How To Become More Influential

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 believe to be true simply because everyone else says they are, even though they've never been vetted. 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." 

"I'll never outsource, I can and should be doing everything. After all, "If you want a job done right, do it yourself."

"The way to land luxury clients is to wear more expensive clothes/change my entire lifestyle/have a pricey studio."

"If I close this part of my business/stop offering certain services in order to strategically focus, people will think it failed, so I need to keep it in order to maintain my reputation."

"I can't price that way until I've been in business for at least ten years. It wouldn't be fair to the industry veterans."

"My first marriage/career/business 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 that, my guests will think I'm showing off." 

"If I don't have a wedding like that, 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