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The power of personal influence

You can not influence what you do not understand

Questioning in an influencing context is to do with attempting to understand the perspective of the other person so that effective and appropriate persuasion techniques can be used. Questioning is the application of a range of different questioning styles focused on gaining critical information. It includes the use of a broad range of different types of questions as well as using a hierarchy of questioning in order to identify core values as a basis of influencing. Questions can take many forms. There are diagnostic or open questions, usually starting with words such as "why…"and "how…" which are useful for drawing the person out and identifying their perspective. Then there are probing questions, which really explore a viewpoint in some depth, and behavioral questions are very effective in helping to understand the other person better. We also look at particular types of questions we refer to as pinpoint questions, which are useful for seeking specific information or facts, or indeed to pick the other person up on throwaway comments they might make on order to make sure that potentially useful information is not lost. Just knowing about different types of questions is not sufficient in terms of influencing skills. It is important to be able to use the full range of different types of questions and to be able to judge which are appropriate when. One particular powerful way of diagnosing the others person's view starts by asking for factual information about the person and then progressively probes in order to identify that person's underlying motives and values. It is only when we are receipt of such understanding that we able to influence effectively. Of course there are some traps that we can fall into in developing a line of question. A common one is the use of the multiple question: this is when one question is asked, but the respondent has a chance to reply two or three questions. Apart from confusing the other person, it provides them with an opportunity to pick and choose which question they would like to answer. Listening Listening as a competence is often mistaken for hearing. It means showing the other person in a convincing way that you are both listening and understanding what they are expressing whether these are words or feelings. People who listen effectively give all sorts of appropriate messages which suggest they are listening through their body language and verbal behavior. This could range from nodding the head to maintaining a reasonable level of eye contact. But listening can also be demonstrated by what the listener actually says. Summarizing the other person's views and replaying them back in order to check you have understood the message as it was meant to be communicated is also a good sign of active listening. Often people say that they are listening, and indeed they may be, but the fact that they are looking out of the window or continuing to type on the keyboard of their computer as they listen does not help the speaker. At an advanced level, listening means showing understanding of the underlying feelings which the other person is experiencing; showing empathy is a skill which can accelerate the rapport-building process. Listening however, is not only about maintaining harmony and building relationships. It may be necessary to pick the other person up on inconsistencies or to challenge them on their statements; it might be considered that in doing so one is showing strong listening skills. The difficulty arises when you hold opposite views compared to the person you are attempting to influence. It can then be very difficult to resist the temptation to present your own view instead of listening properly. Body language Body language is the use of proximity, posture, expressions, gestures and non-verbal behaviors aimed at supporting the verbal message in an influencing situation From a influencing point of vies it is advantageous to be able to interpret the body language of the person we are attempting to influence. Interpretation of body language could help in recognition of the fact that the other person does not really understand although they say they do; and knowing when the other person is giving signs of wanting to "buy"or accept you proposal, or equally that they have certain hesitations and you need to spend some more time convincing them In order to recognize such signals, the skill is in looking for clusters or groups of behavior which are consistent; this could come from eye contact, hand gestures, sitting position, or even tone of voice. For the international traveler this can present specific difficulties and it is easy to see how misinterpretation of a signal can lead to disastrous results. In order to persuade effectively it is helpful to consider the process from the perspective of the person you are attempting to influence: Do you share a common understanding of the current situation and the outcome you are looking to achieve? Have you anticipated the objections or questions which are likely to be raised? What is the style of the other person and what style are they likely to respond to best? Do you have a range of proposals to suggest with one or two preferred options? These are all important questions which can both help with preparation and might serve as a checklist when proceeding through the persuasive discussion.

Source: Hale, R. -Power of personal influence-

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