Success in business depends on the careful use of language to get results by influencing those around you.
Managing is about getting things done, about achieving goals through action, and that requires persuading people to accept your point of view. One way to move people toward your way of thinking is to first build a sense of connectedness with your audience through similarities, things you share in common. You are more likely to persuade people to help, collaborate, and compromise when they feel a shared connection with you.
That feeling of kinship can develop in various ways, such as these:
- You attended the same college, majored in the same field, enjoy the same social activities, like the same types of food, have the same professional goals, root for the same teams, or have children of a similar age. Commonalities of place (you’re both from the same state) also produce a sense of unity.
- You are candid in a conversation. If you reveal something about yourself, the other person is likely to return the gesture, because of the principle of reciprocity (we feel an obligation to repay kind gestures), and that can build closeness.
- If you need help writing a communication or a speech, ask your boss for advice. It immediately puts her in a collaborative, partnership mode. She’s in a “we” relationship.
Similarities among co-workers create the perception of a team, and people feel a sense of kinship and loyalty to teammates.
“Feeling similar to another person increases attraction to the person,” psychologist Dan Silvia wrote in the journal Applied Social Psychology after doing a series of experiments on the how similarity reduces resistance and increases compliance with requests.
“Liking is a well-known force toward compliance,” he said. “People interpret the actions of liked others in ways that maintain a positive image of the other person.”
We respond more favorably, we treat others better when we perceive them as being in the same group, wrote social psychologist Robert Cialdini, in his book Pre-suasion. “It’s about shared identities.”
A manager can develop a sense of “we” by using pronouns that convey inclusion. “We,” “us,” and “our” connote community; they are more inviting than those written from the “I” perspective, which can have a more authoritarian or parenting tone.
Said Cialdini: It’s all about getting to yes, “and in the context of a relationship, people say yes to their relationship members.”
Ken O’Quinn is a professional writing coach and former Associated Press writer who conducts corporate workshops on business writing, persuasive writing, and corporate communications writing. He is the author of Perfect Phrases for Business Letters (McGraw-Hill), which is available here at Amazon.com.