If you're in a people business of any sort (then again, who isn't?), it should be your highest priority to connect with the human side of your customers, vendors, peers, co-workers, and other stakeholders.
This means having a good understanding of what makes humans tick. As you scroll further down, these techniques, for some, will stretch your social intelligence to new frontiers. For others, you will welcome it as more ammunition for your relational arsenal.
But don't just take my word for it. Science has confirmed many of these as your gateway to experiencing more positive, meaningful exchanges, and influential relationships that could further increase your professional tribe.
However, just sticking your toes in the water is self-limiting. Take a headfirst dive into the pool of possibility by incorporating these into your daily routine. Fair warning: In the end, these principles are certainly not about you. (You'll see what I mean soon.)
1. Put yourself in another person's shoes.
People are drawn to empathy. It's an attractive quality to have in building successful relationships. In fact, DDI research has proven that empathy is the No. 1 driver of overall organizational performance. Empathy starts with thinking about other people's circumstances, understanding their pains and frustrations, and knowing that those emotions are every bit as real as your own. This helps you develop perspective, and opens you up to helping others, which also enhances your sense of gratitude. The best part? What comes around goes around.
2. Give the gift of a five-minute favor.
Five-minute favors are giving acts you do for someone without asking for anything in return. Examples of five-minute favors include sharing knowledge; making an introduction; serving as a reference for a person, product, or service; or recommending someone on LinkedIn. As Adam Grant, author of Give and Take, points out, by paying it forward, you are more successful without expecting a quid pro quo. And you aren't just helping others in five focused minutes of giving. You are supporting the emotional spread of this practice--it becomes contagious.
3. Choose to live happy.
Who doesn't like to be around a happy person? It's also contagious! And it's a choice we can consciously and intentionally make every single day. That choice also has long-term psychological benefits. Brain research by Wataru Sato of Kyoto University says that when you choose positive behaviors (like meditation or forgiveness), you hold the key to rewiring a region of the brain called the precuneus. By changing your daily habits, you'll be able to control your sense of well-being, purpose, and happiness. I think that's brilliant.
4. Listen to advice and learn from others.
Imagine going about your business--Lone Ranger-style--thinking that a certain idea or strategy is "the right way" or "the only way" moving forward, but realizing later you were miserably wrong. Instead of plowing ahead solo, convinced you have all the answers to your problems, solicit the advice and wisdom of others. This is what initiates the best conversations--learning about what other people do, how they do it, why they do it. People love to talk about themselves, and smart people let them! So be the person who shows up with the humble gesture of "I want to learn from you." It'll be a sure way to build bridges and gain trust. It shows your humility--a leadership strength that ultimately influences people.
5. Speak in the positive.
Take clues from your colleagues known for being positive and happy. Have you paid attention to how they speak? Most of them, you'll note, refrain from resorting to negative words, speech, or conversational topics that are divisive (think politics or religion), because they know the stressful effects it has on their (and others') emotional well-being. They stay away from unnecessary drama, malicious gossip, and psychological warfare. Helpful tip: When you're present and "in the positive," offer the other person helpful feedback that empowers and lifts up. Doing so will inspire and build trust with others, and generate happiness in your own life.
6. Put the spotlight on the other person.
There's something magical that happens when you let other people talk about themselves, their lives, and what's important to them. They respect you, and when the tables turn, they'll be more curious to know about you as a result. When we shine the spotlight on someone else and let that person be seen, heard, and considered special--it becomes enjoyable to do so. It gives us a peaceful and quiet confidence that the spotlight will soon be ours.
7. Look at both sides of the coin.
We call it self-awareness. It's choosing to see two sides of an issue by tapping into our feelings and those of others for a different, and better, outcome. Looking at something through different lenses helps us to respond appropriately in social situations instead of reacting in ugly or impulsive ways to people. This will send your likability meter off the scale. By redirecting negative thoughts and emphasizing positive ones, you can enjoy interpersonal relationships much more.
8. Be understanding through active listening.
I'm going to spend a little more time on this one, because I feel it's the most important on this list. First off, being an understanding person means being an insightful person--having insight, gaining insight, or giving insight. This means mastering the art of listening as the foundation of communication and the key to building strong relationships. Not exactly a breakthrough, aha! moment, you say? Well, hold on. With technology and social media ruling our lives, we are becoming less opportunistic in developing our listening skills, and less socially aware of its effect on business as a competitive advantage. As you develop professional relationships, leverage active listening by being able to understand what's happening on the other side of the fence; listen intuitively to the other person's story, searching conversations for depth, meaning, and understanding with the other person's needs in mind. Your listening should have one overarching theme: How can I help the other person?
Bringing It Home
Hopefully, you caught on to what I meant by "this is not about you" as a way to influence. Yes, it's counterintuitive, since most of these people strategies are built around a "giving" mindset that serves the other person for the greater good.
As Seth Stevenson writes in Slate, in reference to Adam Grant's Give and Take:
Givers construct valuable networks out of all the grateful colleagues who correctly perceive them as selfless and agenda-less. Givers share credit without demanding any in return, which spurs co-workers to flock to their projects. Their generosity earns them deep and lasting respect, which translates into potency. When a known giver has a notion, people are willing to get on board out of a sense that it must come from a place of genuine good will. What's more, Grant argues, givers' justified sense that they are contributing to a greater good helps keep them motivated and fulfilled in their work, which in turn improves their output.