Career Lunch & Learn: Influencing Others When Nobody Seems to be Listening

Hi, I’m Whitney Espich, the CEO
of the MIT Alumni Association, and I hope you enjoy this
digital production created for alumni and friends like you. Good afternoon from Cambridge. Thank you for joining today’s
Career Lunch and Learn Program, Influencing Others When
No One Seems to be Listening. My name is Erin Hollis, and
I’m an Associate Director here at the MIT Alumni
Association, and I’ll be serving as your
moderator for today. As a reminder, our webinar
is being broadcast live. Throughout the program, you
may submit your questions using the Q&A feature
in your Zoom toolbar. If you don’t automatically
see your toolbar, simply drag your mouse across
the edges of your screen until it reappears. We’ll be using the
polling feature today. When you see the poll
pop up on your screen, simply select your
answer and hit Submit. For all our listeners
joining via YouTube, you may add your questions
to the comments fields. You will notice a
question, an example on the slide that’s currently
being displayed on your screen. In preparation for
today’s presentation, it would be helpful to be
thinking of a recent influence conversation that did
not go well for you, perhaps a time where
you walked away from a conversation feeling
dissatisfied or upset with the outcome. Not to worry, though, if you
haven’t had time to do this. The presentation will
still be helpful to you, and the presentation will
be available on YouTube after the broadcast today. And we’ll share more
information on how to access that later in the presentation. Now I’d like to
introduce our presenter for today, Stacy Lennon. Stacy, welcome. Hi. Thank you. Great to be here. We’ll provide a brief
introduction for Stacy. Stacy has over 20
years of experience as a negotiation
advisor, a coach, a trainer for clients
in North America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East,
and the Sub-Saharan Africa. Stacy’s consulting work focuses
on helping her clients more clearly and explicitly link
thought, action, and results, whether the client’s
goal is to manage a multilateral negotiation,
align internal stakeholders, create a successful
joint venture, increase sales, or
improve a relationship with a crucial supplier,
customer, partner, or stakeholder. Stacy has worked with
thousands of people in industries ranging from
technology to manufacturing, from humanitarian aid
to investment banking. Clients have included BAE,
Microsoft, Pixar, Intel, Merck, Chevron, and The World
Health Organization, among many others. Currently Stacy teaches
leadership and negotiation at Tufts Gordon Institute. In 2016, she founded
S-Squared Consulting, focusing on gender-related
dimensions of negotiation. With that, Stacy, I’m going
to turn things over to you. Great. Thank you, Erin. I am really excited to be here
with all of you virtually. I run into MIT alums
periodically in my work with clients, but
I’ve never gotten to talk to such a huge
group of them at once. So I’m excited for
that opportunity. So let me set the stage a
little bit for what we’re going to do together over this hour. For those of you wondering,
it’s not a natural progression to go from MIT into the world
of negotiation consulting. So just a brief
explanation there. I was course four in ’11 at MIT. I did a joint degree. And in my last semester of– not my last semester,
my last IAP, I took a negotiation
class, and it sparked this interest that
actually inspired me to make a big career shift. So I worked as a planner
for a couple of years, but then got into
this line of work. And so I look forward
to sharing with you things that I’ve
learned, both in my years of working with clients,
but also drawing on recent research in social
science, behavioral economics, neurobiology,
sociology, psychology. That’s what I love
about my work. It’s so interdisciplinary,
and there’s so much to learn about us
quirky human beings. So let me just set the stage. And I should say a big thank you
to Erin and Ellen and Kate, who wrote the blog piece. You guys are extremely
good at your jobs. You made it very fun and easy
for me to get ready for this. So thank you for that. So let me set the stage
here for what we’re going to talk about together. First question, perhaps,
on your mind is well, what do we even
mean by influence? So here is what I
mean by influence, as we talk together this hour. It’s really your ability to
affect the thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, or decisions
of another person. So let me say a few things
about that definition. First, notice that the word
“control” appears nowhere in that definition. And influence really
is not the same thing as controlling somebody
else or compelling anybody to make the decisions that
you want them to make. In my line of work, and I
think in life generally, control is a bit of an illusion. Influencing people
is not about– I don’t have the Jedi mind
tricks to magically guarantee results every time. What I do have is a lot
of practical experience and just the wisdom
of research that helps us understand what are the
most likely approaches you can take to enhance the probability
that you will be able to effect the thoughts,
beliefs, decisions, or actions of another person. If any of you have
children, you really understand the
limits of control. I have every power advantage
you think of over my kids, but I still can’t make them do
stuff as simple as, like, don’t use Mommy’s stapler. Right? As I’m out of sight,
there they are, breaking my stapler
again and again. All right. So today isn’t about giving you
Jedi mind tricks or an ability to control other people. It is about giving
you techniques to enhance your effectiveness. Secondly, we are
influencing all the time. The vast majority
of your interactions with other human
beings in this world are really about trying
to influence them in one way or another. And frankly, we are naturals
at it, in the following sense. We came into this world,
and as infants, we did not have an
ability to get all of our needs met on our own. So we had instinctive,
automatic methods of influencing the bigger
human beings around us to do things like feed
us and clothe us and keep us safe and warm. Right? We learned how to cry and
scream out of the gate. Now, hopefully you
have all expanded your repertoire of influence
techniques in the years since. I trust that that is the case. Maybe you know people
that really did not ever expand their repertoire,
but I’m assuming I’m operating with people
who, frankly, you probably have approaches to your
influence challenges that work for you
a lot of the time. So I’m also coming
into this assuming that there’s sort of a
baseline amount of skill and success with all of
you that are attending this webinar right
now, but that there are times when your usual
ways of influencing others, they fall down. They don’t work for you. You walk away scratching
your head, wondering, why didn’t that thing work? They seem to be more
upset rather than less, and I didn’t get what I
needed out of that situation. And so today, I hope
what I can offer up are a few areas where there’s
some low hanging fruit, where there are some ways in which
we actually get in our own way when we’re trying to
influence other people. And so here I will just
add one more thing, which is I want to acknowledge
that some of the influence challenges that you are dealing
with are likely very complex and go beyond or will
not be easily solved by the techniques I’m
going to talk about today. So any time you’re
in a situation with many, many
stakeholders, that’s a big structural challenge
around influence, that these techniques can help,
but they won’t fully solve. So certainly, for
those of you that have very complex
challenges, you can reach out to me
after the webinar if you’re looking for more. So the third thing
I will say is this. The techniques that I’m going
to talk through with you today, in my view, they’re really– they may not be
designed to do this, but I think a useful byproduct
of using this set of techniques and approaches is
that we can genuinely strengthen those relationships
that matter to us, both at work and at home. I think some people perhaps
may be wondering or thinking, all right, so is
this going to be a webinar with a bunch of ideas
on how to manipulate people? Because I don’t know
what I think about that. And here I would say, you
can be the judge of that at the end of this session. Did this sound like
a bunch of techniques to really bamboozle people? You be the judge. I tend to draw a pretty
strong distinction between manipulation and these
kinds of influence techniques. In my mind, manipulation
looks like this. You walk away from an
exchange, and at some point, sooner or later, if you feel
like you’ve been manipulated, you start having some
remorse and some upset and some negative
reaction to what happened. Like, ugh, I can’t believe they
got me to agree to that thing. I’m really annoyed by that. And now I’m going
to work to get out of anything I may have agreed
to that now I don’t think was a good idea for me. I’m going to have some
suspicion and distrust of you. And I’m certainly going to
be more wary the next time I’m engaging with you. Those should not be
byproducts of the techniques I’m going to talk about. But again, you be the judge. So who this is webinar
really designed for? Who can it be helpful for? In a nutshell, everybody. Because like I said, we’re
all influencing all the time. We all run into challenges
at one point or another. And so I don’t care if
you are the most technical individual contributor. You sit in your cubicle,
or you sit in your lab, and you rarely
interact with people, except to send out your data. I don’t care if
that’s your role, you are still influencing people
to take your data seriously, to do something with
your data, or you could be a leader
managing teams, hundreds or thousands of people. I don’t care if you’re
the quietest introvert the world has known, or the
most gregarious extrovert, we can all get better at
our influencing skills. My husband is the natural
athlete in our family. He has awesome
hand-eye coordination. I have terrible
hand-eye coordination. But you know what? I can get better, even though
I’m not a natural at it. So that’s the spirit
in which I invite you to engage with us today. So lastly, I did invite
you to be thinking about a real influence challenge
that is fairly recent for you, didn’t go well. And I invited you to write down
some of the exchanges of what happened in that conversation. If you did that, awesome. If you haven’t had
a chance to do that, I do invite you to think about
a specific influence challenge and at least have it in
your head as we go along. And if you can’t
think of anything that has happened in the recent
past, in the last two months, three months, you
can think generally about the kinds of
influence challenges that are on your plate. And here, just to give me a
sense of the range of influence challenges that you
may be thinking about, would you just type
into the chat box what’s the basic nature of
the influence challenge that’s on your mind. That you wrote up or
maybe you didn’t write up, but is in your head. What kind of
influence challenges are you hoping to get some
ideas about in this session? Go ahead and write that
into the chat window, and I’ll just see
what kinds of examples come in, to just give me a
handle on what you’re facing. OK. So getting a strategy approved. I’m not being recognized. I’m trying to get
executive buy-in to tackle a technical problem. What kind of work projects
I get to do at work. Getting people to buy
into our technology. Dealing with somebody
who is manipulative. Working with a superior. Interviewing, building
trust with my team. Personal relationship,
being heard. OK, great. So there’s a lot on your plate. As I said, I’m
hoping that what I’m going to be talking about
today you’ll find relevant in one way or another. Great that I saw at least
a couple of examples that were in your personal lives. So all the same
dynamics that are getting in our way of
influencing more effectively at work, those same
dynamics are showing up at home, and in our communities,
and with our neighborhoods, and with our kids’ teachers. So you can be thinking about a
very wide range of challenges as we go along. OK, Great. So I’m glad to
see so many of you have something
specific in your head. So let’s jump forward. The key question
is what can I do when people aren’t listening? And there are actually
different versions of not listening, by the way. One version of people
aren’t listening to me is really, they
are not, literally, hearing me or taking
my ideas into account or even responding,
acknowledging that I’m saying things. That’s one version of
people aren’t listening. Another version is
they’re hearing me, but I’m just not
getting much engagement, and my ideas are falling flat. They’re kind of
running out of gas. It’s not going anywhere. That’s another version
of not listening. Yet another version
of not listening is I’m getting active resistance
or reactions to my ideas. And so for me, listening
means you’re agreeing with me or doing something
with my ideas, and right now, I’m
running into brick walls or arguments or
people are objecting in one way or another. So wherever you
are in the people aren’t listening to
me frame of mind, there are a few
things that we can do to improve our ability to
get through and gain traction with other people. I’m going to be talking about
three really classic mistakes that I see people make. This is through my years
of work with thousands of people in lots of
different industries. There are three really
practical and tangible ways that we get in our own way. And the good news is there
are some relatively easy fixes for the three mistakes
that I’m going to be talking about today. And so the first one that I’m
going to talk about is this. We all have comfort
levels and habits around how we tend to
engage in conversation and how we verbalize
our thoughts and views. The first mistake that I see
people make over and over again is that we tend not to
adjust our level of directness to the context, to
the people involved, to the expectations
that may be in play in the conversation or
the meeting or the working relationship. So I grew up in the
Midwest, and there’s like a real “Midwest
nice” kind of sensibility there, where people don’t
voice, very openly, criticism or negative things. It’s sort of seen as impolite. And so there’s a great deal
of indirectness, at least in my family of origin,
that we communicated in ways that just did not name
the problem out of the gate. Now, I have a brother-in-law,
John, who grew up in Queens, and his upbringing was
almost the polar opposite. He has three brothers,
and their favorite thing to do at meal time was have
giant political debates. Half of them are Republicans,
half of them are Democrats, and they would go at each other. And just the most scathing
criticisms and arguments would fly across the table,
and at the end of it, they would all be like,
oh, that was awesome. Meanwhile, I would be wilting
like a flower in the corner if I was part of
that conversation. So we have tendencies and
habits around how direct or indirect we are, and
we tend not to adjust those for the context. So I want to share this cartoon. I love this cartoon. I think it’s a New
Yorker cartoon. People around a table at a
meeting, with one of the men saying, “that’s an excellent
suggestion, Miss Triggs. Perhaps one of the men here
would like to make it.” I love this cartoon. It never fails to get a laugh. Virtually everyone
can relate to this. Women in particular
can relate to it, but it’s not necessarily
a gendered phenomenon. A lot of us have that
experience of saying the thing in the meeting that we
thought was a good idea, or we flagged an issue that
should be talked about, whatever it is, and
it sort of fell flat. And then Jamie, 10 minutes
later, voices the same thing, and everybody’s like,
oh, great though, Jamie. Super frustrating, right? And then Jamie gets credit. So annoying. OK? We get that. Now, I want to be
clear in saying there could be a lot of
different kinds of dynamics in play in a meeting or
a conversation like this. There could be some
organizational, some cultural norms
that are not very healthy that tend to emphasize
some voices over others. It could also be the person
running that particular meeting is not particularly skilled
at facilitating a conversation where everybody’s voice
can be in the conversation. But what I want to talk
about is another possibility, which is that Miss
Triggs has not adjusted her level of directness
to be appropriate for the group that she’s working with. And here’s what I mean by that. There’s something called the
Mitigated Speech Scale that talks about in different ways or
different levels of directness in how we communicate
with each other. So Malcolm Gladwell references
this in one of his books. I first read about it in the
context of airplane crashes, where it was determined that
it was pilot error for some of these airplane crashes. And upon further
investigation, there were these cockpit conversations
between copilots and pilots that were totally ineffective. And more specifically is that
the copilot, in at least one of these examples, was
noticing a problem. An instrument reading was off,
or they had a visual on ice on the wing, even though
they had just been deiced. And that copilot was trying
to signal to the pilot that there was a problem,
and they should not take off until they address the problem. And the problem
in those accidents was that the copilot
spoke up too indirectly. So let me just talk you through
what this scale includes. So at the bottom of the
scale, the most indirect way that we can voice anything
is through a hint. So let’s imagine– let’s go away
from Miss Triggs for a moment. But let’s imagine that
it’s Monday morning, some colleague of yours promised
to have a report in your inbox by 8:00 AM, and now it’s
noon, and you don’t have it. And then you see his
colleague in the hall. So a hint would sound
something like this. You ask, oh, how
was your weekend? So the thing about a hint
is that it’s so indirect that it’s slightly off-topic. Right? There’s an embedded
message in here, but it’s really easy for
the target of your hint to totally miss it. And by the way, hinting
is like the definition of passive aggressiveness. And it turns out to be fairly
ineffective and irritating for both people involved. The hinter is mad or
irritated that the person didn’t get the hint. Like, why don’t you get it? I made a sarcastic comment
about your weekend. Don’t you understand
that you blew off the thing you promised me? Meanwhile, the person who
has been hinted to, they don’t get it. It does fly over their head. And if they later get wind of
what you were really after, they’re annoyed because
they’re thinking, well, how was I supposed
to read your mind? How hard would it have been
to just ask me about it? If you had something to say,
you should have just said so. So this is the most
indirect way we can engage. We can do better. So we could instead
make an observation. And so, oh, gosh. I don’t see the
report in my inbox. All right. That’s a little
better than a hint, but it’s still a little
hard to read what you want or what you’re after. Maybe you ask a question. Were you able to get to it? Were you able to finish
it over the weekend? OK. That’s moving up the
scale of directness. So another version, you
could offer a suggestion. You could send it
to me after lunch. Or you could make
a recommendation. A recommendation
might be, you really should get it to me ASAP. And then the most direct
version of communicating is issuing a directive
or a command. And here, go send me
the document right now would be a version of
directing or commanding. So part of the problem is
we have these comfort zones. We tend to land in particular
places on this scale. We don’t adjust it. So if we go back to the
Miss Triggs example, it’s possible that
what she verbalized was in the form of an
observation or a question, and it did actually fly over
the heads of other people in the room, except for Jamie,
who did hear it and then just was thinking on
it for a few minutes. And then when Jamie
spoke up, Jamie spoke up higher on the scale. Jamie made a
recommendation, perhaps. And so that recommendation
was direct enough for people to hear it
and take it on board and then respond to it. So the advice I
offer around this is one, be aware of where
your tendencies are. I tend to be lower down on
this scale out of habit, but I’ve certainly
learned how to adjust, given the audience, the
expectations, who the decision makers are in the room,
what my relationships are to those people, and I will
make adjustments periodically. So let me– the example that
I had put on screen early on, if you were
going to write up your own personal example to
track through this session, this is the sample. Let me just read it
through, because we’re going to refer to this a few times. So this is an actual exchange
that a client of mine had. The client was the manager and
is the me in this circumstance. And so the manager
says, “please provide your quarterly
self-assessment by tomorrow.” Their employee is the them. “I’m busy with high
priority tasks. I don’t think I’ll be able
to get it to you by then. I asked you two weeks ago. I really need it tomorrow. There’s no way I
can get it done. Me, it’s not an option. Please turn it in by tomorrow. OK, I’ll try, but
I can’t guarantee that I’ll get it to you.” And then our manager,
me, is saying, oh, great. “I’m looking forward to
receiving it tomorrow.” So by the way, what are
the odds that our boss is going to get the
assessment by tomorrow? I mean, probably zero. Right? So if we look at this
example for how direct or indirect was the boss being? The boss was trying to
influence the employee to get me this thing that I need. How direct or
indirect were they? Here, I would say, actually,
that the boss is really kind of heavy on
directing or commanding. Really at the top of the scale. And so I wanted to use this
example partly because I think it speaks to a false assumption
that we sometimes make, which there’s a sort
of two-fold assumption. One is that a lot of us have
these influence challenges, and we think, oh, God,
if I was just the boss, I could finally get things done. People would finally listen
to me and do what I ask. Well, you know what? This is one very clear
example where being the boss does not always
solve the problem. You still have to rely on
influence a lot of the time. But secondly, people can
also make an assumption that when there is a
status differential, and I’m in a higher status
role, I am the boss, or I have more experience,
I’m the more tenured person or whatever, I can get away with
more direct speech, especially if I’m talking down the chain. And so here we do see a
manager engaging in directive or commanding type of speech. And by the way, do not be
thrown by the word please that’s showing up in the
boss’s text here. If you just cover
up the word please, you can see pretty clearly the
boss is saying, get it to me. Do it. Make it happen. And so here I would
say one of the mistakes that this boss or manager
is making right now is they’re over relying on too
direct a mode of communication to get through. And so here, I would
be coaching the manager to consider experimenting
with some moves that are lower down on that scale. For example, making
an observation or asking a question. Even better, combining the two. So maybe it sounds
like, all right. It looks like you’re
juggling a lot right now. Talk to me about how
you’re making decisions about what to prioritize. So notice already how
different the exchange is likely to be if
this manager moves away from command or direct and into
observation, asking questions, or lower down on the scale. So here I think we have
a poll question, Erin? Yes. Let me just get that up. OK. Everyone should see that
question on your screen. So this is referring back
to the influence example that Stacy had asked
everyone to be considering. Yeah. And again, if you don’t have
a specific example in mind, you can think more generally. Where do you think
you can tend to fall. That’s fine. I’m just going to wait a moment. People are still voting. It’s great. We have about 900 alumni
viewers at the moment. Terrific. All right. I’m going to end the poll
here and share the results. Stacy, can you see
that on your screen? I can, yes. OK. So quite a range. Yeah, great. So I’m glad to see hinting
is relatively low percentage, although maybe I put
people off of admitting it, when I was like, that’s
super passive aggressive. And relatively low percentage
in the directive or command. So generally
speaking, I would say there is a sweet spot in
those other categories between these two extremes,
and many of you are there. But what I would
say is you might want to experiment with just
make some adjustments up or down. So if you tend to be making an
observation fairly frequently, see what it sounds like to turn
that into a suggestion instead. Or if you’re in the business
of making recommendations, what would it be like
to back off of that and ask a question about
it or make an observation. Would that make a
difference in the kind of response or engagement
you’re getting from others? All right. So we’ll close this,
and we’ll move forward. So the first mistake, we don’t
adjust our level of directness. So my prescription here is do
some experimentation up or down on trying out different
levels of directness with the Mitigated Speech Scale. So let’s move on to
the second mistake. This one, I see chronically,
chronically, chronically, all the time, with all
clients in every sector. We talk about our needs. Now, when we’re
influencing other people, we make a really
common assumption– it’s not a bad assumption– and it goes something like this. If I want them to agree with me
or to do something different, they have to know what I want,
what I need, what I care about. Right? They have to know
my perspective. So that’s going
to lead me to talk about my own needs, my views,
my perspective, et cetera. What is wrong with that? Here, what I would
say is the thing that is wrong with that is this. Oftentimes, when we get so
focused on our own needs and broadcasting them to
the other person, hey, you’ve got to know what
I’m trying to solve for, so you can help me solve it,
what we tend to downplay, ignore, or sometimes
just drive right over, is the other person’s needs. So in some of your
influence challenges, maybe what you’re thinking is well,
I need additional resources. I need buy-in on a
strategic plan I have. I need data from your team. I need your edits on
this thing by tomorrow. I need your approval
to move this forward. I need better performance
out of you or your team. I need your cooperation. I need your agreement
on particular terms. I need you to listen to me. There’s nothing wrong
with these, per se. The problem is what is the
other person thinking about. Whose needs are they focused on? They’re going to be
focused on their own needs. So while you are busy
crafting your best argument, you’re putting forth
the best reasons why they should take your
needs into account, they’re busy
thinking things like, I’m already over
budget for the quarter. I don’t have budget
to offer you up. There are other priorities. I don’t have time for this. The thing you want actually
just makes my life worse because it’s more
work on my plate. Or I don’t really
see the problem here. You keep pushing me to solve
something that I don’t even see as a difficulty. I don’t want to set
a bad precedent. If I say yes to you,
that’s going to set me up for a whole bunch of other
people asking for this thing, and I can’t say
yes to all of them. The higher ups will
never agree to the terms that you’re asking for. I won’t be able to get sign off. I need you to listen to me. So while you are busy trying
to get them to pay attention to your needs, their heads are
really full of their needs. And so that’s problematic for
you for at least two reasons. One is they can’t hear you. Their internal voice
is really loud with all of this kind of stuff. Because people are
fundamentally self-interested, and they are going to care
probably more about their needs than they do about yours. And so if the thing that you’re
asking them for or wanting from them actually creates
difficulty or conflict, their head is going to be
really busy making those counter arguments, so that your
good ideas actually aren’t going to get through. As human beings,
we can’t multitask. There’s lots of data emerging
and lots of experiments I run with clients that show
that we can’t hold these two simultaneous sets of
ideas in our head at once. So one, you’re not
going to get through. But two, the thing
you may be asking for really doesn’t meet
any of those needs, or like I said, it creates
more problems for them, and so they really
don’t see there’s anything in it for them. Does that make sense? So you are essentially trying to
push your agenda, if you will, whatever your agenda is, often
without taking into account what’s on their
plate, and what would be the win or the positive
or the net upside for them if they agreed with you. So the basic advice that
I have on this front is you want to take some
time, ideally in advance of these exchanges, these
influence conversations you’re trying have, to step
into their shoes. And you’re really trying to
figure out a few key things. One, what are they
really worried about? What are their needs? What’s in their
head, whether it’s different priorities, the
precedent concerns, et cetera. And what might make them
want to say yes to me? We’re starting to go
now in a direction of reverse engineering. OK? So if currently, you’re getting
some kind of resistance, they’re not listening to you
because you’re not addressing their needs, what might
you need to address that would shift their
thinking and make them say, huh, so
this is intriguing. This actually solves
a few problems for me, rather than creates
new problems. Maybe I’m going to
say yes to this. And once you’ve
done that, then you want to think about
how can I be adjusting the proposal
[INAUDIBLE] the thing I’ve [INAUDIBLE] asking
you for, the suggestion I’m making, the concern I’m
raising, to take all of that into account. So I think at this point,
we have a second poll. Erin? And so here, I
want to invite you to think about your own
influence challenge. Here we go. So question two. How well do you understand the
other person’s needs, concerns, worries, et cetera? So this is just a
gut check answer. It’s not scientific,
but it’s where do you think you are in terms
of how well you currently understand that other person’s
needs, hopes, concerns, fears. OK. I’ll just give everyone
a moment to vote. OK. I’m going to close out the poll. All right. OK. Great. So the 23% of you that you
know them extremely well, good. I want to focus right now on
the remainder, so that’s the 77% of you, that are something
short of really deeply understand your counter-point’s
interests and needs. So how do you find out what
they really care about? Well, maybe there are some
educated guesses you can make. You know them well enough
that if you put pen to paper and really try to climb
into their shoes, OK, I could probably figure it out. A lot of us don’t take the
time to actually do that. So that would be an initial
step I would recommend. But secondly, the
very best source on what this person
really cares about, what they’re worried about, or
what the obstacles are for you, is them. And so what this step
really argues for is having a conversation
with them that is really focused on discovery. It’s really focused
on understanding what for you is the core
problem of my proposal? What’s holding you back? What’s giving you heartburn? What else is on your plate
that may be pushing my thing to the bottom of the list? So that conversation
where you’re really focused on learning
and unearthing from them what’s going on. What you’re looking
for is information that you could then take back
and reshape your proposal. OK. A couple of things on this. You’ve got to go into that
discovery conversation with a spirit of curiosity. You genuinely want to know
what makes them tick, what’s making them say no to you. You cannot go in asking a
whole bunch of gotcha questions designed to trap them. That is the opposite
of finding out what your core
obstacles are, and it’s going to shut them down
and create defensiveness, and they’ll be super
annoyed with you. So you don’t want
to go in with that. This is not an interrogation. You’re not scripting
your questions that are yes, no, and
designed to get them to admit weaknesses and fault. You really want to
go in and just, hey, I want to understand
what’s happening for you. I thought this was a really
straight forward idea. I thought it was going to be an
easy yes, and it’s clearly not, and I just want to
understand more about that. So for those 77% of you that
are somewhere short of fully understanding your
counterparts’ perspective, I really do recommend some
kind of discovery exchange. So the second thing I’ll say
about doing that discovery piece of work is that
when we are trying to influence somebody,
we care about the topic, and we’re under some kind
of pressure, time pressure, or it’s a high profile
thing, and so lots of people are watching, and so we’re
under pressure to get results. All of our discovery and
question asking skills go out the window. If you looked back
at your transcript, for those of you that wrote
a transcript, of I said this, and they said that,
and et cetera, I predict that there would be
either zero questions from you, maybe one question, but
most of the statements that you wrote down would
be exactly that, statements. Advocacy. Pressing your case. Because again and again,
and I’ve run this experiment with thousands of people, I
will simulate conditions of you care about the thing. You’re trying to
change somebody’s mind, and there’s pressure around it. And again and
again, the behavior that shows up in
those situations is we stop asking questions. We stop being curious
about what’s in their head and why they’re saying
no, and we go to statement making and pressing our case. So there are probably a couple
of outliers in this group, we’re a large enough group,
that maybe some of you are asking lots of
questions, but even if you are asking
lots of questions in your personal
transcript, I would press you to really look at
the quality of those questions. Are they really curiosity-based,
open-ended, really designed to help you learn something you
don’t already know, or are they rhetorical questions, or
you don’t really think that, do you? Which I would argue that’s
not really a question. That’s an embedded
view that comes out of your mouth with sort of
a question mark at the end. So what we’re aiming for is
you want to have a discovery conversation that you put aside
your own influence purposes, at least for that exchange. You need better
information in order to craft a better proposal
that will get you that yes that you’re after. So let’s come back
to the example that we looked at earlier. So this is the
boss trying to get the quarterly self-assessment. So if we thought for
a moment about well, what are the employee’s
concerns or needs? Here, you can probably guess
at least a couple of them from this exchange
that’s already happened. So the employee is
probably concerned about failing to meet deadlines
on high priority projects that are on their plate. And potentially, they’re also
concerned about spending time on this task that
seems like busy work. It doesn’t seem to
hold much value. It’s a waste of time. So if we took those as the
core concerns of the employee, then the question
becomes, all right. How can our boss
adjust the request that they’re making in order
to get a better outcome. If at the end of the
day, what the boss wants is I need that
assessment completed. I’m trying to influence
this person to do that. Then if I’m the
boss, I might want to adjust my proposal in
one of the following ways. Maybe you control
the other products on this person’s plate. Maybe you can change the
timeline or the deadlines on the high priority stuff. Maybe you could temporarily
reassign the high priority project. Maybe somebody else can handle
the work for the amount of time it takes that person to
go do the assessment. Maybe you can spring
for lunch, so it’s a working lunch, where
this employee, or everybody who hasn’t done the
assessment, can just do it over their
lunch hour, depending how much time it takes. Maybe you triage the assessment. Maybe there are
some portions of it that are really the high
priority, especially needed by tomorrow, but there
are other portions that could wait longer. So maybe you triage
it, prioritize it. And this last one,
this can really get into the performance
management space. If the self-assessment is part
of a performance evaluation process, if you’re the boss
or part of the leadership, you might want to
consider ways to make that assessment actually be
more valuable to your employees. If it’s a paper
assessment that just gets filed with
their personnel file, and nobody ever does
anything with it, it’s no wonder that they
see it as low value, and they don’t want to do it. So this would be a bigger
effort and longer term and involve other things,
but that is another way that you could change the kind
of results that you’re getting, at least, over the longer term. So the way it
sounds, by the way, when you’re having
these conversations, you want to approach a
follow-up conversation with the following. So based on what I’ve
learned from you, I know that you’re concerned
about X and Y and Z, and I’ve come up with a way that
I think we could address that. And then here’s a third
part that I really strongly recommend
that you include when you’re putting forward your
new proposal to your target. Add this bit. So what am I missing? What would be wrong with this? And I really strongly
suggest this last bit. Because there is this very
counterintuitive truth about being influential,
and it is this. You become more
influential when you demonstrate that you yourself
are willing to be influenced. So adding this third
bit, what am I missing, what did I not
take into account, what do we still need
to talk through here, that signals to the
other person that you’re willing to have a
dialogue about it. You are not being so rigid about
so this is my new solution, and you have to agree to my
new solution, no matter what. It is signaling, OK. Maybe this is off. Maybe this needs to change yet
again, and I’m open to that. There’s just that funny
thing in human behavior that we really respond. I will be influenced
by you when I see that you are willing
to be influenced by me. All right. So if that second classic
mistake that I see all the time is that we tend to over focus
on talking about our own needs, then the antidote to that is
really this reverse-engineering [INAUDIBLE] process. You want to find out and
then speak to the things that the other person is really
concerned about that right now are creating an obstacle
or resistance in them that they don’t want
to say yes to you because their own needs– there’s not really a
win in it for them. All right. So let’s talk about
the third mistake that I see rather frequently. So this one is all
about we inadvertently sometimes create
emotional reactions in our influence targets. We don’t totally
realize we’re doing it. We’re probably not
doing it on purpose. But nonetheless, we step
on people’s core concerns– which I’ll describe
in a moment– and that in turn causes
people to say no to us, to disregard us, to ignore
us, to not listen to us. So what do I mean
by core concerns? So in our working
relationships– and frankly, in personal relationships
too, but let’s talk about work relationships. We all have a set
of core concerns. Sometimes we call them
emotional interests. So this comes out
of some research done at the Harvard Negotiation
Project, Roger Fisher, Dan Shapiro. They teamed up to look
at the role of emotions in negotiation. And what they postulated
was that people have these core sets of needs
in working relationships that they want to have well met. And so those needs
include the following. So the first one is autonomy. What do I get to control
or decide in this exchange, in this conversation. What am I in charge of? If you’ve ever had
a micro-manager, they’re stepping on
autonomy all the time, and that creates a big reaction. Right? So second core
interest, affiliation. We want to be part of things. We want to be in the
loop and consulted. We’re in the know, and sometimes
that can get stepped on in these exchanges. Appreciation. We all want to know
that people just see how hard we’re working here. Appreciation can
really drop out fast in core working
relationships, especially for really smart, very
problem-solving oriented people. We tend to focus on
the squeaky wheel. Let’s just solve for the thing
that isn’t working right now, and we take for granted all
the stuff that is working. So appreciation can
drop out really quickly. Role. Here what I mean
is we have a way of telling the
story of our lives as stories, where
there are characters. And any good story, as you
know, has heroes and villains. And human beings like to
be cast more so in the hero role than the villain role. Inadvertently, you may be
casting the other person as the villain or bad guy
in your influence challenge. That can be very
off-putting for them. And then status has to do
with the amount of deference or respect that we offer
or receive from each other. Am I getting the right
amount of respect from you, just given my expertise
or my organizational role, my experience, et cetera. When these are all well met, you
get very high performing teams. But in our influence
challenges, we tend to accidentally be stepping
on these in one way or another. So let’s go back to our
example one more time. So I think the boss here is
actually inadvertently stepping on, arguably, all of these core
concerns I’ve just described. So there’s a bunch
of unspoken messages that the employee
may be getting here. On autonomy, there’s
sort of this message that, you don’t get to decide,
employee, whether or when you’re going to do
this assessment. It’s not up to you. On affiliation,
the employee may be feeling stepped on,
potentially, in a sense that I don’t really
care what your views are on whether this assessment
is valuable or not. You don’t get to be part
of that conversation on what we’re trying to
do with this assessment or how we’re trying to do it. On appreciation,
there’s an unspoken I don’t really care
how hard you’re working on the other stuff
or that you’re trying to prioritize business needs. The only thing I care about
is this particular assessment. I don’t appreciate what
else is on your plate. On role, this one can
be subtle, but the boss could be sending a
message, you’re really dragging your feet, and
you’re the problem here. You’re not getting
the thing done. And certainly, there’s a
potential status dynamic here, where the employee is
really feeling the boss, sending a message of,
look, I’m the boss, and you need to
fall in line, here. So last poll,
Erin, if you could. So here, this is an
opportunity just to look again at your own case or an influence
challenge that’s on your mind. Which of the other
person’s core concerns might you be
accidentally stepping on? And you can pick as
many as feel relevant. So you can pick more than one. OK. I’m going to end this poll. OK. So lots of people across
all of the categories. So whether you checked one,
or you checked many of them, let me just quickly offer up– I’m mindful of time, and we
want to get to questions. So what’s the antidote? The antidote really is to
make some positive moves across each of these fronts. So if you were to make a
positive move on autonomy, it really goes to this
question of just name what is still in their control
or what they do get to decide. Hey, employee, I get you’ve
got a lot on your plate, and ultimately, you
do need to decide how you’re going to prioritize. I want to help clear the way,
so that it’s easier for you to make the decision
to do the assessment, but it’s your decision. That would be one version of
a positive move on autonomy. On affiliation, include this
person in consultations. Give them more
information sooner. Get out of the you’re on a
need-to-know basis mentality, if any of you are there. People tend to like
to be involved sooner. Even if they don’t get
to be a decision maker, the fact that they
get more information about what’s happening
tends to be comforting and meets people’s
need for affiliation. Really think about
recognizing people’s efforts. These can be very low
cost, high value moves. The person did get the report
to you by 8:00 AM Monday, you send them a
quick email at 8:05, hey, I see that
you got this to me. I’m so appreciative. I imagine you had to give
up parts of your weekend to get it done. I’ll review it later on
today and get back to you on the substance, but thank
you for going the extra mile. It doesn’t have to cost a lot. On role, really work to give the
other person a positive role. Can you enlist them as a
co-problem solver with you? Hey, we’ve got this
challenge together of solving for this
assessment, that I know it’s a process that
you find onerous and seems to be interfering. I imagine you may
have some ideas on how we can get this done, and
I’d love to hear them, because certainly it’s
creating a bit of a challenge for me, because I’ve got people
expecting me to send these on, so I’d love to hear your ideas. And on status, really showing
an appropriate amount of status. You can recognize other
people’s experience. You can recognize that,
for example, you’re closer to the problems. You see a lot more than I do,
and I need to learn from you that it’s really important that
you have things that I just don’t. You don’t have to bash your own
status to lift somebody else’s status up, but
the core idea here is you want to look for ways
to just make a positive move and recognize. Offer some respect,
some deference, for whatever experience they’re
bringing to the situation. All right. So the three big mistakes. We don’t adjust our
level of directness. We focus on our own needs. We don’t take
theirs into account. We inadvertently step on
other people’s core concerns. These all contribute to
people not listening to us or certainly being persuaded
or influenced by us. So the antidotes. Experiment with the
Speech Mitigation Scale. Reverse engineer. Talk to their needs. Build that into your
proposal or your request. And then work to
possibly meet their needs for autonomy, appreciation,
affiliation, role, and status. So I know I used up
a lot of the time, but if we have any
time for questions, I’m happy to take a couple. Absolutely. And just a reminder to
folks, the webcast today will be posted to
our YouTube channel. So look for the MIT
Alumni Association, and under that, there will
be a Career Lunch and Learn playlist. And that usually just
takes about a week from the live broadcast to post. All right. Let’s get to some questions. So here’s a scenario. I’m pitching an idea or a
recommendation in a meeting to my coworkers, and I’ve
done a lot of prep work, including pulling several
data points that really support my recommendations. To summarize the question,
shouldn’t my data speak for itself? Shouldn’t that be strong
enough of an influencer to really get my
colleagues thinking in a different direction? What would you say to
clients that you’ve worked with that bring up that point? Yes. So it’s a great question, and
I’ll answer it in two parts. One is particularly for
a bunch of MIT alums, I think the question of
shouldn’t my data be enough. We are trained to be
really, really good at producing really
high quality data and doing research
the right way. And shouldn’t that swing things? I’m a big fan of data and doing
it well and doing it right. And the problem is this. Data doesn’t always say the
same thing to every person. So your data may be
great, valid, well-done, and different people will still
draw different conclusions about the relevance of the data,
the implications of the data, the decisions that should derive
from the data, where and how we should use that data. And those are not questions
strictly about the data itself, but about
how to use the data. And that’s where
you still have to be in the business of influencing
other people with your words, because the numbers
do not inevitably give other people the
same message that they are so clearly speaking
to you, for example. For you, the
implications are obvious, but frankly, other people
have different brains and different experiences
and different roles and different rewards. They’re rewarded for
different things. And so they’re going to
see and interpret that data quite differently than you. So you still have to
engage with people to understand how are you seeing
the data, what conclusions are you drawing from the data. And there has to be an influence
conversation at that level. So the dynamic of
I’m in the meeting, I’m trying to pitch
a proposal, when I work with clients who are
in similar circumstances, I do a lot with them in
advance of that pitch meeting. Particularly what I do
is we do some mapping about who the key
decision makers are, who the influencers are
of the decision maker. Let’s anticipate the
objections and questions that the decision maker
and their influencers are going to have
in the conversation. Maybe I’ll go have sidebar
conversations in advance and have just private chats. Like, hey, I’m thinking
this would be a great idea to get the whole team on board
with, what are your thoughts? What would work or not
work about this for you? And actually having a series of
small exchanges in a lead-up, so that you can shape
your proposal not just by having great data,
but also taking into account the range of views
that people in that room are going to have. So that by the time you’re
in that pitch conversation, you have hopefully
already pre-addressed some of the questions and
concerns that that group is likely to raise. Then the other important
thing you want to do is even after that,
you still want to demonstrate that openness,
that that curiosity, that OK, and what am I missing? I did what I could to take
into account everything that I thought people would
be worried about here. Am I missing anything? Is there anything
new that has come up since I put this together
that would affect whether you would support this or not? And actually, my
next question, you addressed this a little bit. But we’ve had a few
folks [INAUDIBLE] excellent examples when
it’s one person influencing another person, but you’re
trying to influence many people at the same time. And then you just gave some
good recommendations here, but I don’t know if
you can elaborate just a little more on
how do you influence many people versus one person. Because obviously, everyone
has very different opinions and viewpoints. If you could just give
some examples or strategies about how to address
a roomful of people versus just one person. OK. So the same general
principles would apply. You want to be thinking a lot
about who is in your audience, and are they all– so without a
specific example, I’m going to be talking a
little bit generally, so I may not hit exactly what
this person was asking about. But let’s imagine you’re trying
to influence a number of people to all agree to go forward
with such and such. And maybe they’re
in one room, and you have one shot with
them at the same time, but more than likely, in
most business settings, it’s going to be a sequenced
set of conversations that you’re having, perhaps
one-on-one, or perhaps in small groups. So I’ve spent a lot of time with
clients really just mapping out who are these series
of people that you’re trying to influence. This is multi-party negotiation. And you’re trying to get a yes
decision from multiple people. So here what I really work
hard on with clients is let’s understand as well as we can
who are the individuals that you really need to influence. You need to get a yes from them. Let’s map them, both in the
context of your organization, but also your
relationship to them. Let’s map the people around
them that may influence them, and what is your
relationship to those people. And then let’s actually
map out a sequence and a strategy of interactions. Because it may be that you want
to leverage person A over here and get them– they’re already
halfway convinced and halfway on board with you. If you can get them
all the way on board, and it turns out that
person A is really influential with person B,
now you can leverage person A and have them help you
persuade person B. And not through strong-arming
them, but through A is somebody who has similar
concerns to you, person B, and they felt
comfortable with this. Maybe you want to
chat with them, or maybe we could
all talk together. And so the strategy
really comes down to understanding exactly who
you’re trying to influence, what you need from them. Do you need their
active engagement to move this thing
forward, or do you simply need them not to object? So I worked as a city
planner in my first couple of years out of school, and
we did a two-year consensus building process for a project
I was working on in my hometown. There were hundreds,
if not thousands of community stakeholders that
we wanted to get a yes from. Well, I’ll tell you what, it was
a whole series of interactions, both in large groups, where
we would be presenting here are some of the options
we’re considering, let’s get some feedback from
you before we move this forward, to really small groups,
very focused conversations. It was property owners
in this particular block where there was going
to be road construction. And it was hundreds of meetings
over a two-year period. And so we really chunked it
and gave people lots of ways to interact with what
we were trying to do and lots of ways to
voice their views, and we recognized their
views as best we could. And when we could not
incorporate their views, we explained why. Part of the thing– sometimes people don’t care so
much that the final decision is what they wanted as they just
want to understand why you went in a different direction. And they’re thinking, well,
you asked for my input, but you didn’t use it. Why? And so when you do get to
some kind of final thing that you’re trying to sell
or influence everybody to rally around, part of
what you want to build in is and listen, we got some great
input from a number of people, and we couldn’t take
it all into account. And I want to just
talk you through why we ended up discarding
some of these choices in favor of others. Because I know people made
an investment in giving us their views, and some
are likely disappointed not to see their views
reflected here, so let me at least explain why and
how we got to this point. That’s great. Thank you. Do you want to do one
more question, and then we’ll wrap up? Does that sound OK? Yeah, great. This is a good one. So how do you get
information out of someone who has a personality
that’s more introverted and doesn’t really love
to discuss their own needs or isn’t one that would share
those openly in a work setting? A lot of what you
talk about is really having that other person open
up and understanding them, but in order to do that,
the other person really needs to be a
participant as well. Yeah. OK. So it’s a great question. So this could go in a
few different directions. One is they may
not be comfortable sharing in a work setting. That could mean a
couple of things. They don’t want to share
it with work colleagues, or literally, I don’t
want to sit at work and be talking about
certain kinds of things. If that’s the case,
go out for a meal. Do something outside
of work, where people might be more relaxed
and more willing to talk. But beyond that, quite
frankly, I think you need to– there’s a couple of
things you can do. One is explain why you’re
asking and why you want to know. If you start asking questions
that people find intrusive or they find is going to
some sensitive or some areas that they don’t
want to talk about or they’re not used
to talking about, it can be really helpful
to offer “up and here’s why I’m asking.” I know you don’t like to talk
about this kind of stuff, but here’s why I
think it’s important. I’m about to put together
this idea, this whatever. I’m thinking about staffing. And it really helps me
to better craft the thing that I’m trying to put together
if I have a good sense of what your priorities are. What drives you? What makes you object to or
get on board with the thing I’m putting together? So offering some explanation for
why you’re asking the questions and what you will do
with the information can put some people at ease
and be more willing to open up. So that’s one thing. Another technique
that you can use, if even that doesn’t
open them up, is this. You can just put a
proposal in front of them, like an idea, a suggestion or
whatever, and then ask this. What would be wrong
with doing this? It is very interesting. There are people
in this world who they don’t want to open
up directly and talk about themselves, necessarily,
but a lot of people are quite willing to criticize. And so if you ask,
well, what would be wrong with doing it
this way, often people are willing to
engage at that level. And what you’re
hearing as people are voicing their
objections, you’re starting to get clues
about what’s driving them. What’s important to them. They’re not sharing it openly,
but you’re getting hints of it. So you can listen
through those objections and start hearing,
oh, so there’s some concerns around who
gets credit on this paper that we’re writing. Or you’re hearing
concerns about what does this mean for
this other project that I’m on if I get
involved with this thing. All right. So there is some
concern for workflow or the kinds of project
that this person is on. So you can indirectly
start to get at least hints or clues about what’s
driving people, and then you can kind of– I think it’s fair game to gently
ask some follow-up questions and see if they’ll
play that way. You could invite them to make– how could I tweak this? What would be another idea? That would solve for that. Great. We have so many great
questions that have come in over the last hour. Unfortunately, we
have run out of time. Stacy, thank you so much
for joining us today. That was an hour filled
with such great content and examples. And again, this
presentation will be posted to the Career
Lunch and Learn playlist within the MIT Alumni
Association Page on YouTube. It usually takes about
a week to be posted. And we will be sending
out a survey today, later this afternoon, so
we really encourage you to provide feedback for us. It helps us plan
for future webcasts and helps us continue to improve
the programming that we’re offering. And also we had a lot of
questions about slides. If you would like a
copy of the slides, just feel free to email us
here at the Alumni Association, at [email protected] And on the survey,
too, there will be some additional resources
that Stacy had provided, if you want to do some reading
beyond the presentation today on concepts that
Stacy had presented. Again, Stacy, we can’t
thank you enough. This was really fun. Awesome. Thank you. And just as a parting
salvo, I encourage you just to pick something intriguing
you heard today, and just think about places
where you could just do some low-risk experiments. Just try some stuff out, on
your influence challenge or more generally. That’s the way you’re going
to get better at influencing. So I hope it was useful. Thank you so much for the time. I had a great time with you. All right. Thanks, Stacy. Take care. Thanks for joining us. And for more information on how
to connect with the MIT Alumni Association, please
visit our website. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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