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    Influencing other people

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    Business Spotlight 1/2021
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    Transcript: Influencing other people — interview with Bob Dignen

    Erin Perry: Bob, why is the topic of influencing so important at work?

    Bob Dignen: I think there are different ways to think about this question of importance. Maybe one less conventional way of thinking about it is to focus on the emotional side of influencing. Because one experience of influencing is frustration. I think everybody feels it. We want to influence other people. They don’t follow. We get frustrated. And so there becomes a risk to collaboration and, ultimatelyschließlich, letztendlichultimately, results. So, we need to really reflect on influencing and make sure that we’re doing it in the right way, that we don’t frustrate ourselves, that we don’t frustrate other people. Because influencing, if it leads to kind of negative emotions, then we create real risks to results.

    Perry: Why is it often so difficult to influence others in the way that we want?

    Dignen: OK, well, I think there are different reasons for this. I mean, at a very fundamental, psychological level, think about it: nobody really likes being told what to do. I mean, you don’t like it, I don’t like it. Which, I guess, is why so often influencing can be problematic, because that’s what it is. I’m trying to get you to do something maybe you don’t want to do. So, it’s just kind of a human problem. I think communicatively, I mean, very often, when people are trying to influence, they don’t do it very clearly.

    Sometimes, the “what” they’re trying to say, what they’re trying to influence, is not clear. And, certainly, the “why” is often not very clear. And this becomes very typical and problematic internationally. You know, I send an email to my international colleague. I want them to deliver some data tomorrow. I’m trying to influence my colleague, but, you know, it’s not clear to them why that data is important, why they need to do it so quickly. They’ve got a million other urgent things to do. And it just feels like a randomwillkürlichrandom kind of push from across the seas. So, I think the lack of clarityKlarheitclarity communicatively, the psychological dimension, and then, you know, pragmatically, you know we live in a world where we have too many things to do. So, even if I understand you — I understand the “what” and the “why” — I may have too many things to do at my end. So, I simply put your influencing topic to the bottom of my to-do list. So, the pragmatics are as important sometimes as everything else.

    Perry: So, what is the best way to influence key people, key stakeholderBeteiligte(r), Betroffene(r)stakeholders at work?

    Dignen: Yeah, well that’s a tough question because it’s, of course, a very general question. And influencing, like any act of communication, it really needs to be understood in very context-specific ways or you risk making pretty useless generalizations, the kind of thing I usually complain about on LinkedIn. But if I have to make one kind of recommendation about influencing, the type that matters most in workplaces, it’s perhaps even to question the term “influencing” and to stop thinking in terms of this, kind of, very often we see it as a one-way information flow.

    Stop thinking about it as a one-way street and start thinking of it in, in two-way flows, more like collaboration than influence. Because, at the end of the day, if we want to work with other people sustainablynachhaltig; hier: dauerhaftsustainably, we need to come to a form of mutual understanding and agreement. You know, I need to understand your role, you need to understand my role. We need to understand at which point it’s kind of likely we’re going to need to support each other, you know, where the interfaceSchnittstelleinterface is, at which points we’re going to need to be flexible in order to give you a priority over my priority. And we need to to commit to sth.sich zu etw. verpflichtencommit to a kind of communication process, so you don’t get my email to dump sth.etw. abladen, deponierendumped into your inbox when you’re too busy to respond to it.

    So, I think this idea of kind of creating clarity on “mutualgegenseitigmutual influencing”, let’s call it that — the what, the when and the why — and a commitment to communicate, really, in sufficient time, so that you can respond in a meaningful way. I think that’s one of the key takeawayhier: daraus resultierende Erkenntnistakeaways I hope people take from this. It’s very seldom done, but it’s all about co-creating mutual influence.

    Perry: And, on a personal level, when was the last time that somebody influenced you in a way that made you change your behaviour?

    Dignen: Yeah, it’s an interesting question and I often reflect on that to see what works on me, how people communicate to me. And with respect to influencing, I think the most strikingbemerkenswertstriking example I often to quote sth.etw. anführenquote is when I went skiing once. And I guess you’re gonnagoing togonna picture this: the typical Englishman on skis, zero control, a danger to myself and everyone else on the mountain. And one day, I can really remember it, I was looking down at a blue slopeHang; hier: Abfahrt, Pisteslope for the first time, totally terrified. This looked like certain death. And my father-in-law was standing next to me and he could see the hesitation, he could see the terror and he simply said, “you’ll never do that!”. And it was curious: that reverseumgekehrtreverse psychology totally worked. You know, no one was going to tell me what I couldn’t do.

    So, off I went, straight away. And, three minutes later, at the bottom, arms raised like I’d to score a penaltyeinen Elfmeter verwandelnscored the penalty against Germany in the last minutes of the World Cup final. You know, I’d actually done it. And I guess there’s an important moral of that story that, when you connect your messaging — whether it’s soft, whether it’s hard influencing — somehow, in some way, to the underlyingzugrunde liegendunderlying values and identity of the person you’re talking to, they will act.

    Whether it’s reverse psychology, normal psychology, positive psychology, I think influencing works not by just telling your data, your arguments, but by connecting to the spirit of the other person. And at the end of the day, that needs sensitivityFeingefühl, Einfühlungsvermögensensitivity, it needs communication control and it needs a commitment to the relationship. Yeah, and all of that, most people fail to consider.

    Perry: Thanks very much, Bob. We to look forward to sth.sich auf etw. freuenlook forward to hearing from you again next time.

    Dignen: Thank you. It was a pleasure.