How to Become More Influential

Friday, February 13, 2015

Influence doesn't primarily come from your ability to tell a story well.

Influence primarily comes from your ability to interpret the stories other people tell themselves.

Everyone's behavior is driven by the stories they internalize. Sometimes they're inherited stories -- true, false or exaggerated -- shaped by previous generations and passed on. Sometimes they're stories they cling to because they're familiar, though at times toxic and harmful.

"I'm this, not that." 
"If I could only have X, I could do/be/become Y." 
"Their business is more successful because they are married/single/a parent/childless/have investors/have low overhead." 
"The way to land luxury clients is to wear more expensive clothes/change my entire lifestyle/have a pricey studio."
"I can't pursue X until I've been in business for at least ten years. It wouldn't be fair to the industry veterans."
"My first marriage failed so now everything I do needs to prove I'm not a failure."
"Having famous clients will make me more important and more accepted by others."
"If only the market here were like New York/Chicago/Los Angeles, I would really be able to thrive." 
"If I have a wedding like this, my guests will think I'm showing off." 
"If I don't have a wedding like this, my guests will think I'm not successful."

Stories may help form a circle of "people who are like me," but often the deeper stories that drive daily choices go unspoken. As such, they make it hard to fit people in a box, a clean target market grouping on a business plan.

Listening well — being focused more on being interested than interesting, reading between the lines — is perhaps one of the most crucial skills needed to grow as an entrepreneur and certainly the most necessary to growing in influence.

Originally published September 2013

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