There’s a big difference between manipulating other people and influencing them.
The difference comes down to choice. Manipulating someone is an attempt to get them to do what you want while hiding your true intentions.
Influencing someone, on the other hand, allows them to choose for themselves, even while suggesting a better way to do things.
Influencing others is all about persuading them that you have the best solution in any situation. And smart people know that there are certain phrases that can help you persuade others without being manipulative.
Here are some phrases to work into your vocabulary to help you influence other people.
1) Most people…
There aren’t many fields of life where influencing people is more important than in sales.
And salespeople know the power of social pressure.
Often, you’ll be confronted with someone who has to choose between multiple options. And it can be very difficult to know which way to go.
Welcome to the concept of social proof.
Social proof is a term coined by Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book, Influence: Science and Practice. The basic idea is that we tend to base our decisions on what other people have done before us.
Think about it. It’s the idea behind every online review site, as well as all those signs outside of McDonald’s saying how many billions of customers they have served.
When a person is confronted with multiple choices, they will often avoid the mental load of making a decision by relying on what other people have done.
So if you want to persuade someone of the right course of action, it can be helpful to point out what other people usually decide.
But make sure it’s true if you want to avoid being manipulative.
2) Let’s try…
Nobody likes being told what to do – even though sometimes, we need it.
That’s why a phrase like this can be so useful in influencing other people’s decisions.
Instead of telling someone what they should do, suggesting that you try something together creates a much more cooperative atmosphere.
Instead of positioning yourself as an all-knowing expert, saying, “let’s try” suggests that you are figuring it out for yourself at the same time as the other person.
People are much more likely to go along with your decisions when they don’t feel as if you are imposing on them in a dominant way.
This is a fascinating one.
Psychologist Ellen Langer performed a study on the power of the single word ‘because’ in getting people to give you what you want.
Langer wanted to cut in line to use a photocopier, and she tried a couple of different phrases to persuade people to let her go in front of them.
When she said, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”, 60% were okay with it. But when she said, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?”, 94% let her cut in.
In other words, people are more likely to help you if you explain why you need something from them. Give people a reason, and they will happily allow themselves to be influenced by you.
4) Tell me more
Humans have needs. And one of our most urgent needs is to be respected and listened to.
A phrase like “tell me more” shows your audience that you are listening to them and that you’re interested in what they have to say.
And when it comes to influencing people, that’s incredibly powerful.
You see, you might think that influencing people is all about imposing your will on them. But actually, that usually backfires.
Trying to make people do what you want is only going to make them dislike and mistrust you. And if anything, they will be less likely to behave the way you want them to.
Instead, showing someone you’re listening and taking their thoughts into consideration will make them feel much more positively toward you. And when they do, they are more likely to take your suggestions on board.
5) Can you help me?
Have you ever heard of the Ben Franklin effect?
Ben Franklin found that he could make someone like him more by asking them for a favor.
It might sound counterintuitive. But several studies have confirmed that this effect really works.
Maybe it’s because we can’t help thinking that if we do a favor for someone, it must be because on some level, we like them.
It’s also true that by asking someone for help, you flatter their ego. Instead of coming off as an expert who is trying to tell them what to do, you seem more human and more approachable.
This, in turn, makes you more influential.
6) People are going to love this
All persuasion works by tapping into basic human psychological needs. As well as the need to belong and the need to be respected, we all have a need to be admired.
So if you want to get someone to do something, frame it as something that will make people like and respect them.
In his book Methods of Persuasion, psychologist Nick Kolenda argues that people’s need to be admired is a major factor in the decisions they make. Whether it’s buying a new car, developing a website, or completing a work project, people want the admiration of their friends and peers.
So when you point out how a person will benefit by doing what you want in the form of admiration from others, you make yourself much more influential.
7) I’m excited about…
In his book The Charisma Quotient: What It Is, How to Get It, How to Use It, Ronald E. Riggio writes that part of being a charismatic person is expressing your emotions spontaneously and genuinely.
Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that humans respond positively to other human emotions.
Sharing your enthusiasm for a project or an activity is one of the best ways to get other people excited about it.
After all, we are social animals, and we tend to take our cues from other people.
So if you want to get other people excited about something, be excited about it yourself.
8) To recap
Repetition is a great way to get people to remember something. But it’s also a powerful way to make them believe it.
That’s why recapping what you have said at the end of a presentation or meeting is so valuable. Not only does it help your words stick in your audience’s head, but it also makes them more likely to agree with you.
9) The good news…
Who doesn’t love good news?
This is called labeling, and it’s a great way to make sure people pay attention to what you have to say next.
Labeling something as good news makes people perk up, and they have a tendency to agree that whatever you say next is good news.
It’s a great way to put a positive spin on a negative situation, or draw attention to the more positive aspects of the course of action you are suggesting.
10) How would you feel if?
We all like to think of ourselves as rational beings. But the truth is, most of our decisions are made based on emotion, not facts.
Asking this question helps you discover another person’s feelings and understand how their emotions are driving their decisions.
And because you are asking about their feelings, you’re not being manipulative. Instead, you are just trying to understand their emotions to get a better sense of what is best for them and you.
This phrase allows you to get straight to the motivations of the person in front of you and understand their needs better.
That’s why it’s a classic of sales, but also a great way to influence people however you want to do it.
11) What makes you say that?
This is a useful phrase when someone objects to one of your suggestions.
Understanding why people want something different from you is key to finding consensus.
When you understand why someone has an objection, you have a much better chance of dealing with that objection and finding a solution you can both agree on.
Ask someone to explain their reasoning, and more often than not, you’ll easily find common ground that will allow you to move forward.
Influencing, not manipulating
As you can see, the phrases above are not meant to be manipulative. Instead, they are designed to help people understand their own needs and emotions better, and help you find consensus.
Influencing people is a delicate art, but by adopting some of these phrases, you can make yourself more persuasive almost immediately.
Next time you need to convince somebody of something, try a few of these phrases and see how they work for yourself.