Learn How to Increase Your Influence

increase your influence

By Yvonne Milosevic

Do you consider yourself a charismatic person? Many of us could learn a thing or two about charisma and the art of persuasion. If you want to increase your influence on others, it helps to understand a few basic principles. And it all starts with alligators and judges.

As Yale SOM professor Zoe Chance’s new book, Influence is Your Superpower, explains, our decision-making falls into two categories: Gator (visceral) and Judge (rational). The Gator “is the first responder, lurking below the surface of conscious awareness and governing emotions and habitual behavior,” says Chance. “It’s also, importantly, very, very lazy.”

The Judge, meanwhile, is the second-guesser who makes a conscious, slow, and deliberate effort to make a rational judgment.

We’d like to believe we make most of our decisions after analyzing the facts. But in truth, the Gator is responsible for 95% of our decisions and behavior. So, if you want to increase your influence on others, the trick is to connect with the Gator, as Chance explains in this Yale SOM-hosted author talk.

Work the Three Ms

We have to get past the Gator as a gatekeeper for the Judge to pay any attention. –Zoe Chance

Chance’s framework categories for getting the Gator’s attention focus on the three “Ms”: monumental, manageable, and mysterious. Monumental emphasizes how important the thing in question is. “The Gator brain thinks, ‘uh-oh, what if I didn’t pay attention? That would be a mistake’,” says Chance.

Next up is manageable, which doesn’t mean less important, it just means easier—which Gators like. Finally, mysterious works because it provokes curiosity. “This connects with the Gator brain by saying there’s a pattern break here and you don’t know what to expect,” Chance notes.

A perfect example, she says, is a book famous the world over: Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. In one effective tag line, you have the monumental (Life-Changing), mysterious (Magic), and manageable (Tidying Up). “I even bought that book, and I hate housekeeping!” Chance admits.

Hacks to Increase Your Influence

Influence is Your Superpower covers many practical strategies you can use to increase your influence on others. We’ll preview three salient tips for you here.

Express warmth. In this Q&A with publisher Penguin Random House, Chance says that a vital strategy for playing to the Gator’s snap judgment tendencies when meeting someone is to actively express warmth. “Liking-judgments happen first. They’re more powerful, and they’re stickier,” she explains.

“Warmth is the biggest factor determining whether we like someone. If we do, we’re willing to forgive a lot of flaws. If we don’t, it almost doesn’t matter how smart or talented they are.”

Avoid verbal diminishers. “Diminishers are hard to listen to, easy to interrupt, and astonishingly common,” Chance says. She calls out phrases such as “I was wondering,” “Can I ask a stupid question?” and “I’m sorry, but…” that weaken your message. You won’t find them in the linguistic arsenal of people adept at influencing others.

Chance considers diminishers “the human equivalent of a dog rolling over to expose his belly or neck. We tend to use them when we feel our safety or well-being may depend on being liked.”

Ask the Magic Question. Finally, the question “What will it take?” is a favorite of Chance’s Yale SOM students. (She teaches “Mastering Influence and Persuasion,” the most popular course at Yale School of Management.) It’s also a strategy you can use in your professional and personal life.

When someone gives you the answer, says Chance, they’re giving you the roadmap to getting the outcome you want. “You can ask it of any person at any time and you can even ask it of the same person repeatedly,” she says. “It sparks a mindset of collaborative problem-solving, which feels good to people.”

But wait—there’s more!

For useful tips on how to come off as more confident, hop over to this post: Improve Your Executive Presence.