Influence is found in our ability to meaningfully interact with the people we encounter.
It’s not something just reserved for a stage or large audience.
You have the power to be profoundly influential in every conversation you have by becoming aware of how you interact and desiring to grow further.
I outlined 3 things I do in almost every conversation to help create trust, respect, and empathy.
1. Make eye contact to invite someone else to go deeper
“A gazer may invite interaction by staring at another person on the other side of a room. The target's studied return of the gaze is generally interpreted as acceptance of the invitation, while averting the eyes is a rejection of the request” - Adrian Furnham
Eye contact is one of the most subtle, yet powerful, communicators of our emotions.
And subconsciously, we’re able to understand conversational cues simply through the cadence of eye contact and direction.
When someone is speaking, or telling a story, and pauses, it’s easy to want to share our side of the story, our thoughts, and ideas.
But, when we interject, we miss the critical depth someone else might be wanting to share.
Instead of interjecting, simply continue a thoughtful and engaged gaze.
It may feel awkward for just a couple of seconds, but soon enough the person you’re talking to will continue to share more about themselves.
This will subtly prompt the other person to continuing speaking as your attention becomes an invitation.
Usually, people only share a small portion of what they really want to say.
To foster relationships with depth, it’s your responsibility to invite someone to speak about the things they truly want to talk about.
* Obviously, don’t over do it. Don’t stare intensely. Rather, create a warm, welcoming environment through your glances that welcome depth with empathy and grace.
2. Ask “What else?”
“So if you aspire to be a good conversationalist, be an attentive listener. To be interesting, be interested. Ask questions that other persons will enjoy answering. Encourage them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments” - Dale Carnegie
Influence is found in the questions you ask rather than in the wisdom you speak.
Most people think that to be influential and wise, they must constantly speak at people and have a response to anything that arises.
However, people already know what’s best for them. You are not more of an expert on someone’s life than they are of their own.
So, your influence will be found in guiding questions that help people explore themselves and environment rather than what you say to them.
Any time I’ve had someone say I'm wise or thoughtful I have to laugh a little bit inside. Mainly because I only did 10% of the talking and most of that was just asking thoughtful questions.
So, how do you ask inspiring and profound questions? Two words…
Start off with those two simple words and you’ll unleash a depth of conversation that will have true impact.
Questions that continue to generate depth will always revolve around “what else”... and you can change the way the question looks. It can look like: “how did you manage to do that” “how did you accomplish that” “how did you know that’d help”.
To have influential relationships, take the focus off of yourself and start to invite people into a welcoming space where they can explore themselves and environment better.
You can also use a technique that Solution-Focused therapists use that helps people ascend logical levels.
“Therefore, if people have differences in outlook, it is useful to lift the conversation to a hierarchically higher plane” - Fredrike Bannink
Ascending logicals levels means that when someone is talking about a fight they had with a friend, they’re really talking about how much they value that relationship and don’t want it to end.
And, higher than that, they value relationships, and security, and fidelity.
Finding these higher logical levels will give your guiding questions direction.
3. Copy their body language
“Social synchrony underlies the development of affiliative bonds and, thus, its detection in social contexts may be important for bond formation and, consequently, for adequate social functioning.” - (Atzil, Hendler & Feldman)
You’re strolling through the park and suddenly someone gets smacked in the face by a rogue frisbee. Immediately you wince at what just happened. And probably laugh.
This is because mirror neurons allow us to understand and feel what other people are experiencing.
They’re responsible for us shuttering when someone else gets hit or crying when we binge watch military homecoming videos.
And they’re responsible for social synchrony: when people unknowingly mirror body language as a way to show understanding, support, and respect.
For example, when a close friend leans in to tell us a vivid story, we unconsciously lean in too.
This is because mirror neurons allow us to understand the intentions and feelings behind physical actions. And social synchrony allows us to socialize and empathize deeper with these mirror neurons firing.
Scientists used to think that analytical thought helped us understand other people’s motives and actions, but research has found that we understand each other through emotions… namely the reading of body language and automatically understanding the emotions behind them.
Mirroring, or social synchrony, is quite common in stronger relationships. But, sometimes we struggle to develop a conversational rhythm with people that develops trust, empathy, respect, and rapport.
Without mirroring, studies have shown that relationships are not as sociable and lack trust.
The easiest way to create the social synchrony that demonstrates trust is to simply mirror the person you’re talking to in subtle ways.
If they lean in, lean in too.
If they sit back and have a low tone of voice, do the same.
You don’t have to copy every small movement or make it obvious what you’re doing.
The ultimate goal is to become aware of mutual body language, and then allow yourself to naturally follow the other person with your body language.
Body language is also key in understand how comfortable someone is in a conversation. Simply look for signs of comfort and discomfort.
Some comfort signals look like: leaning in, moving closer, turning to face you, a tilted head, a head rested on a hand, a genuine smile, and physical touch
Some discomfort signals look like: neck/face touching or rubbing, turning away, crossing arms, pointing feet away, and little eye contact
“The trick is to start superficial, and then slowly go more intimate while keeping an eye on the other person’s comfort level. If you find that they start giving signs of discomfort, then you should ask less intimate questions. But if they are giving you consistent signals of comfort, then you can consider that a green light to continue digging deeper… this progression from superficial to intimate is something that happens over the course of a relationship, not over the course of one conversation” - Daniel Wendler
You don’t have to be an expert on body language. All you’re looking for is a general understanding of comfort and discomfort so that the person you’re talking to feels welcomed and understood the entire time.
For example, if you notice someone is rubbing their neck frequently, then maybe back off on the “what else” questions.
Or, maybe they show calm body language, then, you can continue asking questions and sharing about yourself on the same level
True influence is found when you can clearly articulate your life purpose and help people explore theirs.
But, you can only take people as far as you’ve gone yourself...
If you’re searching for a clear direction that will help you live a meaningful and influential life, sign up for our free life purpose course.