How to be Clear about What Matters to You

Influence. How you obtain it, how you use it, and when you use it is a skill that can take long to master. Some are naturally influential by virtue of their power, wealth, status or personality, but by following some simple rules, just about anyone start to influence situations in their favour.

1.   Know what you want

It may seem obvious, but if you don’t intimately know or understand your objectives, then there is little chance you will convince anyone of anything. Know your goal and take aim!

2.   Know what others want

Chances are the person or organisation you are looking to influence will also be looking for something in return. Be sure to know what their issues are and how you will respond. Negotiating is a two-way street.

3.   Where does the power lie?

Is it with one person or a powerful committee? Knowing where the power is centred will make sure you are influencing the right people, at the right time.

4.   Develop sharp arguments

Use the power of three to come up with three main arguments to support your case, and use them as soon as an opportunity presents itself. Any more than that and your argument might lose its impact, any less and you’re unlikely to make a very large impact in the end. 

5.   Listen

Influencing is not a one-way street.  In order to get what you want, it’s important you listen and understand the positions of others and make sure others know you are listening. Acknowledge and reflect their concerns in what you say, show them you’re listening.

6.   Flexibility

You might start out with a single specific objective, but you should always have your fallback positions at the ready, and potentially any alternate avenues that will lead to the outcome you seek. Like Bruce Lee famously said, “Be water.”

7.   Be self-aware

Depending on who you are, being bullish, uncompromising and stubborn could end up getting you what you want, but won’t make you many friends in the end. If you steamroll someone once, next time they might not be willing to give you what you need on that ever-so important matter later on.

8.   Reciprocity

A truly effective influencer will not only achieve his or her own objectives, but will make sure everyone walks away feeling like they each got something. Creating a win-win situation may not just help you today, but could help you in the future, as well.

9.   Relationships

Invest time and effort into building relationships and strategic networks. You are unlikely to get what you want by knocking on someone’s door for the first time and making demands.  

10.You can’t always get what you want

It’s nice when you do, of course, but sometimes no matter how flexible or prepared you are, you just simply can’t deliver on something. Be gracious in defeat – people will remember you for it.

*Graeme Taylor is the Director of Taylor Insights, a Public Affairs  and Communications consultancy, providing advice, analysis, and access to European government.