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Monthly tips to improve the business and practice of members of The Society for the Advancement of Consulting, LLC - Issue #38: November, 2006

rapid influence in social situations

Techniques for rapid influence in meetings, chance encounters, social situations, networking, and so forth:

  • Use the other person's name, but sparingly. Show that you know it and use it respectfully a few times. But when you begin every sentence with the other party's name ("Alan, here's the deal….") it's actually a sign of condescension.
  • Use the other person's points. "I think you're exactly right about education in modern business, and here's what I've done with clients…."
  • Provide options, not "take it or leave it" alternatives. "There are probably three ways to proceed, and all have their advantages and risks…."
  • Don't ever start a sentence with "Yes, but…." Subliminally, it conditions the other person to believe that nothing they say is good enough for you.
  • Use provocative questions. "What did you major in at school?" is a decent question, but "What was your best experience in college?" is a much better one to elicit information.
  • Be well read in business and the arts. This enables you to comment on the latest major film review, or a best-selling book, or an article in that day's Wall Street Journal. Otherwise, you're frozen out of the conversation and no longer an object of interest.
  • Learn to use humor well. Self-effacing or neutral humor eases tension, creates camaraderie, and enables you to gain respect rapidly. It's a fine technique to subtly control the direction of a conversation. Use it without rancor or sarcasm-no one likes a wise-ass or a put-down artist.
  • Ask questions, don't utter absolutes. "Why do you feel that we should seek more credit from the bank?" "If that's true, then shouldn't we be asking several banks to compete for our business?" Propose, don't pontificate.
  • Be brief. Terse and succinct comments are far more powerful than long-winded diatribes. NO ONE enjoys long stories even half as much as the narrator. A pithy comment can carry the day far more quickly than an elongated episode.
  • Watch your language. Even though you may not be with people who know you well (and even if you are), keep your language respectful, clean, and inclusive. You never know what kind of off-handed, ill-considered comment will turn others off.

One further comment about clients and prospects: I treat EVERY occasion as a business occasion. Even if we're having a drink, watching an informal event, or traveling together, I consider myself in a business meeting. I don't drink alcohol, never use profanity, and always show respect, not "chumminess." No matter how convivial the moment, you can't erase it and it will be remembered, for better or for worse. Why take a chance?

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