Influencing with Words
Just the other day, I was trying to understand why I was not getting anywhere with talking to my son about his grades. I used language such as, “have a goal to shoot for”, or “look at how many doors it will open for you”, and even “the world will be yours for the taking”. Not only were these phrases clichéd, but they did not resonate with him at all. I asked my self, “How can he not have goals to shoot for?” Then I took a step back and thought about my training in Strategic Inquiry.
Strategic Inquiry is a systematic method of understanding a person by making inquiries using the words, phrases and language patterns of that person as the basis for those inquiries. Language is the primary means by which people convey their frames of references. Through language, they give us a glimpse of what motivates them to take action. If we take the time to listen and understand these underlying patterns, we can learn how to remove barriers and help them to create forward movement. We all have traits that, if triggered, will motivate us to take action. A couple of these traits are Criteria, Direction and Source.*
Criteria weigh large in our decision making process. If we can uncover what someone’s criteria are, we will know what is important to them in a particular area and elicit an emotional response. By tapping into their criteria, we help to engage them and bring relevance to the subject. People feel understood when their criteria are understood. As we weave their criteria words into our questions and responses, we are speaking their language. We create connection and rapport while strengthening the conversation. When you want to influence them on an idea, plan, product, training, etc., it is critical to know what criteria are the most important about that topic.
Some questions you can ask in order to reveal their criteria are:
- “What’s important to you about…?”
- “What has to be there?”
- “What do you want in …?”
- “What is important about that?”
- “What can you not live without?”
When you dig into the answers that come from these questions, place your focus and language on the criteria that are the most important. You can even have them choose between criteria so that the most critical ones rise to the surface. Be sure to let go of your own criteria in the process.
* Drawn from “Words That Change Minds: Mastering the Language of Influence”, by Shelle Rose Charvet