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How Can You Influence People During a Crisis? Part 3

Updated: Jul 18, 2020

I spent that past six week in self-isolation writing and publishing a new book, “Communicating During a Crisis: Influencing Others When the Stakes Are High.” The title is self-explanatory, and the book is a quick read that is part business book, part self-help book with an interesting (and simple) explanation about what happens to our brains in stress. In other words, it looks at our mental-emotional responses to stress and why they happen.

For a few weeks leading up to publication, I was blogging about the art of influencing people using excerpts from the book. This blog is part three of that series and incorporates some of the writing from the book, which is now available on Amazon in paperback and e-book.

As a review, the first part of influencing others is understanding where people are coming from and the second step is to compliment and praise or relate to them.

The third step in influencing others involves empowering them to make their own decisions. Once you understand where someone is coming from and you are engaged in a dialogue in which you are relating to them and supporting them, they are in a better place to be influenced by what you say. However, in order for people to do what you want them to do, they actually have to want to do it.

That is a brain teaser, so let me phrase it more simply. People have to want to do something in order to do it.

Here is a surefire way to remember it. Animals have to want to do something in order for us to get them to do it. Ergo the saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Think about how dogs react the minute they realize they are about to enter the vet’s office. Front paws go out, butts go down, and all of their weight and effort goes into NOT moving. The human being taking the dog to the vet always wins but, depending on the size of the dog, it can be quite a struggle, which results in a lot of funny videos on social media.

I use these two examples to drive home the idea that people are the same. There is an axiom, “The mind rejects that which it does not seek.”

How many parents throw their hands up in frustration when they try to get their toddler, teen or twentysomething kid to do what they say? Business is no different. Many managers know that being a good boss is not about being bossy. In fact, the most effective leaders inspire their employees to want to succeed and empower them to do it themselves.

Influencing people is about speaking with authority, but not being authoritarian. That is why the third step in how to influence people during a crisis is about empowering others to make their own decisions.


Joanna Dodd Massey, Ph.D., MBA has a doctorate in psychology with an emphasis in transpersonal psychology. As a business leader with more than 30 years in corporate America managing crisis communications and brand reputation, Dr. Massey uses her business experience and psychological background to guide companies and executive teams through massive change.

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