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Washington is all about influence. Advocacy groups try to influence agencies. Agencies try to influence Congress. Lawmakers try to influence each other. The entire system is built on influence, and yet very few people speak about it openly. We say, bah! If you are in the game, then be in the game. Here are 35 tips on how to influence people, whether you work at an association, an advocacy group or in the government itself.

35 Tips for How to Influence People in Politics

How to Influence People: 35 Ways to Influence People in Politics

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Advocacy is all about changing minds and bringing others to your point of view. How exactly do you do that? Actually, there are many ways. Here are 35 tips for how to influence people to consider, whether you are creating a campaign or trying to convince the boss to get you some training.

Question to ask when you strategize how to influence people for your cause:

1. Who exactly is my target audience?

Knowing your audience at a deep level can take you from merely “convincing” to being truly “influential.” Research what drives them, what they’re working on, what they read, etc.

2. What is the target audience’s relationship with me?

Look at their relationship to you and how that could affect their receptiveness to your message. What’s your history?

3. What’s going on in their world?

Understanding how they perceive the world around them is key.

4. What do they already know about the subject?

People want to see that you’ve done your homework. You need to find new angles – which means you’ve got to understand what information people already have, and come at it from another direction.

5. How will this subject or idea impact their work?

There’s a benefit to everything, and by addressing the impact from all perspectives, you’ll be seen as more of an expert.

6. What are their potential talking points and next steps?

Often, they’ll be able to influence others, so make sure they’re prepared and fully ready to do so.

7. What will keep them from adopting my message or idea?

Laying out clear, concrete objectives, and going through them systematically will save you the trouble of answering questions about barriers later – it’s all about prepared.

8. How does what I’m presenting fit into my audience’s big picture?

Not everyone has a huge vision for every part of their work, but everyone puts things into a broader context. Make sure your ideas fit into that context.

9. What keeps my audience up at night?

Everyone has something that can be improved, but until you look deeply for what that is, you could be looking to influence a problem that doesn’t exist. Address exactly what your idea changes for your audience.

Principles of how to influence people that will help you earn the trust of those around you

1. Make it their idea

People are much more inclined to push for their own idea rather than someone else’s. Maybe you want to build a mobile-friendly version of your website, but aren’t sure if your co-worker will agree.

Your conversation will go a bit like this:

Coworker: We really need to increase online orders this quarter.

You: I’ve read that more people these days are placing orders on mobile devices. It’s too bad we don’t have a mobile-friendly site.

Coworker: Maybe we should build a mobile-friendly version of our site?

You: Don’t you think so? Yeah, that might work…

You may not get the credit for the idea, but if you have an end goal in mind, using this tactic helps to get others on board.

2. Ask for favors

It may seem counter-intuitive, but studies have shown that asking someone for favors will actually make them more likely to help you out in the future. Why? Your brain figures that if you were willing to go out of your way for a person, they must be someone you like!

3. Shoot for the moon, land on the stars

Another strategy for getting what you want? Ask for too much, individuals will feel bad for turning down your first request, making them more likely to say yes to your second request (which is what you really wanted in the first place).

4. Sincere appreciation

In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie notes that people crave sincere appreciation – not empty flattery (Most of us have pretty good BS meters).

5. Questions over demands

People are more inclined to be agreeable and follow your lead when you offer questions rather than demands. For example, “Could you get this done by this afternoon?” vs. “Get this done by this afternoon.” You’ll get the same results, but demands leave others feeling resentful, while questions encourage others to prove themselves to you.

6. Lay the praise on thick

If you want to get someone on your side, don’t be stingy with your praise. Praise makes others feel good about themselves, making them in turn feel good about you, the praise dispenser. Just make sure it’s genuine.

7. Find common ground

You both watch Game of Thrones (AND read the books?) You both spend your weekends scouring beaches with metal detectors? Find a common interest or connection with those you want to influence, and milk it for all it’s worth. If you really want to be clever, do some Facebook stalking to learn more about the individual you want to win over. Then make sure those coincidental common interests come up in conversation.

8. Give someone a good reputation to follow

Set the bar high for someone, and they will strive to meet it. Set expectations, and they’ll follow them. An example might be telling Fred – and others on your team – that Fred is going to create an awesome company newsletter because he’s so good with that stuff. You can bet Fred will try his best to make that newsletter match the praise he’s received.

9. Show genuine interest in others

If you want a team of devoted followers, it’s essential that you show interest in those around you. Was a co-worker’s kid sick yesterday? Ask how he’s feeling today.

10. Use names in conversations

What’s in a name? Our names are part of our identity, and using someone’s name in conversation makes them feel validated. Use an individual’s name when you’re talking to them, and they’ll be sure to like you more.

11. Pretend

In many ways, life is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Imagine yourself as the person you wish to be. In other words, fake it ‘till you make it. If you want to be influential, begin by thinking of yourself that way.

12. Listen and listen well

When it comes to getting what you want from others, listening is everything. People need to feel like they’re being heard.

13. Use confident speech

Cut out the “umm”, “well”, and “like” words, which inadvertently make you sound less confident.

14. Expect the best out of people

The strategy is similar to setting high expectations for others, but is much more subtle. In an episode of This American Life, researchers conducted a study on how expectations affect others. In the study, they give subjects a task to complete with rats. Half of the subjects are told they are being given smart rats, while the other half are told they are being given stupid rats. In reality, the rats are all the same, and yet the “smart” rats performed considerably better than the “dumb” rats because the subjects were handling the rats differently as a result of their expectations (the smarter rats were held more gently, resulting in better performance). You may be completely unaware of how your inner thoughts and expectations affect those around you, but they certainly do.

15. Mirroring

Studies have shown that individuals act more favorably towards those who mimic them. Of course, your mimicry can’t be ridiculously obvious. However, subtle things like mannerisms, posture, and speech patterns can easily be copied and reflected.

16. Using the scarcity principle

Marketers often use scarcity to push products, so if you want to push someone towards a decision, try lines like “we won’t get a chance like this again,” or “this is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

17. Smile

Studies have shown smiling can make those around you feel happier, and more receptive to your way of thinking.

18. Throw down a challenge

This is a gem from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. Carnegie noted that turning an objective into a challenge is often a great way to get people motivated. A little friendly competition can go a long way.

19. Toss out the criticism

If you really want to get someone on your side, you’ll want to avoid criticism as much as possible. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but seek to understand why someone is making an error, and then begin with a compliment or common ground. Be tactful with your criticism.

20. Admit mistakes

When you make a mistake, admit it quickly and clearly. Apologize for wrongdoings. Holding yourself accountable for errors shows that you’re a considerate, trustworthy person.

21. Meet face to face

Big conversations deserve to be dealt with face to face, or at least via phone. Taking the time to meet with someone in person shows respect and also lets you read the person and get a sense of how they’re feeling.

22. Start with “yes” questions

Begin by asking questions that you know will be answered with a “yes” before building up to your true request – you’ll be more likely to get the “yes” you really want.

23. Consider your wardrobe

Different colors inspire different emotional responses, so it’s worth taking a minute to think about your outfit before asking a favor. Blue can make you appear trustworthy and secure, whereas red makes you come off as powerful, and energetic, but possibly dangerous.

24. Posture is power

Want to come off powerful? Posture is everything. Studies have shown that leaning back and spreading yourself out makes you feel powerful (and appear so to others).

25. Parroting

Similar to mirroring, parroting is when you paraphrase what someone has said to you back at them. Also known as reflective listening, this practice makes the other individual feel that you are listening and engaging them.

26. Nod your head

Studies have shown that people who physically nod while listening to an idea are more likely to be in agreement with it. Our physical body can often influence our cognitive thoughts. When someone sees you nodding in conversation, they will feel encouraged to follow suit. They’ll suddenly find themselves nodding, and therefore more inclined to go with your idea when you present it.

If you want to learn more how to apply these tips on how to influence people for your advocacy group then check out our Recommended resources higher up on the page. We wish you luck on your journey as you figure out the best way how to influence people for your cause!