importance of being able to influence others in the workplace while also providing plenty of opportunities to improve these skills.
Books and Resources
Several books and other resources can help you improve your influencing skills. Some notable books to consider reading in your spare time include the following:
- Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
- Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human Mind by Nancy Kline
- Rapport: The Four Ways to Read People by Emily Alison and Laurence Alison
You can also download apps that guide you through the process of working on these skills, such as the Exercising Influence app for iOS and Android. Apps and online tools offer convenient ways to improve your influencing skills at home or during breaks at work.
Improving your influencing skills can take considerable time and patience. For more help with these skills, please contact the University of Minnesota College of Continuing and Professional Studies to get more information on our professional development courses. These courses in leadership, teamwork, communication, and other areas can provide you with additional help improving your influencing skills. Find a program that works best for you, depending on whether you’re looking for online or classroom courses.