Getting ahead at work can sometimes seem like a magical process that is completely out of your hands.
We’ve all seen people who are bad at their jobs get promoted, and we’ve seen people who are great get ignored. Why does this happen?
The truth is that it’s not a magical process. It’s about relationships and influence.
Human psychology is the most powerful force at work in your office, and once you learn how to leverage it, you can accomplish so much more than through brute force alone.
In this post, I wanted to share some of my favorite tips that use psychology to help you get ahead. If whatever you’ve been doing isn’t working, try employing some of these strategies this week and see if you can’t make a bigger impact by increasing your influence.
How to get people to listen to you
A good idea on its own is not worth very much. It is the person behind the idea that really matters.
Think about it: if your closest coworker suggests something to you, you are a lot more likely to take them seriously than you would if it was someone you’d never met before or who you didn’t like that much.
Making the most of your relationships at work is one of the best investments you can make in ensuring that your ideas are listened to and valued by the people who have the power to make them happen.
Subtly send your successes upwards
How do you become the person people think of when there’s an important job to do? You stay on the minds of the people who make decisions in your office by being known as a superstar.
Your manager should not have to work hard to understand the value that you add to the team. It is your job to make sure they see you as a superstar – both by doing work that adds real value and by helping them to see it.
Not all work is created equal. If you want to have influence, you need to be seen as someone who makes things important things happen.
So how does your amazing work get seen without you bragging to everyone about how great you are?
Sending a concise status report once a week highlighting your most impactful successes (plus good questions about how to keep making progress) achieves two things at once: it shows your boss in a clear way how much value you are adding, and it keeps you on their mind.
Being great is good; being known for being great is real influence. When you’re on your boss’s mind as a superstar, you will become someone they think of whose opinion they take seriously because of your track record.
Our minds find it much more convincing to come to a conclusion on our own than to simply be told something is true. Therefore, it is much more valuable to show them (rather than telling them) how valuable you are by creating a track record of success that happens right before their eyes, convincing them of your success and impact.
Time your messages and ideas right
A good idea depends on timing almost as much as the idea itself. A good idea at the wrong time might as well be a bad idea.
I know how hard it can be to have a good idea and not share it. It seems like such a waste! But you usually only get one chance to share your idea and so it must be heard at the right time if it’s ever going to happen.
When you’re communicating with people who have the power to help you, make sure you are doing it in a way that works for them. Learn about their schedule and their energy levels. When are they free? When are they slammed? How can you get on their schedule at a time when they are open to listening to new ideas?
If you ask someone on their way out the door on Friday afternoon, they’re probably already checked out for the weekend and not receptive to talking through a new idea. On Monday morning, they’re probably preoccupied getting ready for the week and working through email.
Study people to learn when they are relaxed and receptive, or maybe when they’re fired up and excited to start projects, depending on the person’s personality. Only when you know they are in a state to listen and say yes should you approach them. Even if it means waiting a while!
How to earn trust and respect
Being successful is about earning trust. With trust comes influence – and with enough influence, you will be unstoppable.
Building trust and influence might seem hard, especially if you are new to an organization or you aren’t very high up on the ladder yet. But actually, that is a lucky position to be in because you have nowhere to go but up.
And if you’ve already burned bridges or know that people don’t trust you at work, then you have your work cut out for you – but it is not impossible. It just takes patience and persistence.
Listen more than you talk
We all love to be listened to. One of the greatest gifts that you can give to someone is your undivided attention, and people will notice when you do it consistently.
A big mistake people make is thinking that influence comes from talking a lot. But actually, one of the best ways to become influential is simply to be someone who helps great things to happen. That can often start by listening to someone, and then asking smart questions that either help them improve their ideas or show that you value their thoughts and opinions.
Figure out who the people are on your team who make a really big impact, or who will be the people making a big impact in the future. Spend time with them, and give them your attention. Listen and ask questions. They’ll see you as a supporter and someone they value (because you value them), and you will go far as their ally.
Ask someone for advice
Everyone loves to feel like they are appreciated for being smart and good at their job. But just giving someone compliments can feel fake and uncomfortable, especially if you’re not their boss.
Asking for advice, though, is an amazing way to let someone know that you value them. It shows that you have noticed their expertise in something and that you take it seriously enough to want to take their suggestions.
To do this, you can say, “I was wondering if I could get your advice on something. I really trust your opinion on ____.” Or “You’re so good at ____ that I wanted to get your opinion on a situation I’m working on.”
Listen to them carefully and thank them for taking the time to help you out. Even better, follow up with them later and tell them how using their advice helped you succeed.
You’ll be amazed at how this can change your relationship with someone from bad or neutral to good (even great!). When someone knows that you value them, they can’t help but value you back. Our brains love reciprocity, so helping them feel valued with help them value you in return.
How to convince someone of your viewpoint
One of the most frustrating experiences at work is not being able to convince someone to agree with you on something you are sure about.
Tell a story to help them see your perspective
The human brain loves stories; it is how we make sense of all kinds of things. It’s why politicians always tell stories about specific people they met along the campaign trail – when it feels personal and real, we all find it easier to connect to because we can relate it to ourselves.
If you’re explaining something to someone, try turning it into a narrative. Invent a customer, give them a name, walk them through the entire user experience; talk about how they feel, what they want, etc.
When the other person can visualize a real person or real experience, it makes it feel personal. People listen better when they can relate their own experiences and feelings to a story, which in turn makes them feel more connected to the idea you’re asking them to understand.
Use questions that lead to a “yes”
If your end goal is to get someone to agree with you or say “yes” to an idea, you need to get them into a “yes” frame of mind before you make your big ask.
Lead them down a path where they have to agree with you along the way.
- “One of our department’s stated goals for this quarter is to increase web traffic. Right?”
- “Wouldn’t it be helpful if we had more time for ___ every week?”
- “Do you think it’s beneficial to increase growth in ___?”
In this way, you are priming the person. Priming means you are preparing them for a particular action – in this case, you are priming them to say yes to agree to implement your idea (or whatever you are trying to convince them of!).
The more they say yes along the way, the more logical it will seem to them to keep saying yes. Why? Because they already said yes, and if they agreed with all the steps along the way, their mind wants to make sense of that by continuing to say yes and agreeing with the final logic you are laying out for them.
Study people and learn how to be more successful!
By paying attention, you can do a lot more than simply plowing ahead on your own. How do you leverage human psychology in your life and work? Share your stories with us on Facebook!