How to influence people


I watched Cameron many years ago become the Top salesman at the company he worked for. He was self taught as he read widely on the subject and purchased a very expensive Audio series from Brian Tracy that he listened to every time he was in his car. I know that while some people are naturals at influencing or persuading people it is actually a skill that can be learned.

One of the careers I considered before I decided to become a Secondary teacher was Psychologist because I was fascinated by what makes people tick and why they do things. When Cam had depression the medical professional who I believed helped him the most was a Psychologist.

Recently my home schooled daughter got herself a job one day a week. I consider it part of her curriculum as she doesn’t like social interaction much and doesn’t consider herself good at it so avoids it unless she knows the people well. I gave her some pointers and she has found that she is enjoying her job which requires a lot of customer interaction. This is despite her feeling uncomfortable around strangers. The advice I gave her which made all the difference was simple. I explained that the majority of people will respond positively to a smile and a friendly tone of voice. She has realised that she can for the most part control people’s reaction to her. Their positive reactions to her have boosted her confidence and made it even easier for her to smile and be friendly.

If you would like to improve your ability to influence people you will find these tips first published in 1935 by Dale Carnegie to be as relevant today as they were back then.

How to persuade even the most stubborn people.

1. Don?t try ?winning? an argument.
Even if you manage to tear apart someone else?s argument, you don?t actually achieve anything. Carnegie cites the old saying, ?A man convinced against his will/Is of the same opinion still.?

If you?re looking to actually persuade somebody, avoid an argument in the first place.

2. Respect other people?s opinions.
Pride ? both yours and the person you?re trying to convince of something ? is the biggest impediment to reaching an agreement.

Be diplomatic about presenting your opinion, Carnegie explains, and never say ?You?re wrong,? no matter how true it may be.

3. Admit when you?re wrong as soon as you realise it.
?When we are right, let?s try to win people gently and tactfully to our way of thinking, and when we are wrong ? and that will be surprisingly often, if we are honest with ourselves ? let?s admit our mistakes quickly and with enthusiasm,? Carnegie writes.

It will allow both you and whoever has pointed out your mistake to clear the air and move on.

4. Be friendly, no matter how angry the other person may be.
It?s human nature to meet aggression with aggression. But if you take the high road and try to persuade someone while maintaining a smile and showing appreciation for their situation, you?ll be surprised what you can achieve.

5. Reach common ground as soon as possible.
?Begin by emphasising ? and keep on emphasising ? the things on which you agree,? Carnegie writes. ?Keep emphasising, if possible, that you are both striving for the same end and that your only difference is one of method and not of purpose.?

This is a pointer that I have taken on board in my ‘ activism ‘ about Islam. In order to influence those who have a liberal mind set I emphasise human rights, women’s rights and children’s rights which are all things that we both care about and that we have in common.

6. Let the other person do most of the talking.
The average person enjoys speaking about themself more than any other topic, and if you?re engaging someone who has a lot to say, they?re not going to listen to you until they have put it all out there.

Listen more than you speak.
7. Get the other person to think your conclusion is their own.
No one can be forced to truly believe something. That?s why the most persuasive people know the power of suggestions over demands.

Plant a seed and when that?s blossomed, avoid the urge to take credit for it.

My father used this technique on me as a teenager. He asked me lots of questions about a topic and I would answer them. I would then reflect on what I had said and would come to a conclusion, no doubt the very conclusion that he wanted me to come to in the first place.

This is a technique I particularly like to use as it lets the person do the majority of the talking so that they do not feel that they have been sold an idea but that they came to the conclusion themselves. Some example questions I use when talking about Islam to a Liberal thinking person are:

How would you feel if there was a law that gave women half the rights of a man in court?

If this law only applied to some of the women in New Zealand but not you personally would you be okay with that?

Why wouldn’t you be okay with that if you were not personally affected by it?

Oh, so you feel that ALL women are entitled to equality not just some.

But aren’t there some situations where it is okay to treat women differently?


Okay but what if that is how it was in the country they came from?

So you are saying they are in New Zealand now and they are entitled to the same protections and rights as any other woman?

As you can see from this example I have not mentioned Islam or culture or religion. I have instead stuck to issues close to a liberal’s heart.


8. Figure out why the other person thinks what they do.
The person you?re trying to convince can be objectively wrong about something, but they believe what they do for a reason, and that doesn?t necessarily make them a bad person.

?Ferret out that reason ? and you have the key to his actions, perhaps to his personality,? Carnegie writes.

9. Determine how their beliefs work in their favour.
Behind every closely-held opinion is a lifetime that has led to that person?s conclusion. It?s in your interest to sympathize with the way the belief in question fits into the other person?s worldview, and how that worldview is a complex machine driving the other person through life.

10. Appeal to nobler motives.
Carnegie says that everyone but the most bitter or stubborn among us actually wants to do what they consider to be the right thing.

Frame your argument with morality.

11. Be dramatic.
Carnegie distinguishes showmanship from lying.

If you have truth on your side, make it as appealing to emotions as you can.

12. When nothing else works, ?throw down a challenge.?
If you truly can?t convince another person to do or believe something, then appeal to their competitive side. Challenge them to either prove why they are correct, or if you?re a manager, challenge your employees to do something to prove their worth.

?That is what every successful person loves: the game,? Carnegie writes. ?The chance for self-expression. The chance to prove his or her worth, to excel, to win.?