Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People has become a pinnacle for what it means to interact with friends, acquaintances, and co-workers effectively. The lessons are still true today, though we’re applying them in a society that operates very differently than the one in which people first read his words.
We’re living a balancing act that others before us have only glimpsed. Technology has made us more collaborative than ever, and we’re able to work from wherever we are. Add that to our apparent pride in being stressed out with our numerous commitments, and a new society comes into focus. How then, with so many different opinions and ideas screaming to be heard, can someone hope to be an influencer?
Let’s travel back to January 2011, when I’d just been elected Vice President of Membership for my sorority. For the next twelve months I served as a leader for the women of my chapter, making decisions that affected 100+ people. My duties as VPM included maintaining morale among members, planning events for sisters to bond with one another, educating everyone on the finer points of sorority membership, and taking on half of the planning and execution responsibilities of our annual sorority recruitment. Whew!
It was a big job, but incredibly rewarding. What I learned during that time of my life was how to connect with just about anyone. I discovered how to present my side of things in an approachable way to get a positive response from members, and I became aware of how to use people’s various personalities to the advantage of the group as a whole.
Using Mr. Carnegie as inspiration, here are some of my tricks for swaying others to your way of thinking.
Love Your Idea
One of the first things that I usually heard when I told members about a new event coming up, be it a sisterhood activity or a conversation workshop, was, “Why aren’t we doing ________ instead?” I always welcomed this question, because it gave me a chance to stand firm in the idea I’d come up with in the first place. A challenge is the chance for you to vocalize why your idea is a good one, and I found that most members responded well to my genuine enthusiasm. By being a champion for your own thoughts, you convey confidence to those around you and build their trust. This trust will serve you well going forward, because people will be more willing to accept your ideas outright and require less convincing.
However, loving your idea is no excuse for not accepting input or feedback from others. If loving your idea always worked, we wouldn’t need any other tips. This is merely an example that worked for me in some cases, but certainly not for every decision.
Point Out the Positives
Things run smoothest in a sorority when multiple hands are helping out, but to get people to really give it their all, I made a point to highlight why each person was significant in the task at hand. When I needed a group to man a table at one of our events, I approached two of our chattier members and said, “I’d love your help in making sure people sign in before they go up to buy food. I know how friendly you both are, so if you could greet people as they come by and have them sign in I would really appreciate it.” Both members happily agreed, even though it wasn’t their original assignment to sit at a table for the first half hour of the event. By demonstrating their worth, I showed them how they were needed and made them feel important. This ensured that they would help not because they were told, but because they wanted to.
Use Questions to Propel Your Idea Forward
When planning a new strategy to educate members about common recruitment conversation questions, I had a plan that I thought was solid. Knowing that the group may not want to voice their own opinions if I simply put the plan into action without input, I tried a different path. I said, “I was thinking of dedicating five minutes of each chapter meeting to a frequently asked question about membership. What do you think of that?” By asking instead of telling, I included my committee in the execution of my plan, effectively make it their plan as well. We discussed how we would present this new meeting feature, which committee member would take questions from the chapter, and who would be responsible for keeping a running list of all frequently asked questions for later use. Asking questions opened a dialogue so that each person could have a part in the decision.
Be an Active Listener
A golden rule of sorority conversations (and any other conversation) is to be an active listener. It’s a talent to be able to capture a room with your speech, but it’s equally necessary to step back and consider the group. A conscientious listener can take in all of the opinions being discussed and process them, picking out the best pieces of each suggestion. This skill also encourages collaboration among other group members, bringing forth the best possible solutions to problems. You may have a great idea, but by using the group and their thoughts to your advantage, even the best idea can be improved upon, resulting in a better plan for all involved.
What are your tips for becoming an influencer? Share them in the comments!
Ask Ido Leffler, Co-founder and “Chief Carrot Lover” of Yes To, Inc. how he convinced consumers to say “yes to” his brand!