Archana Law presents the virtues of understanding human emotions

The study of influence is fascinating; it arouses endless curiosity about why people do what they do and what works to help them change. Research shows that the key to both leadership and personal success is influence.

Of course, the most important challenges we face in improving organisational success are those in human behaviour. And the most significant barriers to a greater quality of life are typically problems of changing our own habits. And yet, few of us know how to think systematically and effectively about addressing problems, and influencing people!

Though every age is an ‘age of influence,’ ours has just been supercharged by social media. In ‘The Influential Mind,’ neuroscientist Tali Sharot takes us on a thrilling exploration of the nature of influence. We all affect others from the classroom to the boardroom, and to social media; but how skilled are we in playing this role and can we be better at it?

It turns out that many of our instincts like factually shaping opinions, insisting that others are wrong or attempting to exert control are ineffective. This is because they’re incompatible with how people’s minds operate. Sharot reveals the critical role of emotion in influence, and how an attempt to change beliefs and actions is successful when it is well matched with the core elements that govern the human brain.

Researchers find a continuous link and influence of one human mind over others. The earliest records, traditions and legends refer to the general belief that it was possible for an individual to exert uncanny power over the minds of others, which would influence the latter for good or evil.

It is also well established that the generation of thought and mental states produces a powerful form of high vibratory energy. Experiments prove that brain temperature increases in line with the intensity of feeling and thought; and this energy – when it’s released in a manner similar to other known forms of energy such as light, heat, electricity, magnetism and radioactivity – travels in powerful waves.

According to eminent French scientist Nicolas Flammarion, a person feeling a strong sense of anger will release waves of that degree of energy, which tend to arouse a similar feeling or emotion in others – like mob violence. Similarly, orators, actors, preachers and teachers send strong mental currents that may make you weep with pity, shiver in fear or laugh with joy!

Here are some ways in which you can influence others positively.

When a person doesn’t meet your expectations or pales when facing competition, reprimand him in a way that acknowledges what is working, avoid resentment, encourage improvement and above all, respect his dignity.

Be empathetic towards others. The best way to influence people is to discuss what they want and show them how to achieve it. Most people loosen up even in tense situations if they start talking about what they know. Listening to understand is one of the highest compliments we can pay anyone.

Know when to offer suggestions instead of giving direct orders. To give people the opportunity to do things themselves, phrases like ‘you might consider this…’ or questions like ‘what do you think of this?’ are helpful. Reaching common ground as soon as possible helps emphasise those things you agree upon.

Don’t try and ‘win’ an argument; because even if you manage to tear apart someone else’s argument, you don’t achieve anything. On the other hand, if you take the high road, and try to persuade someone while maintaining a smile and showing appreciation for her situation, you’ll be surprised by what you can achieve.

Forget your insecurities. It is natural to want to please those around you, make them happy and get them to like you. Be willing to grade yourself and invite others to participate in the feedback process to become a better leader and set the best example.

Your culture should be one that challenges everyone to think about what’s best for the organisation; not one that limits them to only thinking the way you do. Prove that the impossible is possible. Consistently raising the bar and innovating is challenging as it is; but when you are encouraging your team to try new things and achieve big goals, it is easier to succeed.

In the past, leadership scholars considered charisma, intelligence and other personality traits to be the key to effective leadership. But in recent years, a new picture of leadership has emerged – one that better accounts for leadership performance.

Writer and leadership motivator Robin Sharma explains that “leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire teammates and customers.”