Redux: I wrote this post in Dec. 2010. Based on recent conversation, it seems even more relevant now and so I choose to pick it up, add some clarity and publish a newer version this week.
The Outcomes We Achieve
Every person has influence. What what we say, and how we act has an effect on how others think, feel, and behave. As a writer, an observer, and manager, I’ve watched and studied how people respond to what we do, what we say, and what they see.
As every parent and pet owner knows, sometimes the outcome we’re going for — a change in belief or behavior — isn’t the outcome we achieve. Our intent, our feelings toward an audience are only one side of the equation. How that audience interprets our words and deeds determines the change in belief or behavior that might result.
Our influence is highly affected by context.
- The world view of the people we might influence. An individual’s emotional associations and beliefs can filter how people interpret our intentions, our words, and actions. A person who believes all learning must be their own experience will ignore a warning to avoid a dangerous part of town. A person who has only had bad experiences with people from our “group” may fight against any message we offer.
- The value those people put on their relationship with us. Filters such as the halo effect and other cognitive biases, such as wishful thinking, can change how our message is processes and received.
We don’t control how other people think, what they feel, or how they interpret what they hear and see.
Though we may carefully consider and choose the most generous way to communicate and interact within those those contexts, the audience will choose their interpretation of that interaction. The same authentic, highly influential, collaborative message to one audience will be a disingenuous, controversial, alienating rebuff to another audience. We see that all of the time in the world of politics.
The most crucial element of influence is understanding what the audience already knows and already believes. If we want to influence people, to move them to an important action, to change their core beliefs, we need to know the audience, listen to their world view, champion their cause, and honor their reality.
Do likes, follows, impressions, site visits, retweets and the similar quick expressions of attention really qualify as actions. Have they influenced anything?
Don’t fool yourself by the game of numbers — don’t start thinking that 1 in X000 of those likes, follows, impressions, site visits, retweets and the similar quick expressions of attention will buy!!
The kind of influence that gets me to buy a product isn’t a result of a frivolous passing gesture on the Internet. Talk to the people who buy your products and ask …. what moved them to action? what got them to believe?
I know it’s a novel idea, but the people you want to influence know what will get and keep their attention and most of us would be relieved if you’d just ask.
How do you decide what will move people to action?
Be irresistible … and ask them.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz on your business!!