September 19, 2019

To Influence and Persuade

The purpose of communication is to move things forward—right? So how’s that working for you now that we’re back in the whitewater? (Read more here.)

If you say, “Totally awesome!”  I don’t believe you.

Because communication is hard work. And because most of us assume we’re superb in our communication style, any breakdown is obviously the other person’s fault.  We’re not responsible when things don’t get done…

Or are we?

There’s a wonderful formula that readily pulls us into communication alignment with another person, and it begins with the words, “My request.”

I’ll explain.

All requests move along a continuum of two opposites: Directing or Informing.  And so do we in our communication style.

If you have a Directing style, you often communicate with urgency. You have a time and task focus. Just do it – now – please (or maybe not please all the time). You comfortably and readily tell people what to do and urge them forward to action, and probably get impatient with too much process. 

And you’re surprised when people resist being told what to do…

If you have an Informing style, you tend to enjoy the process of engaging, inspiring people. You like to motivate, invoke and engage people in your quest to get things done.  Have you thought about this? How about if you…  You’re generally more comfortable giving information than telling people what to do.

And you’re surprised the next day, when the person you just asked the day before to do something looks at you with a blank expression. 

Most of us have a natural preference for one or the other. And the implications for influencing others is significant. Directing styles can be perceived as bossy, impatient and demanding at times, while Informing styles can be interpreted as wishy-washy, indecisive and non-committal. 

It takes energy for those with a Directing style to back off and let things evolve more. And it takes energy for those with an Informing styles to be specific and clear.

Here’s where “my request” rides to the rescue.

1)    When you’re asking someone, anyone, to do something that matters to you, begin with MY REQUEST.

For Informing styles, these words will immediately sharpen your mind and focus. For Directing styles, these words prepare others that you are about to ask for something important. 

2)    Then follow your request with specifics and a deadline. For Informing styles this is critical because it may get left out, since you’re more interested in engaging someone than Directing them forward.

3)    Finally—and this is essential for Directing styles—ask for their engagement and get their buy-in. Don’t just drop the bomb of a request and walk away. Ask: Will this work for you?

This provides the opportunity for buy-in and lets them gather more information (making the Informing styles very happy) and expands the conversation for the Directing folks (improving their influencing style).

This simple structure has changed my life and also markedly improves communication for my clients.

Are you getting a sense of where you might fall along this continuum? If not, be a meta-observer for the next three days. You’ll definitely discover clues. 

This may all sound ridiculously easy, and you may think you’ve mastered this. (I did.) But next time you don’t get what you need, stop and think: Were you pushing or pulling? Go back to the formula – what was missing?

And oh, by the way, you might want to start by test-driving this technique on your family. (Did you just catch my natural Informing style of communicating in that sentence!?)  They may be the perfect audience – and you might be pleasantly surprised that someone is finally listening to you!

Source: Linda V. Berens, Understanding Yourself and Others, An Introduction to Interaction Styles, 2.0 2008, InterStrength Press,

*My Request is an adaptation of an assertive communication model. Tell Me How I’m Doing by Richard Williams is a great read to learn more. 

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Assertive Communication, Influence and Persuasion
About Deene Morris
Engaging Emotional Intelligence | Team Think Generator | Psychological Safety & Inclusion | Moving Positive Change Forward

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