An MIT Alumni Association Publication

Watch: Influencing Others—When Nobody Is Listening

  • Kate Repantis
  • slice.mit.edu

Filed Under

How do you present your ideas to best influence a conversation? This was the topic of the Career Lunch and Learn webinar Influencing Others When Nobody Seems to be Listening, with negotiation expert Stacy Lennon ’95, MCP ’96. Slice of MIT sat down with Lennon to talk about influence, common negotiation blunders, and the lessons alumni will gain from attending her June 5 webinar.
 

What kinds of practices can alumni adopt to encourage colleagues to listen and respect their ideas?
First and foremost, demonstrate the same behaviors toward your colleagues. There’s a nifty feature in human behavior called reciprocity—we often subconsciously give back what we get from the other person. You can take advantage of that feature by cultivating habits of listening and respecting your colleagues’ views. A lot of colleagues will then unconsciously do the same thing for you.

Stacy Lennon ’95, MCP ’96

When reciprocity doesn’t work, you might consider having a feedback conversation with the person in question. Avoid dropping a hand grenade like “you’re disrespectful!” and running off thinking you’ve done your job. You want to make it a dialogue in which you share specific observations, expectations, and assumptions, while hearing them out, and making a forward-looking behavioral request. What would it look like for this person to listen and respect your views? 

When there are larger systemic dynamics that may be creating an environment of disrespect, my recommendations become more focused on influencing leaders within the organization to create a cultural shift from the top down. This is definitely possible, but not easy nor quick.

In my experience, human behavior is remarkably similar the world over even if it shows up differently in different cultural settings or at a larger scale.

You have worked on many multi-lateral negotiations with clients around the world. Are there any common pitfalls you have witnessed that might also occur in smaller workplace negotiations?
Multilateral negotiations complicate and otherwise scale up a lot of the same challenging dynamics that show up in even one to one interactions. I’ve observed several common pitfalls: competitive or win-lose behaviors that limit value creation and damage relationships; not planning the process of negotiation; misunderstanding or miscalculating one’s power in a negotiation; not listening; reacting emotionally; and getting stuck in a right/wrong mindset. In my experience, human behavior is remarkably similar the world over even if it shows up differently in different cultural settings or at a larger scale.

Naming the tension aloud, acknowledging the other person’s perspective, and enlisting them as a co-problem-solver can go a long way toward defusing the moment.

When a conversation turns tense, what can one do to preserve the relationship?
I am a big fan of transparency. Naming the tension aloud, acknowledging the other person’s perspective, and enlisting them as a co-problem-solver can go a long way toward defusing the moment. It can also be smart to take a break if tempers are starting to flare and state, “It seems clear we both feel strongly about this; I see where you’re coming from even if we don’t yet agree. I’m wondering if we should take a break and regroup later on. What do you think?”

Even the most technical individual contributor must influence others to advance their research or ideas.

What do you hope alumni will gain from attending your webinar?
First, I hope people come away with a sense that everyone can and should work to get better at influencing. It’s not just for gifted orators or extraverts or sales teams; even the most technical individual contributor must influence others to advance their research or ideas. Second, I hope participants gain a broader appreciation of how much is actually within their control, and that sometimes we get in our own way. Third, I hope participants walk away with practical tools that they can use right away on their own influence challenges.

Watch past Career Lunch and Learn webinars. Featured image credit: Justin Lynham. 

Filed Under

Next Up

  • Previous Article

    Watch: When Will Driverless Cars Be a Reality?

    Julie Barr

    slice.mit.edu
    Don MacKenzie SM '09, PhD '13, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Washington shared his research on autonomous vehicle in a recent Faculty Forum Online, Alumni Edition.
  • Next Article

    2016 Tech Challenge Games


    The Tech Challenge Games are the most interesting and eclectic collection of MIT-inspired games you will ever encounter. Founded by alumni for alumni, the Games have become an integral and exciting part of reunion weekend.