Know your self-talk, lead others

October 26, 2012 by Joshua
in Awareness, Blog, Leadership

The past few posts talked about using self-talk to lead yourself. Today I’ll mention a few things about leading others by influencing their self-talk. To me, influencing someone’s self-talk feels easier than changing their beliefs, but the effect is roughly the same.

Trying to change other people’s beliefs sounds hard, especially if you can’t change your own beliefs.

It’s easier when you realize some simple things about how others have influenced your beliefs. I’ll keep it brief because I haven’t studied it much, though I remember hearing from friends about it in a class I didn’t take in business school called Power and Influence in Organizations.

Here are some tools that help influence others’ self-talk, in no particular order.

  • Empathy – I find the more people sense you understand them, the more open they are to hearing you and allowing themselves to be influenced by you.
  • Repetition – you should know this one. The more you repeat something, the more it sinks in. Eventually you don’t have to repeat it and people will remember it. A thought doesn’t have to be right for it to stick in someone’s mind. Once it does it will influence them.
  • Symbolism – symbols like logos and flags have long histories of giving people something to connect with. People don’t evaluate meaning in them. Companies have logos for a reason. They align people’s perceptions of the company.
  • Confidence – say it with confidence and people will take it in more. Again it doesn’t have to be right for confidence to help it sink in. Once it sinks in, it influences their thoughts and therefore how they perceive the world.
  • Metaphor – “I have a dream” is one of the most memorable phrases spoken by an American. It creates a metaphor followed up by the rest of the speech. For that matter, he repeats the line many times.
  • Imagery – pictures stick in people’s minds differently than words. Factory farms put pictures of idyllic farms completely unlike the post-apocalyptic wastelands actually there. Obviously those images help get you thinking about a different world than the sources of your produce. The imagery doesn’t have to be pictures. The “I have a dream” speech talks about mountaintops and checks returned for having insufficient funds.
  • Rhythm, rhyme, and other musical elements – Songs get stuck in your head. That’s why advertisers use jingles. They stick in your head. You don’t evaluate them. You just have the name of a company repeating in your head, which helps when you’re choosing between brands, theirs is in your head, and their competitor’s isn’t.

I’m sure you can think of others. I wanted to lower the barrier to seeing how you can influence others’ beliefs, not to give a comprehensive lecture. As I said, influencing someone else’s self-talk seems easier than changing their beliefs, but the effect is roughly the same.

I also wanted to point out alternatives to rational debate. I haven’t found rational debate particularly effective in influencing people who disagree with you. People who agree already agree. People who disagree I find tend to dig in their heels when you argue with them, even if you do so dispassionately.

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