Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you try, you can't convince people to see things from your perspective? Have you ever struggled to get someone to change his or her behavior? Wouldn't it be great to have the power to influence your colleagues' beliefs and get them to take specific actions?

Regardless of the circumstances, you can influence people's beliefs and behaviors by applying basic principles of persuasion.

But before you start crafting your message, you need to improve this surprising skill: listening.

That's right: Effective listening increases your power to persuade. After all, no one has ever listened himself or herself out of a sale, but many have talked themselves out of one. The quickest way to increase your credibility and likeability is through effective listening. Here are five ways to do so:

1. Focus your attention on the speaker. Don't think about your own agenda or issues; instead, give the person who's speaking your full attention.

2. Wait your turn. If you're the type of person who has the tendency to interrupt the speaker before he or she finishes, you're not alone. One way to improve is by counting to three after the speaker finishes talking before you respond. The more you practice this exercise, the easier it'll be to wait your turn to speak.


3. Withhold judgment. Listening with an open mind builds trust and encourages people to share. Try not to filter messages from your own viewpoint. Remember to listen first, then evaluate. 

4. Ask questions. Asking questions is a great way to build two-way dialogue. Better yet, it gives you an opportunity to identify your team members' needs and values so you can craft a persuasive message. Your question can be as simple as "How are things going?" or "How's your job been lately?" In addition, ask team members to speak up when they have issues or concerns and tell them that you'll always be available to listen to them.

5. Demonstrate understanding and appreciation. One of the keys of effective listening is acknowledging what the speaker says. Here are a few ways you can demonstrate understanding and appreciation for the speaker:

When listening, use positive phrases such as, "That's an interesting thought," or, "Thanks for bringing up that point."

Put yourself in the speaker's shoes and convey that you understand his or her feelings or ideas after he or she finishes speaking. Saying things like "that must make you feel like..." or sharing similar experiences you've had will make your colleague feel like you understand his or her situation.

Paraphrase the speaker's statement by saying, "so what I hear you saying is..." 

Remember, of course, that listening takes work . . . you have to want to hear what your team members have to say. But the better you listen, the more you create a receptive environment so that people are willing to listen to you.