Of the Same Mind

By Lain Ehmann

Whether it’s Winston Churchill or Gandhi, successful leaders all share one trait, says inspirational speaker Bo Bennett, author of Year to Success (Archieboy Holdings, 2004). “What they have in common is the ability to influence millions of people to their way of thinking,” he explains.

While you may not be planning to take over the world, you can use the skills in your company or when selling to your customers, Bennett says. Here Bennett delineates several general ways to win others to your way of thinking.

Influence. “To influence another is to sway or affect based on prestige, wealth, ability, knowledge or position,” says Bennett. You’re using positive influence when you keep others’ best interest in mind, as well as your own.

Persuasion. Persuading another involves using argument, reasoning or entreaty. While the definition includes argumentation, Bennett urges people to avoid that tactic. “Clear reasoning is the most effective form of persuasion for getting your points across,” he says.

Mental conditioning. Mental conditioning is a process you can use on yourself via prayer, affirmations and mantras or on another, through repeated exposure, to change a feeling or create a belief. “The best-known example of this is advertising,” says Bennett, citing as a case in point beer commercials that link a glamorous, sexy lifestyle with the consumption of the beverage. Mental conditioning can be used for positive intents, but recognize that it can be used negatively as well, he says.

Manipulation. “To manipulate another is to use shrewd or devious management, especially for one’s own advantage,” according to Bennett. The simple difference between influencing and manipulating is intent, he says. “Those who use manipulation do so thinking only about what they want, not about the wants of those they manipulate.” While manipulation can be effective in the short run, in the long term it’s not. Once people know you’ve taken them for a ride, they’ll avoid doing business with you in the future.

Brainwashing. While brainwashing brings to mind religious cults and tambourines, it can take place in the workplace, too. Some organizational cultures are so strong that questioning, doubting, thinking for oneself and dissenting are discouraged or even punished. “One can be forced to live by another’s beliefs or against their own,” Bennett explains. As with manipulation, the intent is to overrule the other party’s will. Just like manipulation, brainwashing may win you the battle, but it’s not an effective strategy for the long run.

Bennett recommends always beginning with positive intent, with others’ goals and values as important as your own. “As a successful leader, use positive influence often and gentle persuasion when necessary. Use mental conditioning on yourself to get rid of limiting beliefs or to instill empowering beliefs. Never use manipulation or brainwashing,” he says.

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