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Influencing Final Thoughts [Week 5 of our 5-week series!]

Posted by on September 12, 2011

Last week, we talked about Influencing by Email. Now, in our 5th and final week of Influencing When Not Face-to-Face, I’d like to share my Final Thoughts to help you make the most of your new skills!

Influencing When Not Face to Face resized 600You know you can influence others without being in a face-to-face meeting with them. Many books, films, songs, pictures are described as influential. However, if you are looking to positively influence a specific individual you should tailor your message and your medium to them.

Once you have a definite influence objective in mind, and are clear about who you need to influence to achieve this, it’s worth asking yourself the following questions:

  • What is the message I want to convey?
  • How important will the non-verbal component of my message be?
  • Do I need to see/hear the other person’s reaction to what I have to say?
  • Do I need to find out their position or ask them any questions?
  • How urgent is the situation?
  • Does anyone else need to be involved?

If Using “Push” Energy from the Positive Power and Influence model:

  • Be careful of using “strong” words, such as “You must…” and “You should…” as they may seem aggressive
  • Adding qualifiers may make the message confusing, e.g. “Hopefully, you can…”
  • Using bold or CAPITAL letters can seem like you are shouting!
  • Be precise and concise – people often make up their mind after reading just a few lines
  • Be clear and specific about your objective
  • If the topic is highly emotional for you and/or the other person(s), don’t use email as a way of communicating

If Using “Pull” Energy:

  • Be careful of using openness – too much disclosure may be inappropriate
  • If asking questions (Exploring), use open questions and be clear if you require a response and by when
  • If interpreting something someone else has said or sent in a previous email, then be sure to reflect back accurately
  • Don’t assume common ground, but use data to support your assumptions of where you have agreement

General Points:

  • Don’t use email if the topic is something potentially contentious or difficult. Not only is email correspondence admissible in court as evidence, or able to be used as an audit trail, but a single email can be forwarded to thousands of people within hours or even minutes!
  • Think about how healthy your relationship is with the person(s) concerned and therefore how strongly you can push/pull via email
  • Unlike face-to-face communication, you cannot control the timing of when an email is read, so you may inadvertently try to influence someone at a bad time
  • General etiquette: Do not copy in all and sundry to “cover your back” or look busy/important. Only involve those people for whom it is essential.
  • If in doubt, try to communicate face-to-face so that you can use the “music” (your words) and “dance” (your body language) to support your influence. At the very least, try telephone or teleconference as two-way, “live” communication is always better for influence and relationship-building!

Finally, if it’s important to build and maintain a long term relationship with the other person then at some stage you’ll do best to meet them face-to-face. Once you have a trusting relationship based upon mutual respect, your influence is much more likely to be effective, whatever medium you use!

Angela Steatham is an expert trainer for CGWA. Based in the U.K., she delivers the Positive Power and Influence program throughout Europe.


Influencing by email [Week 4 of our 5-week series!]

Posted by on September 7, 2011

Last week, we talked about how Influencing by Letter (really!). Today, in Week 4 of Influencing When Not Face-to-Face, we’ll discuss Influencing by Email.

Influencing by Email

Sending someone an email is essentially a one-way transaction like a letter, although delivery is generally speedier and the response can be more immediate.

With email, you are only able to convey things from your own perspective. While emails are extremely good at rapidly and conveniently conveying information, they are limited as an influencing medium because of the absence of interactivity. In fact, because of the informal and often abbreviated style of emails, they can lead to significant and sometimes dramatic misunderstandings.

However, it is possible to build and maintain relationships by email. Many people do this, generally where they share an interest or hobby, and often without ever meeting face-to-face.

A specialized form of email would be participation in an online discussion group or chat room. This provides an extra element of interaction as responses are faster, delayed only by typing and transmission speeds.

Appropriate Influencing Behaviors
Generally, the message writer sets the agenda, so “push” styles from the Positive Power and Influence model are likely to dominate.

However, in creating your email, you can employ “pull” words, responding to points previously raised by your correspondent. For example:

  • Showing you have listened – “I realize that you think I should stay over longer when I go to the U.S.”
  • Exploring with questions – “How do you feel about joining us at the Management Committee meeting next Wednesday?”
  • Finding and building on common ground – “We both seem to feel that Angela would make a good project manager for this. I believe we can sit down and really get to grips with a way of releasing her from her current role and get everyone behind this project.”
  • Openness – “I’m feeling rather confused by the decision making process at the moment. I’m not sure how best to get involved.”

As with a letter, the absence of an immediate response means you can never really be sure of the impact of your statements, unless the other person chooses to tell you.

Verbal and Non-Verbal Components of Your Message
Only the words come through. This makes it critical that, if you are looking to influence someone, you choose words which accurately convey your message without ambiguity. Precision and conciseness are at a premium, although the shorthand style that many people employ in emails can have the impact of terseness or abruptness.

Some email users employ combinations of punctuation marks to convey the emotional element of the “dance” (your body language). Known as emoticons, they represent facial expressions and can be helpful (providing the recipient can decode them).

Here are some examples (you’ll have to tilt your head to the left to get the full effect):

🙂 smiling
:-O shouting
🙁 sad
😉 winking
😎 smiling – wearing glasses

Benefits of Using Email to Influence

  • A record may exist of the message (although messages can be readily deleted, they can often still be retrieved)
  • The recipient deals with the message when they choose
  • Allows the receiver to repeat (re-read) the message until it is understood
  • Good for informal communication
  • Can be quick and convenient
  • Chat rooms allow more interactivity

Disadvantages of Using Email to Influence

  • It can take some time for the message to be received, and receipt doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily been read
  • You generally don’t get an immediate response after sending
  • The sender isn’t able to easily check if the message has been understood
  • People are often included on numerous distribution and copy lists, so they have an in-tray bulging with messages “for your information.” This can mean that people might miss the impact of your important message in the mass of general junk email.

Influencing Tips and Hints

  • Make the subject line informative so that people can scan their inbox and understand whether your email requires urgent attention
  • State the purpose of the email at the beginning: Is it for Action or Information?
  • Make it clear what action you’re requesting, how, and by when
  • Make it clear if you expect a response
  • Using different fonts/colors to emphasize elements of your message can be helpful, although only if the recipient’s email software can decode them
  • Useful for sending attached files, although you should check that the recipient has the appropriate software to open and use these
  • Beware getting into email “conversations” where the recipient is online and immediately responds, then you respond, then they respond…it’s quicker to communicate on the telephone!

Think of mixing different forms of communication. You may need to supplement e-mail with a phone call, videoconference, or personal meeting for particularly critical or difficult phases in the influencing process.

Now you know how to influence over the telephone, by videoconference, and by letter! Come back next week for my Final Thoughts, tips and hints for Influencing When Not Face-to-Face.

Angela Steatham is an expert trainer for CGWA. Based in the U.K., she delivers the Positive Power and Influence program throughout Europe.


Influencing by letter [Week 3 of our 5-week series!]

Posted by on August 30, 2011

Last week, we talked about how to successfully influence by videoconference. Now, in Week 3 of Influencing When Not Face-to-Face, we’re talking about Influencing by Letter.

Influencing by Letter resized 600

Sending someone a letter is essentially a one-way transaction. Even if your letter is a reply to someone else, you are only able to convey things from your own perspective. While letters are useful to convey information, they are limited as an influencing medium because of the absence of interactivity.

However, it is certainly possible to build and maintain relationships by letter. Penpals do this, often without ever meeting face-to-face, though the most significant relationships are generally cemented by at least one real meeting.

Appropriate Influencing Behaviors

Generally the letter writer sets the agenda, so “push” styles from the Positive Power and Influence model are likely to dominate.

As a letter writer you can employ “pull” words, responding to points previously raised by your correspondent. For example:

  • Showing you have listened – “I understand that you think sales volumes are the most critical issue.”
  • Exploring with questions – “What do you think we should do about the situation in the Northern Region?”
  • Finding and building on common ground – “It seems as if we’re both agreed that the team needs to work in a more productive way. I can see us discussing this at the next Area Meeting long into the night, the table covered with ideas and suggestions and a real atmosphere of optimism.”
  • Openness – “I’m not sure I really know what to do for the best here. My thinking is that this is something we haven’t faced before.” (Remember that letters can be forwarded on to others!)

However, in the absence of an immediate response you can never really be sure of the impact of your statements.

Verbal and Non-Verbal Components of Your Message

Only your words come through. This makes it critical that you choose words which accurately convey your message, without ambiguity. If you are seeking to influence rather than inform, precision and conciseness are at a premium.

If you know the other person well, you will be able to judge the tone and style of letter that will have the impact you are looking for. If you don’t know the other person, you will have to make a best guess.

Benefits of Influencing by Letter

  • A record of the message exists
  • The recipient deals with the message when they choose
  • Allows the receiver to repeat (re-read) the message until it is understood
  • Good for complicated or long messages
  • Good for formal communication

Disadvantages of Influencing by Letter

  • It takes some time for your message to be received, by which time the situation and what you want to happen might have changed
  • A response is delayed until the other person receives the letter, reads it and gets back to you
  • You aren’t able to immediately check if your message has been understood
  • Letters can be impersonal

Influencing Tips and Hints

  • Be clear about the purpose of your letter
  • Know what you want to say, about what and to whom
  • Convey your message in as few words as possible
  • Make your message as simple as possible—your reader may have many other things competing for their attention
  • Keep your reader in mind—their skills in the language your are writing in, their needs, their readiness for your message
  • Make it clear what action (if any) you expect from your reader
  • If the message is a personal one, consider hand writing a letter rather than using the computer. This can have a warmer and more personal impact.

Memos

A memo should follow the same pattern as a letter, though it is likely to be more informal in style.


Now you know how to influence over the telephone, by videoconference, and by letter! Come back next week for Influencing by Email.

Angela Steatham is an expert trainer for CGWA. Based in the U.K., she delivers the Positive Power and Influence program throughout Europe.


Influencing by videoconference [Week 2 of our 5-week series!]

Posted by on August 22, 2011

Last week, we talked about how to successfully influence over the telephone. Now, in Week 2 of Influencing When Not Face-to-Face, we’re talking about Influencing by Videoconference.

Influencing by Videoconference resized 600

Videoconferencing has the great advantage of allowing two or more people to engage in a complete dialogue. You have the benefit of not only being able to hear each other, but to see each other as well. This gives everyone the chance to get an (almost) instant reaction to whatever they say or do and respond and adapt as the conversation develops.

Appropriate Influencing Behaviors

As a two-way interaction, all parties will be able to speak from their own agenda and have the chance to respond to the others’. Consequently, all the influencing behaviors from the Positive Power and Influence model are feasible.

Verbal and Non-Verbal Components to Your Message

All three components of communication are available: the words and “music”(audible cues people pick up on when you’re speaking) as well as the “dance” (your body language). However, room layout or technology might place some physical limitations on the amount or type of dance that is possible:

  • The camera’s field of view may mean that standing up is not an option
  • Any time lag on movement will also affect the way that your dance is received

Remember that the other people will be able to see you and what you’re doing. I found that when I first used videconferencing I was so intent on watching the other people on the screen that I kept forgetting they could see me equally well!

Benefits of Influencing by Videoconference

  • You can see and be seen, bringing all elements of communication into play
  • The two-way nature of the interaction means that you are likely to realize when you’ve achieved your influence objective and resist overselling it
  • Meetings tend to be scheduled and arranged in advance which means that people are prepared and focused on the discussion
  • Time and cost consciousness means that meetings are often more brief and to the point
  • It can be a good way to maintain personal contact with colleagues located elsewhere

Disadvantages of Influencing by Videoconference

  • A “studio” setting may inhibit people
  • Video image may lack clear definition and full motion sensitivity – particularly from PC-attached cameras. This may distort the impact of the dance and jerky movements may cause distraction.
  • Time lags between transmission and reception can mean that people aren’t always sure if others have heard or understood. This makes it more likely that people will repeat themselves or talk over one another.
  • Only looking at the screen rather than at the camera can have the impact on the other person that you are avoiding eye contact and lead to misunderstanding or perceived lack of interest
  • There can be limitations on sharing documents or physical objects

Influencing Tips and Hints

  • Make sure you know how the equipment works in advance
  • Establish a “contract” at the start of the meeting:
    • Agenda
    • Timing
    • Meeting roles
  • Agree in advance what documentation might be required as backup to the discussion
  • If there are others with you in the room try to pay as much attention to the participants on the screen as you do to those closest to you
  • Try not to use any sudden gestures or movements
  • Keep your dance positive and attentive when not speaking
  • Look at the camera occasionally rather than the screen; this will give the person at the other end an approximation of eye contact
  • You will probably be more comfortable videoconferencing with people you have previously met face-to-face

Now you know how to influence over the telephone and by videoconference! Enjoy your new skills and use them every chance you get.

Tune in next week for Influencing by Letter.

Angela Steatham is an expert trainer for CGWA. Based in the U.K., she delivers the Positive Power and Influence program throughout Europe.


Influencing over the telephone [Week 1 of our 5-week series!]

Posted by on August 15, 2011

Just as we promised last week, here’s Week 1 of Influencing When Not Face-to-Face: Influencing over the telephone.

Influencing Over the Telephone

Assuming you can reach the person you are seeking to influence, the benefit of a phone call is that it’s at least a two-way conversation (or more if teleconferencing). On that basis, you have the great advantage of being able to get in instant reaction to anything you say and can then respond and adapt accordingly.

If you find yourself faced with a voicemail or answering machine, your opporunity to influence is immediately reduced. It becomes more like a voice version of email.

Appropriate Influencing Behaviors

As a two-way interaction, both parties on the call will be able to speak from their own agenda and have the chance to respond to the other’s agenda. So all the influencing behaviors from the Positive Power and Influence model are feasible.

If you are responding to someone else’s call, it is particularly important to show them that you are listening. Give them your full attention – they’ll be able to tell if you’re continuing to type at your keyboard or if you’re holding a whispered side conversation, although you may be telling them, “Go on–I’m listening!” 

Verbal and Non-Verbal Components of Your Message

Pay close attention to your words and “music” (audible cues people pick up on when you’re speaking). They will pick up messages between the lines by the way you say things.

You might think that the other person will have no idea about your “dance”–your body language–since you’re on the phone. But be careful! Your dance can show through in your music:

  • Standing up to make an important call can give your voice more power and confidence
  • Sitting up straight will ensure your voice is not constrained
  • Answering with a smile will give your voice a more welcoming tone
  • Beware of the impact if you smoke while on the phone, or have a particularly sensitive mouthpiece/headset microphone–exhaling can sound like a sigh of exasperation!

It’s worth remembering that you can’t see the other person either, so you’ll also be picking up clues about what they’re really saying by reading between the lines of their words. So, checking and confirming your understanding of the other person’s message is particularly important since you’re missing the visual clues that we often rely upon.

Benefits of Influencing Over the Telephone

  • You get personal contact. This is the biggest benefit. If you can’t get face-to-face time with the other person, either because of distance or timing, the phone is the next best method of influencing.
  • You can call when it suits you, though you may need to check that your timing suits the other person too!
  • You get an immediate response and can consequently adapt your approach. The two-way nature of the interaction also means that you can tell when your influence attempt has worked and stop, rather than pushing it too far.

Disadvantages of Influencing Over the Telephone

  • The timing of your call may not suit the other person
  • Unless you’re calling by prior arrangement, you can’t be sure if the other person is going to be there
  • The phone isn’t really suitable for conveying complex information or ideas. You might need to email, mail or fax something to someone and then arrange a phone call as a follow-up to discuss and agree on a course of action.

Influencing Tips and Hints

  • When speaking across time zones it can build greater rapport if you are conscious of and interested in the other person’s time of day
  • If it’s an important call, take time to plan what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it
  • Establish a “contract” at the start of the call:
    • Is the other person free to speak?
    • Is it business or social?
    • How long is it likely to take?
    • Does the other person need any documents/information for reference?
  • Acknowledge what the other person is saying by speaking. They can’t hear a nod or shake of the head, and a grunt can be ambiguous.
  • If it’s going to be a long or complicated call, consider arranging a mutually convenient time in advance

Conference Calls

  • Establishing a clear contract is particularly helpful at the start of a conference call
  • If there are more than three people taking part, you might agree to state your name before speaking each time so that others know who’s talking
  • Agree that one of you will “chair” the call

Now you’re all set to influence over the telephone! Get out there and make your presence felt through the power of positive influence!

Tune in next week for Influencing by Videoconference.

Angela Steatham is an expert trainer for CGWA. Based in the U.K., she delivers the Positive Power and Influence program throughout Europe.


Introducing our 5-week series: Influencing when not face-to-face

Posted by on August 8, 2011

Now that you know how to overcome objections during an influence encounter, and you’ve mastered our 3 easy steps to improving your overall influence skills, you should be prepared for another type of influence situation: Influencing when not face-to-face.

Influencing when Not Face to FaceMore and more of our business interactions and relationships are being managed at a distance. It is not unusual to have clients, suppliers and teammates spread across the globe. Successful influence is founded upon clear communication–and communication only really occurs when the recipient has received and understood our message. This article suggests some ways in which we can positively influence people, even when we can’t speak with them face-to-face.

We influence others through the actual impact we have on them, not through our good intentions. Research has consistently shown that our impact comes as much from the non-verbal components of our communication as it does from the words alone. One of the difficulties we have when seeking to influence someone when not face-to-face is that the non-verbal part of our message is either diminished, or completely nonexistent.

Another essential ingredient of successful influence is flexibility of style. The most effective non-face-to-face influencing media are those that give us a chance to see how the other person is reacting to what we are saying, such as video conferencing. This provides us with verbal and fairly good visual feedback so that we can adapt our style and behaviour appropriately.

But life isn’t perfect! Often we are forced to influence over the phone, by email, and even by letter! Over the next 5 weeks, we’ll take a look at the impact that non-face-to-face interactions have on your influence effectiveness.

Where to start?

Positive Power and Influence is a model of positive influencing behaviours. This model describes the styles and behaviours you can choose to employ when seeking to influence others and build or maintain a positive relationship. The model also describes the key components of communication:

  • the words you use
  • the music you employ – how you use your voice
  • your “dance” – how you use your body, gestures and facial expressions

You really can have successful “virtual” influence encounters! Please join us next week as we talk about influencing over the telephone.

Contact CGWA

Angela Steatham is an expert trainer for CGWA. Based in the U.K., she delivers the Positive Power and Influence program throughout Europe.