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3 Ways to Get Others to Follow Your Ideas

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You have to sell yourself every day. Whether it’s pitching a project in a meeting, sharing details about your product at a networking event, or leading co-workers on a task, you're always trying to get others to follow your ideas.

But how do you get people to actually listen when studies show that 45% of your peers are not engaged, and 26% of them are actively disengaged with what’s going on in the workplace?

People are constantly bombarded with new information. To cut through the noise your ideas need to resonate, and I’m going to give you tips to get people to listen and follow through.

Here’s your three primary goals when selling an idea:

  • Convince, don’t manipulate.
  • Foster, don’t force.
  • Compliment, don’t criticize.

Let’s break down each of them.

1.Convince your audience, don’t manipulate them.

When you convince someone of something, you show them how their goals align with your own through simple logic and concise facts.

Manipulation, on the other hand, usually involves skipping over details that would prove you’re trying to put your needs ahead of the other person’s. Misrepresentation, confusion, and deception are all parts of manipulating someone to agree with you.

It's important to have clear, open discussions as you break down your ideas—because if someone thinks you're being manipulative they will not listen to you.

So how do you make sure your intentions always stay transparent?

Know how your idea will benefit other people, before you even talk to them.

If your idea only benefits you, and you’re unable to find ways it can help the rest of the group, you probably need to rethink it. Being able to list how your idea can help someone means you've done your research, and shows you care about that person’s needs.

Putting other people’s ideas first, or servant leadership, has been proven to get better results, and that’s because people like those who show interest in them. So, take time to learn and ask questions about the people around you. Understanding their side will help you communicate more clearly and bring that person to your terms.

Some communication skills that show you value the other person include:

  • Making it a point to remember and say their name
  • Rephrasing or repeating points they previously made as you make your own
  • Giving them a chance to talk about their own ideas (researchers have found that this triggers the same pleasure receptors as sex!)

PC: Buffer

Explain your idea clearly to reduce cognitive load.

People don’t like getting confused. If you explain your idea in a convoluted way, people will either miss out on details or assume you’re trying to trick them—and we already know that’s not your goal when trying to convince someone.

In fact, humans have a certain amount of information they can take in before they lose interest, which is called a cognitive load.

PC: Boagworks

You can reduce cognitive load by:

  • Lowering the amount of actions it’ll take to accomplish your idea
  • Leaving out excess information in your pitch
  • Avoiding jargon as you explain your idea

Bottom line, you only need to give your audience enough detail to know what you're talking about and one simple action step to follow through on.

These principles can also be applied to product descriptions and webpages. In fact, webpage optimizations geared toward lowering cognitive load have been found to increase conversion rates by as much as 49%.

Think of your idea as a product you’re trying to sell.

Do they understand the value of what you're saying enough that they'd buy it? Or do you need to trim things down a bit?

2. Plant your ideas, don’t force them on people.

Letting someone reach the conclusion themselves is always going to work better than forcing them to follow you. In fact, people are more likely to agree with something if they think they thought of it themselves.

You don’t want to manipulate people into thinking your ideas are their own—but there are some subtle ways you can convince them they want to join in.

Use the power of “we.”

Psychologists have found that using the word “we” can increase people’s willingness to agree with you. That’s because “we” implies a sense of teamwork and gives your audience some ownership over your idea.

PC: HubSpot

Some examples:

  • “We could use our increase in sales to buy tools to streamline our communication.”
  • “We’ve really grown recently, and I think this new hire could help with our tasks.”
  • “We can make this work with the skills we’ve gained from creating our software.”
  • “We’ve noticed this, so what if we do that instead?”

Using “we” to point out tasks the team has already accomplished together makes it seem as if everyone has already been working toward your idea, and that their thoughts are in sync with your own.

Prime your audience so they follow through.

Just like how “we” can be used to make your peers feel as if they’re already a part of your idea, there are small things you can do or say to subconsciously coax people into following through on accomplishing your goals.

Semantic primers are words or phrases that trigger associations in people's minds so they are more likely to carry out a task.

A great example of a semantic primer is if you said “you’re welcome, and…” instead of just “you’re welcome” after you did something for a peer. “You’re welcome, and I know you’d do the same for me,” primes your peer to reciprocate later (in this case it would be helping you achieve your idea).

Saying “thank you,” even when the other person has not yet started a task, can also prime them to commit. “I can count on you,” “Your word is all I need,” and even a firm handshake after you’ve finished talking are all little things that can prime someone to complete tasks needed to make your idea a reality.

3. Compliment the ideas that came before your own, don’t criticize them.

When you introduce your idea, are you “fixing the last plan that failed” or are you “building off the other creative ideas your group put forward?” Because the difference in your tone will impact your peers’ willingness to follow along.

If you create an environment where people are intimidated to try new things because only “successful” ideas are celebrated, your peers’ will be hesitant to follow any new plans (including yours).

Make it clear your ideas are not in competition with others around by exchanging phrases like “I know how to do this way better than last time” for “We could use what we’ve learned to make this improvement.”

Your ideas should ultimately build up your team, and not alienate them by implying only you have the “right way.”

So, how can you keep your tone complimentary while also implying things that need to change?

Consider who you’re talking to.

What's their body language? How do they communicate? What gets them engaged or disengaged? Angry or happy? What’s their normal attention span, and what are their primary concerns?

No member of your group will be the same. In fact, research shows most people are actually mismatched from the universal expressions you would typically expect them to make when they’re experiencing an emotional response.

The trick is to know each member of your team well enough, so you can mentally take a step back and analyze how you’re phrasing something, especially if they aren’t responding positively.

It’s important to note that it’s not always your tone that can cause negative reactions.

Your idea may just remind the person of a previous experience that didn’t go well, or they’re scared they won’t be able to successfully follow through (we’ll talk about this more in the next section).

The same can be said for if they respond positively—the person may be excited that you’re following through on an idea they also have, or they see how the results could benefit them.

In either case, the point is to realize what is or isn’t winning your audience over, so you can adjust your delivery method accordingly before they have a chance to verbally respond.

Psychologists have found that it’s much easier to influence someone before they say their decision aloud.

So, if you do recognize that your peer isn’t responding positively while you’re delivering an idea, remember the tips we’ve gone over:

  • Did you forget to explain how this idea will benefit the other person?
  • Do you need to reduce the cognitive load in your pitch?
  • Are you focusing on you instead of “we?”

Acknowledge vulnerabilities.

Part of sharing your ideas is listening to feedback. And if you are critical of the concerns your peers put forward and don’t take them seriously—people are less likely to listen or follow through on your idea.

Researcher Brené Brown has found that fear of failure can cripple a team if the leader puts on armor and ignores it, and that it's more helpful to admit that you may not have all the answers, or there could be a lot of risks involved.

It’s always better to be vulnerable and acknowledge potential flaws in your plan, so it doesn’t fall apart later. If multiple peers tell you a specific part of your idea isn’t working, they're probably right.

Continue creating ideas that serve your peers.

All three of the tips we covered put your peers first. And that’s because servant leadership always gets better results than self-serving leadership.

If you have good intentions, and know how to clearly outline them, people will want to follow your ideas.

Related: 10 Ways to Make Life at Work Substantially Easier