Have you ever wanted to shake someone and change the way that they’re thinking, working or operating? From every day team communications, to managing your relationships in your family, to navigating the increasingly intense political landscape out there, effectively communicating who you are and what you want can seem like a pipe dream.

We all know the person who gets everything he or she wants, seemingly effortlessly, without having to push or coerce. How does it happen? Why do some people stay calm and effective while other people want to yell and scream?

A few years ago, I worked with a few folks who were clearly very different than me — I liked to write and think by spending time alone; they loved to banter loudly in epic meetings that made my head hurt. I had to learn new ways of communicating effectively; learning to yell over people was not decidedly not effective and not the type of personality trait I wanted to cultivate.

But other than yelling or crying, I wasn’t sure what to do.

At my monthly #BossBreakfast in New York City, I addressed this conundrum with lady friends of mine.

(I have monthly breakfasts with power ladies that I love in New York City, and we call them #BossBreakfasts, a nickname my husband gave them after he found out what I was doing.)

We agreed that being a boss doesn’t always mean being … bossy.

It does mean being direct, straightforward, clear, honest, and having articulate boundaries. It means knowing how to get things done. And getting things done isn’t about power or force. somethings getting things done is about influence, persuasion, and collaboration.

Here are several key phrases you can use to influence other people — positively, of course.

Key phrases to use to influence others around you:

It turns out there are a few key phrases you can use to influence other people and get more of what you want — without yelling, bossing, or demanding.

“What ideas do you have for…”

If you want to get something done, ask other people for their ideas. Perhaps you want to change your office into more of a communal workspace, but you’re not sure how to bring up the idea of buying a giant farm table into the office. “What ideas do you have for making our workspace more communal?” Is something you might ask to your colleagues and peers to raise the idea.

As you point people’s attention to something you’ve been thinking about for a while, it’s possible that they will come up with the same ideas — or even better ideas — and bring the group to a consensus without you ever sharing your frustration.

Use the phrase “What ideas do you have for…” just before the thing you want to affect or change, and watch what happens.

“Have you noticed…?”

Another great way to bring people’s attention to something is to raise it as a shared awareness. “Have you noticed that the kitchen always seems so dirty at the end of the day?” — there’s no blame, yelling, or accusations. Instead, you’re on the same page.

“Totally,” your colleague might reply. “We’re always so slammed with work during lunch because of all of our broadcasts, that we never seem to remember to pick up.”

Ahh — now you know the reason for the problem. “Would it help if we hired a few extra hands to come in and work the lunch shift so it could stay clean?”

“Yes! That would be awesome.”

“I’d love your insight…”

People love it when you ask their opinion. I got a version of this phrase from The Muse, a website on work and careers. Instead of sharing exactly what you would do to fix something, instead turn the phrase around:

“I’d love your insight into how to handle this. If you were in my shoes, what would you do?”

When you’re stuck and you don’t know how to broach a difficult subject, ask your colleague or client what they would do if they were in your shoes. Often by asking them to step outside of their everyday goals and objectives and understand your predicament, they can begin to understand why the problem is so challenging in the first place.

If there’s a limited budget and you’re running out of bandwidth to get everything done in time, you can tell your client what’s up. “The last project we had, we used two graphic designers and a freelance copywriter and it took us four weeks to get to final design sign-off. This time, you’re short a designer and don’t have any copywriters — I can stop work on the project to search for a new designer, but I’m afraid we might not meet the deadline. I’d love your insight for how to handle this. If you were in my shoes, what would you do?”

This can be a tricky one to use effectively, but, when done well, you can bring two sparring people to the same side of the table, finding creative solutions to problems together.

And when in doubt, compliment.

One of the most effective tools of persuasion is through using words of affirmation. Find what your friends, colleagues, and loved ones are doing well and tell them. The more we affirm and compliment a behavior, the more likely it’s going to happen in the future. Negative consequences can only be so effective. If you’re finding yourself complaining or yelling more than you’d like, try giving everyone a compliment by the end of the day.

As a boss, go through your roster of employees and direct reports. Have you complimented them on their work lately? Reach out and tell them what you appreciate about them. Tell them what good work they’re doing.

There aren’t many people who don’t like a good compliment. Tell them how good they are. This is one of the most effective tools of persuasion, because the person you’re complimenting will be more open for conversation, and more likely to want to keep doing a great job.


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