Most of us have a desire to influence others on some level. Maybe we feel we have something to offer that can improve their lives and make the world a better place. Or maybe we just want to get them to do what we want. Influencing others is as useful in business as it is in family and community life. The car salesman, the charity fundraiser, and the pick-up artist all use persuasive tactics to achieve their goals. Influence is sometimes good and sometimes bad, but it is always useful.
There are two primary ways to influence others: inspiration and manipulation. In Start Why Why, leadership expert and motivational speaker, Simon Sinek, argues that inspiration is the better, more sustainable option. I am inclined to agree. Manipulation is based on a power imbalance that is liable to come apart in any given moment whereas inspiration can sustain itself in the absence or coercion.
One of the biggest ways anyone can create influence through inspiration is by adding value to the lives of others. This works as much in personal relationships as it does in business. A quality product sells itself and generates loyalty. And the same is true of human beings. When people see the value we put out for them, they are more inclined to listen to what we have to say.
There is a caveat with personal relationships. Adding value to people solely for the purpose of influencing them in other areas is thinly-veined manipulation. It’s about getting people to act a certain way even when they wouldn’t freely choose to do so. But when value is added from a place of authenticity, then the influence garnered is inspiration in its truest sense. It is the kind of influence that is based on a willful decision to act a certain way that doesn’t create resentment in the long run.
The best way to influence others isn’t pushing the right buttons at the right time or bending over backwards. It’s about adding authentic value to their lives. And anyone adding authentic value to their lives is likely to do something positive with the influence they gain.