Chris Markiewicz's Blog
Every Monday – thoughts, observations and ideas that hold up a mirror to who & how we are

Influencing skills – oh dear…….

There is one particular aspect of modern life that I am certain many of us feel uncomfortable with:

The need to go out and influence.

The internet is awash with people offering help with influencing, selling, marketing, networking and whatever else you want to call it. In other words – how to engage with people that you don’t yet know, in a way that will encourage them to do business with you, or give you a job, or accept you into their university etc.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with this – you could say it’s part of what makes the (modern) world go round.

I question though, whether it is natural for a large proportion of us. It certainly doesn’t feel natural to many of us – or to put it more crudely, it can feel bloody uncomfortable.

I viewed a lecture a few weeks ago on  called The Power of Introverts given by US lawyer and author Susan Cain. She speaks powerfully and eloquently about the shift in the early-mid 20th century towards people needing to influence others in a forthright, extrovert way. She makes the point that this was the coming of the age of personality as distinct from the previous age of character. She mentions how such tomes as “How to win friends and influence people” blazed a trail on this new way of being. It was groundbreaking stuff. Before such oeuvres came along, the market for them hardly existed. Most people lived in small, communities, where each person had his/her role. They didn’t need to influence or to network with outsiders. I guess the traders, the merchants and the businesspeople did, but most didn’t.

This change of emphasis, of course suited the naturally extrovert, but what of those who didn’t feel that way inclined?

Nowadays, so much is skewed towards the need to be outgoing, Just about all of us whether business people, freelancers or those simply looking for employment or to enter university have to have the ability to influence, to impress. Yet, according to Cain around a third to half of us are naturally introverted (not to be confused with shy).

For those it’s a mantle that doesn’t fit or is incredibly itchy. So, it can seem to come down to survival of the fittest – not necessarily in respect of ability to do the job itself, but also that of being able to get out there and “fly your flag” in an impressive, compelling way.

However, I’m also perversely reassured by all this. I’m coming to realise that, to influence may not be my own natural way, and that I am more of an introvert at heart than I have previously thought – at least in business. This helps me come to terms with the collywobbles I often feel at the prospect of going out into the market. I’m hoping that others reading this will gain the same reassurance.

That doesn’t mean the more introverted among us give up and curl up into a little ball, but recognize that, just because we don’t always blaze that macho marketing trail, doesn’t mean we have to fall by the wayside. Cain makes the point that many of the world’s greatest leaders were introverts. Equally, some of the most effective, successful salespeople I’ve encountered have actually been relatively unassuming!

Her talk ends by urging us to “have the courage to speak softly” – I’m surprised at myself as I observe that that statement really resonates with me.



One Response to “Influencing skills – oh dear…….”

  1. Welcome back Chris. Bank Holiday or not (last week) you were missed.

    Good comments as ever. I wonder where the introverts are in big staff teams? I can remember coaching someone a while ago who said that he was “completely unknown to everyone at work” and that others described him “as a mouse who was never heard”. He had to live with labels like that because he was n introvert. It did nothing for his self-esteem.

    Perhaps the more extrovert among us should acknowledge whose space they take up – usually it belongs to the introvert.


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