Influence isn't a Magic Wand

At its core, influence is about understanding people.

Influence – what exactly is it? Well, let’s start by looking at what influence is not. Influence isn’t a magic wand.

Such a mistaken belief is perhaps the reason why I instinctively cringe at books or seminars with titles or marketing pitches that assure you the power to instantly convince others, achieve a positive response from them in less than eight minutes, and similar claims. These often imply that there exists a magical manipulation or a foolproof five-step process which, when followed, guarantees success. The same feeling of discomfort grips me when individuals discuss tactics, tips, and tricks to influence others.

What is influence?

At its core, influence is about understanding people. This involves grasping the ways in which people assimilate information, the processes that shape their thoughts, and the intricate role emotions play in decision making. When you harness this understanding, you can communicate in a manner that makes it cognitively easier for people to say “yes” to you.

Let me illustrate this with a simple example. Suppose I shared the following statistic: the number of people who managed to get what they wanted doubled when they reframed their offer from gain to loss. The chances are high that you would try to do the same in your conversations. However, even though this approach generally encourages significantly more positive responses, you wouldn’t think every reframed request of yours would lead to “yes”. But you’d probably use the approach because doubling your positive responses is pretty darn good!

The Essence of Influence

It’s not a set of techniques or ploys, but rather, an understanding of the human psyche. By understanding the cognitive and emotional dimensions that shape human interactions, you can communicate more effectively, and ethically influence people more consistently.

Influential communication doesn’t seek to manipulate or control, but to create greater understanding and seek mutual benefits. It helps build connections based on empathy and trust. The ability to influence others is not just about getting to a “yes”, but about forging relationships that create impact that is lasting and ethical.

It’s important to realize that while certain behaviors might increase the likelihood of success in influencing others, these approaches don’t guarantee positive outcomes every time. Like many aspects of human behavior, influence is nuanced and complex, with outcomes determined by a multitude of factors beyond the control of any single individual.


So, the next time you find yourself at a seminar promising a magic wand for influence, remember that the real magic lies not in tricks or shortcuts but in a deeper understanding of others and ourselves. It’s about appreciating the richness of human thought and emotion and leveraging this understanding to connect with others on a deeper level. Influence, then, is not just an outcome but an ongoing process of learning and growing.

If you wish to wield influence, shift your focus from seeking power to mastering empathy. Build connections, foster understanding, and you’ll find that true influence follows naturally.

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