Quixote Consulting

Quix Tip
Two Influence Quix Tips
  1. Ask Questions
  2. Tell Stories

Both work well regardless of the setting. Whether you have just met someone, have had a long relationship with them, have done your homework about them, are talking in person or on the phone, asking questions and telling stories will pave the way for your effective influencing.

1 - Why ask questions?

Your Brain On Questions
True questions bypass the amygdala, an almond-shaped part of the brain that is like your body’s guard dog. When new information comes in, the amygdala decides, “is this a threat?” If it decides that there is a threat, even a low-level one, it will begin ‘barking’ and release chemicals that will help move you to physical safety more quickly. While that’s helpful in times of physical danger, it increases resistance to being influenced. By bypassing the amygdala with questions and engaging the neo-cortex you increase your chance of being a positive influence.

Listen for Connection
If you listen for ways to connect and be on the same side and areas of common ground, you increase resonance, something Howard Gardner describes as a key factor in changing someone’s mind.

Request vs. Demand
As Dr. Marshall Rosenberg notes in his book Nonviolent Communication, a request enlists the other person as a common ally and allows a person to independently choose to help, something we all long to do. A demand doesn’t give the option of choice and creates resistance

Can You Handle the Truth?
The challenge of questions is that you have to really want to hear the answers. If you ignore the person’s answer (both verbal and non-verbal), you destroy any resonance you have begun to create and give the other person a really good reason to feel resistance. And if you do hear a difficult answer, will you be able to both connect with them empathically and offer a substantive solution?

Tell Stories

Stories can be as short as a sentence or as long as an epic. Effective stories are the next best thing to an actual experience (a powerful influencer). They place the listener into the action in an empathic connection. If your pulse speeds up while watching an action movie, or you have ever cried over a scene in a movie, you know the power of empathy at work. The best television shows (such as The Wire) build powerful empathy for all of their characters.

Stories build trust. Research shows that a story all by itself is more effective at building trust than a story followed by a statistic.  Kouzes and Posner’s book The Leadership Challenge lists ‘honesty’ as the #1 characteristic that people look for in a leader. This was true over time (more than 20 years of research) and throughout all countries. Trust and empathy are two major drivers for increased resonance.

Why not try telling some simple stories the next time you are attempting to influence in a low-stakes outcome? By starting small, you’ll have something to build on. If you like the results, you may want to collect a few stories that seem particularly effective for your influence moments. You’ll find storytelling resources in Quixote Consulting’s list of Influencing Further Resources.