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 and what the 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. Lasting influence is a trust relationship built through time and shared experience.
How do you champion the audience you want to reach?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
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