Impact, Influence and Negotiation – Notice Where Their Focus and Energy Is

Influencing is a social process. To have personal impact and influence you need one or more people to be affected by what you do or say. The only measure of whether or not you have the desired effect – a positive impact and lasting influence – is whether or not the other person thinks, feels or behaves differently.

Interacting is at the heart of the process. This might be through written means by letter or email, over the telephone in a video conference or in person at a meeting. Whatever the channel of communication, consistently successful influencers and negotiators devote part of their attention and thinking to noticing the other person and what’s going on in the interaction. More specifically they collect and interpret data about the other person whilst engaging in the conversation, interaction or negotiation. With this data in mind they choose how to operate, what to say or do to have the most positive impact and the most influence over the outcomes or objectives.

Perhaps the first thing to notice – the first dimension to consider – is how the other person appears to act in social situations. You may know them well or this may be the first time you have interacted with them. If you know them well you need to review your data on them and ask yourself some questions about how they operate:

  • Do they tend to think before speaking or think out loud as they talk?
  • Do they look for opportunities to be interactive with others or are they more self-contained?
  • Do they prefer lively debates and discussions or reflective thinking?

The answers to these questions should guide your thinking on how to approach the meeting, telephone call or even the email interaction. One of the most important distinctions here is where their focus of attention and energy is. This may even change the way you do business with them. The reflective thinker is going to be more comfortable with the time afforded by email than having to think and act at reflex speed in a fast moving meeting.

But if you don’t know them then you will have to do the analysis live – as you talk and interact with them. In live conversations and meetings notice how quickly they speak, and how they respond to questions. Do they think then speak or start speaking and think as they go? How easily do they seem to engage in conversation – are they the ones that initiate new lines of discussion or do they follow others’ leads?

Understanding where the other person’s attention and energy is focussed will tell you how they will operate in interactions and how you will need to behave to get their attention and keep them engaged. These are the fundamental foundations of being able to have personal impact and influence. Your behaviour must at least start by matching how the other person thinks and acts, that means tuning in to their ways of working so that you can gain their attention and interest.