Words that Change Minds – Mastering the Language of Influence
Influence perspectives for positive decision making, leading to cognitive processing that’s flexible, innovative, creative, and efficient. These cognitive effects lead to helping, generosity, interpersonal understanding, positive implications and overall employee satisfaction.
Encourage change and acceptance in the workplace with language that influences
Whether it’s a merger, acquisition, leading formation of new strategic alliances, embarking on new ventures, a change in management, or new office procedures, executives often struggle to inspire and motivate employees to accept the required change.
Executive management is often concerned about how employees would react, and how they would get their teams to implement the change in productive, innovative, creative, and efficient ways.
They may also be concerned about retaining the company’s values and sense of identity, and how to create a culture of commitment to the new vision.
Most employees feel fearful or threatened by change and thus, either resist it or try to curtail the process. But when change is communicated and managed properly, management can avoid resistance and disruptions in productivity, and cultivate a more engaged and supportive environment.
Successfully implementing change boils down to:
- Proper planning
- Garnering a belief in the process
- Effectively communicating the benefits of change
- Persuading and influencing with appropriate language.
The creation of a written vision statement, articulating a formal case for change is invaluable in creating employee buy-in and alignment.
A well thought-through plan will help crystallise your vision, and will allow you to present it to employees more clearly, succinctly, and with confidence and conviction.
Determine the short-term and long-term implications of the desired change, and what the workplace will look like once those changes have been implemented. Outline the infrastructure and programs needed to drive this change.
Anticipate possible obstacles, think of possible solutions to overcome them, and prepare answers to common questions.
Assess the cultural landscape to reveal possible conflict, and define factors that can influence leadership and resistance. This exercise can also identify the core values, beliefs, behaviours, and perceptions of the various groups that must be considered for successful change to occur.
Prepare financial proof of how changes will affect the bottom line. If costs of keeping things the same are more than the costs of change, you’ll have a stronger case in gaining full support.
Garnering a belief in the process
Individuals are inherently curious and will question whether the company is heading in the right direction with the change, and whether it’s aligned with their own beliefs and values, before committing to make it happen.
Six steps could be followed in developing belief:
- Articulate a convincing need for change
- Demonstrate faith that the company has a better and more viable future with the change, directed by competent leadership to make it happen
- Be totally transparent by circulating the main vision statement to guide behaviour
- Ask employees to customize the vision for various audiences, teams and personalities, describing the pending change in terms that would matter to each of them
- Create employee ownership by involving them in identifying any anticipated problems and crafting solutions to those problems
- Encourage continuous feedback during the change period, acknowledge and consider opinions.
Effectively communicating the benefits of change
Any pursuit of changes is sometimes received as an unwelcome event as it takes people out of their comfort zones.
Intellectually, they might be able to understand it. Emotionally, however, most will experience fear, anxiety and uncertainty. Some may see the change as unnecessary and a waste of valuable time, perceiving change as just more work or self-serving to executives.
That’s why it is important to clearly communicate and focus on the benefits employees will experience during change, aligned closely with their beliefs and values.
How you communicate verbally will of course play a defining role in getting support from employees. People are naturally attracted to someone who speaks from the heart and is genuine, transparent, and who speaks with confidence.
We are subconsciously drawn to people who are friendly because they make us feel good, thus communicate with a friendly tone and a warm smile. Then speak with clarity, ask yourself how you can convey the core elements clearly and to the point.
Practice humility, as it’s one of the most attractive personality traits one can possess and one that commands respect. Also, show interest in responses, as that will be the guideline on how to deal with your teams.
Persuading and influencing with language
To most people, the word ‘change’ itself is fraught with hidden meaning and negativity, evoking emotions of fear, of the unknown, power, control, resistance, and pressure.
As a good start to the entire process, derive a better term for change such as adaptation, development, modification, substitution, conversion, and improvement.
Some perceptions about change are predictable and can be counteracted with thoughtful verbal approaches. For instance, let’s consider the power phrase: ‘just pretend’. The phrase gives permission to switch off your conscious mind, to bypass the critical fear factor and letting go of the resistance.
Consider this verbal approach: “Just pretend, just for now, that the new development we seek is in place already. Just pretend that you’re working in a relaxing calm space and then all of a sudden, you’ve easily attained all the tasks and goals we’d set before you. Then pretend you receive all the recognition you deserve in due diligence of your valued contribution.”
Let’s examine using the word ‘imagine’ in your verbal approach: “Just imagine how well the organization will function after the adaptation. Just picture for a minute how you and your teammates are getting things done more smoothly and efficiently because of the new processes in place. Just imagine how you would love to come to work every day, knowing that your contribution is valued and that you were part of making a significant change in the company’s bottom line.”
Using the phrase “which means” can have just as much impact: “We’ve been running the same working processes over and over with no better performance or result, which means, we are either stagnating while everyone else around us improve with the changing times; or we are simply not good enough, which means if we continue down this road it would be just another insult to our overall vision of achieving greatness.”
Then switch to, “Remember a time when…” – “Remember those times when we felt so productive, so happy with our performance, remember that winning feeling? Now imagine you’re doing it right now again to obtain the new vision.”
While the word imagine literally stimulates the imagination, the word remember doesn’t just help you create a scene in your head – it helps you relive a time when you did something well and resurrect the feelings of accomplishment, which is the ultimate goal here. Making employees feel the change will ultimately result into its actualisation.
But for the aforementioned to work, executives have to appeal to employees’ identity and values. Who a person is, and how they see themselves are incredibly important – if you can tie in what you want with what their identity would be in a similar situation, you’d have a very good chance of getting them to do anything.
Finally, have employees make a verbal commitment to the change process. When people make a commitment, they tend to find it very difficult to change their minds without creating conflict or anxiety within themselves (cognitive dissonance).
By, Hawa Charfaray, CEO @ Training Excellence South Africa, CEO @ Orbrix Training Technical & Occupational Skills UAE