Have you ever tried to persuade a group to take action?
How do you approach the situation? Do you convince people by telling them why you believe your recommendations are the right move? Do you try to get them engaged in your story?
How often do you say, I think or I believe? Think back, when you’re planning for an important persuasive conversation, what goes through your head? Do you think about how you can get people to listen to you?
When you’re trying to move hearts and minds, or get people to take an action, it’s normal to think about how you can get them to engage with YOU.
But it’s not the most effective way to influence others.
Matters Most In Business (2016 Penguin) Burg and Mann unpack the concept of metamessages. Your metamessage is the message underneath your message. When you use the words I, me, and my, more often than you use we, or us, people on the receiving end of your message (correctly) infer the conversation is about you, not them.
Words matter. If you want to influence others, look at your personal pronouns. As one of the mentors in The Go-Giver Leader says, “The word influence means an unseen flow of power. It was first used in the Middle Ages believe it or not as an astrological term from an old French word meaning streaming ethereal power from the stars acting upon our character or destiny.”
When you understand influence as unseen power, you recognize the importance of your metamessage.
One of the reasons I love the Go-Giver series, is because they’re short, easy to read stories that help you internalize core principles without being preachy or academic. Truth be told, I identify with the struggling leader who wants to do the right thing, but doesn’t always have the skills or tools to bring their best intentions forth.
In The Go-Giver Leader, a young executive, Ben, is trying to convince a small business to agree to an acquisition. Even if you’ve never been in that spot yourself, we can all relate to the scenario of trying to convince people to take an action you believe is in their best interests. The Go-Giver Leader story reveals, you’re more likely to be successful if you think less about convincing and more about influencing. The difference seems subtle, yet it’s actually quite distinct.
In the book, Ben comes to realize, influence is more like flow, it’s a pull energy, rather than a push energy. Author Bob Burg says, “We need to learn as leaders
to take your focus off yourself. Taking the focus off yourself and actually focusing more on how you can help people begins the chain of them trusting you and committing to you and your vision.”
Try this test, go back and look at your presentations and read your emails. Think about your conversations with your boss, and even your spouse and kids. Do you use the words I and me more often than you use we and us?
If you truly want to influence others, think about what you have to offer rather than what you want. And if you’re unsure about how you’re being perceived, count your personal pronouns. It tells you (and them) exactly what you’re about.