Wednesday, 30 April 2014

How to create maximum influence - 2 tips

We've all been there and we've all done it:

"Don't eat too many sweets, they're bad for your teeth"

"Don't step in the road, you could get hurt." 

"Don't play on the fence, it might break."

"Don't send it like that, she's our best customer."

Whether it's business or home, most of us at some stage in our lives will fulfill roles, which require our positive influence. It might be eating too much sugar, walking in the road, playing on a flimsy fence or sending a sub-standard piece of work to our best customer, but regardless of the scenario, we want the other person to obey our command in the here-and-now and also to remember for next time.

But more often than not, the more we repeat the same old negative commands, the less effective we become because the person on the receiving end sees us as an old nag. When this happens, delivering any sense of meaningful influence becomes a major struggle.

If you want other people to respect your authority, whether you're leading a team at work, or leading your family unit, I suggest you ditch the word "don't" from your vocabulary. It doesn't matter how many times you issue a command, if it begins with the word "don't", the brain of the person on the receiving end will fixate on what follows this word rather than not doing the thing you want them to avoid.


Imagine it's a hot day and you've had nothing to drink for a few hours. The sweat's pouring down your brow and I say, "don't think about a cold, lemonade ice lolly, the sharp, sweetness of the lemons, the ice cold lolly in your mouth, just don't think about it". Of course, your brain will think about the lolly and will conveniently bypass the word "don't". It's the same for adults and for children and happens regardless of the situation.

Tip 1) Issue positive commands and be specific about what you want to happen. Practise your new style of command so it becomes a habit. I can personally vouch for the fact that getting rid of "don't" can take some getting used to:

"Don't eat too many sweets, they're bad for your teeth
"You need to eat less sweets in order to take care of your teeth."

"Don't step in the road, you could get hurt"
"Walk on the pavement because it's safer."

"Don't play on the fence, it might break"
"Get off the fence and leave it alone, it's flimsy and might break."

"Don't send it like that, she's our best customer"
"This document needs more work on it, it looks messy and I've already spotted a few typos in the text."

Tip 2) Coach rather than command, particularly in situations where there's no immediate danger. Ask questions which encourages the other person to think about the situation so that they engage and come up with their own answers.

Whilst it may feel easier to issue commands, easy is not necessary effective and people on the end of constant commands become passive spectators and immune to your authority. They may appear to listen to you but their minds will usually be elsewhere and they'll forget what you said ... that's if they ever heard you in the first place!

"How is eating too many sweets a problem for you?"

"Why is the pavement a better place to walk than the road?"

"What could happen if you keep playing on the fence?"

"If you send the document like this, what do you think our client will think?"

Now available on iTunes and Amazon: The Impact Code - Unlocking Resilience, Productivity & Influence

Thanks for reading - I help people achieve more in their lives by developing their resilience, influence and productivity. 

Call me - 0121 420 3457 / 07760 444 946
Email me -
Connect with me on Linkedin -
Like me on Facebook -
Follow me on twitter -
Check out my website -


  1. You sound just like my mother! She would always be saying those things to me. But you are right-everyone wants to be obeyed when they command something. It's human nature! I love the "ditch 'don't." I think that is so smart! I'm definitely going to start using that from now on. Thanks for the help!

    Lynn Chase |

  2. thanks for the comment - good to hear from you.