Want to influence someone? Yes, you do. Your spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, manager, people you manage, kids, … anyone you communicate with. I don’t care if you think they’re perfect. You want to influence them.
Why else do you communicate with someone except to influence them? (A question worth thinking about!)
If you want to know your potential to influence them, ask yourself how well you understand them. If you don’t understand someone, you can’t influence them well. You can guide them and create incentives for them with various carrots and sticks to get them to do what you want, but you don’t get at their motivations they haven’t shared with you. Not knowing people’s motivations is mostly what not understanding them means.
If you want to know their willingness to accept your influence, ask yourself how much they feel understood. Note the distinction between you feeling like you understand them and them feeling understood.
If someone doesn’t feel understood, they will not listen and will do what they can to feel understood until they feel understood.
Want to break up with someone? Intentionally misunderstand them. Seriously. Imagine every time you said something you considered important to someone they didn’t take it seriously or try to understand you. How quickly would you get frustrated? How long could you stand never being understood on important issues to you?
How can you make this behavioral pattern more useful than getting people to break up with you? Look at the opposite.
If you want to make someone want to spend time with you, understand them and confirm your understanding until they feel understood. I guarantee when they sense your understanding, they’ll want to share more. And what do they want to share? Their emotions and feelings—that is, their motivations. If you want to lead or influence someone, you’re working with their motivations. Understanding gives you access.
Want to make them want to open up with you? Understand them more.
Want them to care more about you? Support them for what they open up to you about.
Okay, I get it. So what do I actually do to understand someone?
I wrote about it in this post: “How to make someone feel understood: the Confirmation Cycle“—one of my most valuable posts. Nearly everyone I coach works on improving their skills in this area, so you can contact me for personal work if you want to hone your skills better.
Read my weekly newsletter
Subscribe for a weekly update of musings on leadership, the environment, and burpees.