Minding Your Influence

Minding Your Influence

Have you ever found yourself saying to a colleague, something like ‘please read this report’ when what you really want to say is, ‘just read the (damn) report!’

You added the ‘please’ because you’re trying to find that balance between politeness and authority, but it still sounds like a request when you’d rather it was an instruction.

Adding the word please certainly keeps you in the polite zone, but it may not succinctly influence the receiver or truly enhance the effectiveness of your communication.

So how can you remain polite while sounding more authoritative?

Here are three quick wins for maximising face-to-face influence:

  • Breathing from the diaphragm instantly makes you sound more confident by lower your vocal pitch.
  • Ensure each message ends in a commanding downward inflection
  • Use clear, illustrative gestures that mimic the request

Combine these
to stack the odds of your influence, in your favour. And add this gem which quite literally has you minding your Ps and Qs by replacing ‘could you please read this report’ with ‘could you read this report (pause) thank you’.

By adding a ‘thank you’ at the end of that request, you’ve already got them thinking about having completed the polite request! Saying ‘thank you’ is a mind trick that suggests to the listening ear, completion is a certainty.

Top tip!  It’s a playground out there, have fun experimenting with these skills for more effective communication!

CLARITY for Working Well

CLARITY for Working Well

September always feels to me like a fresh start, a throwback to new socks, shoes and pencil cases and a renewed enthusiasm for structure after the carefree summer holidays, do you know what I mean?

This September I found a renewed enthusiasm for social media and a decision to do less, yet be more precise, with a clearer purpose of why I want to be engaging with strangers. But that world is a mire! A maelstrom of emotions driving each platform’s algorithms! And an omnipresent pressure to be popular (school day thinking again) through dramas, chaos, and vanity posts. It’s got me wondering about the challenges to stay in integrity and post with clear purpose.

Purpose is a word I like to add to my daily life anyway and encourage my clients to do the same. Great questions soon habituate such as ‘what’s the purpose of that post’?

  • You want to be liked and have lots of (virtual) friends?
  • You like the feel-good sense of validation when people (often strangers) agree with you?
  • You are focused on driving a sales funnel?
  • You get to be that ‘popular’ person?

I ask my clients:

“Who are you trying to influence and why?”

“Who is trying to influence you, and why?”

I like making new connections through social media. The world is full of interesting people doing fascinating things, but I loathe the mindless blitz of inbox pitches that arrive seconds after each new connection, especially on the business platforms.

Mostly I ignore the inbox bombardment but earlier in the month I ‘actually’ responded to an unsolicited pitch. Why? Because that person and I had previously established a business rapport through another social group that clarified our respective interests which for me, co-created permission to attempt to influence each other on said topic.

But, being connected or ‘friends’ is not a free pass and I’m staggered by the number of ‘marketing experts’ who bombard by scattergun … thus selling themselves (to me at least) as a brand of little integrity. Worse still so many blanket offers don’t even fit my world, playing some law of averages in that game ‘you’ll do’ ….

Our social media personas define our brands, and whether we like it or not, we live in a marketing web. I’m looking for authenticity and integrity, are you?

In NLP for Business, John La Valle (President of the Society of NLP) calls out ‘earning the right to influence’ and that works for me – have I earned the right to try to influence this person/these people – are we on an agreeable wavelength? Are we in rapport?’

In our Work Well model, we coach Clarity of rational thought and conscious decisions that drive the rest of the brain (emotions and actions).

So, this month’s Clarity Tip is to contemplate this key question:   What are you trying to convince the world of, and are you pushing on an open door?

Separating Facts and Tasks from Feelings at Work

Part 2 of a 5-part interview with Chris Cummins.


What are good practices for working well? What do successful companies do to support staff wellbeing? Who is aware that everyone brings something invisible to work?

Chris is Joint Managing Director of the global training company OTD.

Recorded in Orlando in March 2020 (just before C-19 lockdown).

Animal Magic

Animal Magic

Have you ever noticed how being around animals can help to calm people? There are many studies on how non-human animals can help humans in so many ways.

You might have experienced the feelings that another animal can generate? Maybe you’ve heard of schemes that invite animals to interact with people in hospitals or care homes?

My experience is mainly in working with horses. For centuries, people have relied on the horses in their lives. In contemporary times, horses in the UK, although sometimes used for economic purposes, are rarely relied on for practical purposes such as working the land or carrying us to war, rather for pleasure. An expensive hobby some may think, so what is it that draws us to these magnificent creatures; what is that makes us see them in awe; what is it that compels us to be near them even though we may be a little afraid? That’s their beauty and the answer is different for everyone.

Non-judgemental, horses are extraordinarily responsive to human emotions and states of mind, and are experts of knowing when we’re not being genuine. Their social nature is highly developed, which accounts for their sensitivity and keen ability to “read” their surroundings. Their social nature also accounts for their intense need to know who is leading at any given moment.That sets up a natural environment for humans to practice leading the horse and getting genuine feedback about how well they are doing. People can gain confidence and insight by discovering within themselves the qualities the horse is so good at eliciting, including trustworthiness, courage, responsibility, love, empathy, joyfulness, reciprocal giving and receiving, creativity, authentic self, mutual trust and respect, confidence, assertiveness and leadership.

So, what is at work when we experience these animals in this way? There are many books written on the subject, so these are simply some examples of how I’ve seen people learn so much about themselves and their responses to life.

  • Horses are flight animals, and will quickly access this ability if they feel threatened. The fight or flight instinct is a reptilian response which sits in the cerebellum. When compared to a human brain, the horse’s cerebellum is large which makes the functions that sit in here very refined. This stress response causes hormones such as cortisol to flood the body, readying the horse for running away, forming its primary defence mechanism. Although, generally, humans don’t need this immediate response, the brain will still react quickly in survive mode when it feels under threat, even when the threat is no longer present. Sometimes this is appropriate, but when it continues, apparently unwarranted, it can cause us to be physically and mentally unwell. When operating in ‘survive’ mode, neither people nor horses can learn as their thinking brain shuts down; it’s not needed to run away from lions and tigers. Horses can help this as observation of them can help people to reflect their own response and what might be a better way.
  • Many humans spend much time either in the past or the future, struggling to stay in the ‘now’. Horses are renowned for operating in the ‘now’. They don’t hold grudges, worry about the past and, as far as we know, don’t anticipate the future. It’s true that they will quickly learn about situations that they want to avoid, but rarely anticipate that event happening, rather reacting when it does. When around horses, the animals will respond differently to individuals, depending on whether they perceive a threat. Often, where people are struggling to stay ‘in the now’, horses might be quite wary. The miracle change comes when people explore their feelings to switch into ‘thrive’ mode and this gives them so much more capacity for building better responses. The horse will quite often feel comfortable in coming closer when this switch happens.
  • Congruence is one thing that horses are well known for. They pretty much are and do what they say on the tin; what you see is what you get. And, when we’re working with them, their response to those not being congruent is really interesting. To a horse, we don’t feel safe when we’re not congruent as they can’t judge what we might do next. So, what is congruence? Congruence can be described as the correspondence between what you feel and what you express. Therefore, we could define congruence as that balance which exists between your most visceral state (your “gut”) and the externalisation that you make of it in your behaviour. Both verbally as well as non-verbally. That is to say, when we are congruent, what we feel and what we externalise are in tune with each other. Not acting congruently can cause our bodies to feel stress, and horses are very skilled at drawing attention to where the primitive part of our brain is operating out of tune with our behaviour.
  • In a horse’s natural environment, everyone is very clear on their role in the herd. The roles sometimes change, but at any given time, each animal is aware of its position and what’s expected. This means that when they’re with us, horses need to check what role we’re playing. This can quickly give people an insight into their own ability to take on, for example, a leadership role as the horse will easily just make its own rules if it feels that no one else is in charge; it has to do this to make sure it stays safe. This reminds me of how our brains can respond when there’s no one holding the reins. If our thinking mind is not giving clear instructions, our primitive mind feels the need to decide for itself and act accordingly, sometimes not appropriately, leading to an unexpected response!

As you can see, horses can make powerful partners in exploring many aspects of how our brain works. Being able to manage our responses to situations more successfully in thrive mode, having our brain work its component parts effectively together creating a flourishing environment, and helping us navigate through life successfully, is key to reducing stress levels, dealing with issues such as depression and eating disorders, and even phobias and panic attacks.