How to use your influence for good

How to use your influence for good

Alicia Curtis
Written by: Alicia Curtis
@aliciacurtis
Alicia Curtis

Most change-makers I know are keen to have a positive impact on the world in some way. Traditionally you may have had to be a Prime Minister or wealthy CEO to influence and impact the world.

But the world has changed! You don’t need to be in a position of authority to have the power to positively influence those around you. Tools such as the internet have levelled the playing field and allowed everyday people to have a voice, gather people together for a cause and create momentum. Think about Malala Yousafzai or the #Metoo movement.

What types of power increase your influence?

Social psychologists John French and Bertram Raven discovered that there are six types of influential power and, of those, there are two that everyone has the ability to harness regardless of their standing.

1. Expert Power – Having advanced levels of knowledge about a subject gives you power because people trust you as an expert in your subject area and look to you for guidance. Develop this power by taking courses, reading, attending conferences, finding mentors who challenge your assumptions and constantly stretch your knowledge and understanding.

2. Referent Power – This is the type of power that people wield when they are well-liked and respected. You have this power if you are well-known in your community. Earn this power by always leading with integrity, doing good work, building strong relationships and take bold actions.

As change-makers, we can work on developing these powers to influence our workplaces or communities. Challenge yourself to lead not through position, fear or demands but through something which is far stronger than these – shared values!

Shared values are guiding beliefs that groups and organisations rally around to inspire change and keep people committed to their causes. These are beliefs that excite, guide people’s actions and help define identities. Most importantly, they’re the emotionally-charged fuel that enables leaders to influence their followers.

Tap into Emotions and Get Personal

According to Harvard Business researcher Dr. John P. Kotter, most people fail to be influential because they try to influence others using logic, convinced that facts will make others listen to them.

However, research shows emotional appeals can be more persuasive. This is because the same part of your brain that you use to make decisions also controls emotions, causing the two to be intertwined. If you want to influence people to take action or adopt new ideas, you can’t just tell them why they should do it; you have to make them feel it. So, basically, how you make people feel will impact your ability to influence and make change.

How do you make people feel?

Consider these avenues of power you can exert everyday

1. Speak up – consider how you communicate with those who you know, including your family, friends and colleagues. Can you raise awareness about an issue? Can you support an event through sharing it? Consider the ways you can share more – perhaps on social media, in your workplace or just with your friends.

2. Share your expertise – can you use your knowledge, networks and expertise to support a cause by sitting on a community organisation board?

3. Consumer power – every time you purchase something, you are supporting it. Choose carefully and support business and brands that contribute something to the world.

4. Philanthropy – philanthropy is just a fancy word for carefully considering how to give funds (or time) to have a positive impact in the world. You don’t have to be rich and famous to make a donation. Just start with a small goal of thoughtfully giving 1% of your earnings this year.

5. Resources – what resources do you have at your disposal? Can you influence your workplace to support a charity, offer a space to an event or meeting or use your profile to help build momentum for a cause?

I really do believe that people just don’t know how influential they can be. We have everything at our fingertips – access to knowledge, access to platforms to have a say, access to resources.

Don’t Forget!

In a Harvard Business Review article, Ben Laker and Charmi Patel outline a number of ways that you can increase your influence with one on one.

1. Build rapport – building rapport with the people that you want to influence will strengthen the interpersonal connections and trust that you have with them. Get to know people, dig a little deeper then you usually would – find out their purpose and passions in life, consider how you can support them.

2. Be an active listener – influencing isn’t just about telling people what to do or buy, it’s about understanding what will make them want to do these things. To learn this, you must first listen to them, understand what their motivations are and be empathetic about what they tell you. Practice asking good questions and listening.

3. Be focused and set an example – you can’t influence someone to change if you have not made that change yourself. Often I’ve found this is the best way to influence. Great influence comes from sharing your own experiences, and showing someone that the change you made could be great for them too.

The real question is: Are you ready to step up?

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