To truly understand this, it’s important to wrap your head around the notion of influence, especially in a professional context.
“Influence begins in a state of empathy and understanding. The more we understand our client, employer, colleague, etc., the better we’ll be able to communicate because we position ourselves in their space and field of action,” says personal branding and content marketing consultant Tatiana St-Louis.
According to her, communication and leadership are closely related, and they’re both ingredients in what makes someone influential.
“Good communication [comes] from sharing and empathy. And influence comes from a mutual understanding of a course of action that is beneficial to all parties. When we’re able to properly communicate those outcomes, we immediately gain influence on how we are being perceived and on actions we want others to take.”
Here are four communication shortcuts that will help you instantly elevate your influence. Use them often and practice them in different settings to become more influential at work — and anywhere, really.
1. Leverage silence
If you’ve ever paid attention to politicians or professional speakers in action, you’ll notice there are moments when they pause and say nothing. And those moments are carefully planned for maximum impact.
“Silence is as, if not more, useful than words. When another person is speaking, especially if you are in a sales or negotiation situation, you will feel the urge to speak, to answer or even talk over them,” says St-Louis.
“In those instances, stop and pause. Listen a bit longer to what will come out of the slightly uncomfortable silence. That’s where the most useful information lives.”
Yes, it can be a bit scary to try this for the first time. But as soon as you experience others naturally rushing in to fill the gap (because that’s a natural human tendency), you’ll become a fan of this communication tactic. “Let the little uncomfortable silences do the work. It’s magic.”
2. Use direct wording
Whether you want to ask a colleague for support on a key project or you’d like to kick off a conversation with your boss about a raise, using direct wording is a communication shortcut that will immediately make you more influential.
It’s important to be super clear about what you’re asking for and avoid making assumptions about your interlocutor knowing what you mean, according to St-Louis.
“Clarity is a blessing for both speaker and listener,” she says.
It’s tempting to beat around the bush if you don’t want to appear too demanding, but it can lead to misunderstandings and disappointments — and even make you appear less confident. People can’t read your mind. Plus, they will most likely value your direct communication and see it as a strength. So remember: Straightforwardness is always a good idea when communicating.
3. Add emotion
Now that you’ve mastered both the art of the uncomfortable pause and the use of direct language, it’s time to have a little fun and infuse some emotional engagement into your communications.
“Don’t be afraid to use storytelling to connect to your audience. People relate more deeply to emotions and are less likely to argue and get into a word fight when they have to show empathy towards a situation, which is what a good story does,” says St-Louis.
Need to convince a client to purchase a product? Tell them a real story about how the product transformed the life of another client on a deeper, human level. Want to boost your internal brand at work? Share anecdotes about your latest client win. Authenticity is key here.
4. Talk to your audience
One of the most powerful communication shortcuts to increase your influence is to always focus on talking to your audience — even if you wanna share something about yourself.
“You always tell the other person’s story, even when you are talking about yourself. This is the best way to create identification and therefore get your reader or prospect to adopt your perspective,” says St-Louis.
It’s all about using your sense of empathy to understand what would resonate the most with whoever you’re speaking to. Not everyone values the same things. Not everyone likes to digest information in the same way. Some people need facts and stats to be convinced, others are more driven by idealism and vision. Understanding what makes them tick should be the starting point informing what you’re going to share and how.
The result? Powerful influence. “They understand that you are there to help them get somewhere where they want to go. And that is the best way to increase your influence and get people on board.”