The Irony of Influence: How to stop being our own worst enemy

Category: Sales Training
By: Nikki Kuliczkowski

The average person can think 450 words per minute but can actually speak only 150 words in the same time. So what happens to those extra 300 words?

They go into self-talk: words that often analyse and evaluate what we’re hearing and what we’re going to say next. And, a lot of the time, self-talk turns into judgement of others.

So what does this have to do with influence? Simple: your self-talk can make or break our effectiveness in influencing others.

Let’s say you’re trying to pitch your product or service but the client starts asking things along the lines of, “Why is this so expensive compared with other companies? What makes you the better option for me at this price?”

Your self-talk will take you in various directions.

Your first instinct is to go into a passionate, sales-pitching, defensive mode, trying to sway your client, by saying things like, “Oh, well we have X amount of years experience…and blah, blah, blah.” Meanwhile, your self-talk may be saying, “This is ridiculous. We’ve been doing this for so long, how dare you even question our capabilities? How could you ever think we’re not worth it!”

Remember, your self-talk is always about you, not your client.

You shouldn’t feel the need to jump straight to defense. Influence is a sequence: If you keep negatively judging in your self-talk, your sense of self (your ego) will heighten. As this happens, your ability to empathize decreases. This can lead a client to become disinterested which lowers your chances of influencing him or her as you originally intended. Ironically, the more we make it about us, the less influential we are.

So instead of jumping straight to defence, take a second and think about these questions:


  • How is my self-talk intruding on my ability to understand my client? Your client can tell when you’re really just making it about yourself. Try to recognize how your tone may be affecting the way a person perceives you.
  • What is my client’s perspective and why does this person feel this way? The person may just want to know if he or she will be getting the right value from the amount of money being spent.
  • How can I prove to my client I am taking these concerns seriously? Demonstrate that you truly understand the person’s perspective. Explicitly say you appreciate the honesty and understand the concerns brought to light. Your client probably has a budget to stick to.

Influence starts with you. By just taking a step back, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, and turning your self-talk into something positive, you can be a more effective influencer.

Because the truth is, when it comes down to our ability to communicate and influence, we are our own worst enemy.  It’s just a matter of influencing yourself first.