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Nine Principles You Should Use To Increase Your Powers of Influence and Persuasion With today's business professionals missing a model for influence at work specifically designed for the 21st century, here are nine principles organized into three sets of three to ensure they are easy to learn and remember.

By Dr. Amanda Nimon-Peters

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Influence and persuasion skills are highly desirable for all businesspeople, and especially for entrepreneurs, whose livelihoods depend on the outcome of certain momentous decisions. And the good news here is that influencing skills can be learned -and improved- with the right methodology.

If you have ever considered improving your powers of persuasion, you may have come across Robert Cialdini's The Psychology of Persuasion, or Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People. While these books are great, they were also both written in the in the 20th century- I don't have to tell you that the world of work has changed enormously in the past few years, let alone since 1984.

Today's business professionals have been missing a model for influence at work specifically designed for the 21st century. As a business school professor, I sought to fix that problem. 18 months ago, I examined the last four decades of behavioral science research on the factors that influence people's decisions and actions. As a former entrepreneur and corporate executive in the Middle East, it was my goal to include research from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, as well as studies from Europe and the US.

The result is my book, Working With Influence: Nine Principles Of Persuasion To Accelerate Your Career. It is based on more than 200 peer-reviewed journal articles revealing nine universal principles for increasing your influence at work. These nine principles are organized into three sets of three to ensure they are easy to learn and remember: principles one to three are people-related, principles four to six are perception-related, and principles seven to nine are behavior-related.

PRINCIPLE ONE: STATUS In all cultures, people who have higher status are given preferential treatment. The key to gaining influence via principle one is to understand that status rankings are often done subconsciously, so think carefully about how you present yourself. The key is to avoid mentioning factors that reduce your status, like a lack of experience in one specific area, and instead make others aware of any experience, qualifications, or past successes you have, such as previous work experience at a big-name company. Be careful that the words you use are not simply the first ones that come out of your mouth.

PRINCIPLE TWO: SOCIAL IMITATION Our choices are heavily influenced by those of people around us or like us. Numerous studies have shown that when people receive information about what others have done in the same situation, they modify their own preferences in the same direction. The effect is stronger the more the target audience identifies with the referent group. To influence a decision in favor of the direction you propose, present the option you want people to choose as the standard or normative choice for the decision-maker's social grouping.

PRINCIPLE THREE: AFFILIATION Our decisions about people are influenced by whether or not we feel a person is like us or part of our in-group. Research data shows that decision-makers can feel affiliation towards someone who graduated from the same school, who has friends or colleagues in common, or even someone who has the same first name. Creating a sense of affiliation between yourself and other people can help to tip decisions in your favor during an interview or a client meeting, or when you are seeking help and resources.

Related: 11 Innovation Strategies That Can Effectively Increase Your Businesses' Growth

PRINCIPLE FOUR: VALUE FRAMING In our day-to-day communication, we often fail to express the value of our work in terms that are inherently valuable. For example, we say "this is a great solution" instead of "this solution can reduce the hours your employees spend on data processing by more than 50%". Both statements can be true, but only the second statement is expressed in units that are inherently meaningful to a customer. Value framing works because the tendency to judge value in relative, rather than absolute, terms is universal in humans.

PRINCIPLE FIVE: EFFORT Humans globally behave as if they are programmed to expend the absolute minimum seconds or calories of effort to achieve a given outcome, unless they have a very good reason to work harder. This is a facet of influencing we rarely consider. If you control the effort involved, you control the likelihood it will be done. Don't want people to do something? Ensure that it is a lot of work, and you won't have to say "no." Want people to do something? Make it as easy as possible, and people will often comply, just because you ask nicely.

PRINCIPLE SIX: REASONING Studies show that when people at work attempt to influence others, the most common tactic is rational persuasion, i.e. providing logical reasons. Those same studies also show this is not very effective. Human decisions are far less influenced by logical reasons than by the prospect of reward. To use principle six, generate an influential reason by tapping into emotion. What would make someone feel, rather than think, that your idea is a good choice?

PRINCIPLE SEVEN: INERTIA In many situations, human behavior occurs in a predictable sequence, as if actions were being driven by an invisible force such as inertia. Perhaps you have a specific sequence when you enter your front door- keys on the rack, drink from the fridge, feet on the coffee table, TV on! As Bruce Lee suggested, it is often easier to go with the flow of water than to fight against it. Given what is most likely to happen, what is your best move?

PRINCIPLE EIGHT: END-GOAL FOCUS Imagine you are on a motorboat attempting to reach a faraway shore with a dwindling source of fuel. The more that you waiver from side to side, the less likely you are to reach your goal. The fuel analogy is highly relevant, because people have limited energy with which to make decisions. Focus your energy and efforts against achieving one outcome– not against trying to win all arguments at the meeting. A 16th century proverb says: "If you try to run after two hares, you will catch neither."

PRINCIPLE NINE: EXECUTION Planning and executing that plan are not the same thing. The key to applying to principle nine is to practice the aspects of execution and delivery most strongly linked to persuasion- an upright posture, familiar words, and a voice that matches the emotion of the message. Practicing micro adjustments in your execution must be done in advance, because it is too hard to focus on what you are saying, and how you are saying it, at the same time.

When it comes to influence at work, you don't have to be the best influencer there ever was. Your goal should be to develop your skill so that your success improves relative to what it what it has been. Aim for steady improvement!

Related: Four Trends You Need To Consider For Your Business' Strategic Communications In 2023

Dr. Amanda Nimon-Peters is the Professor of Leadership at Hult International Business School in Dubai. Her book, Working with Influence: Nine Principles of Persuasion for Accelerating Your Career, provides professional businesspeople with actionable insights to increase their influence in real and virtual workplace environments. 
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