Let me introduce the Collaborative Influence Cycle.

It’s based on the reality of how human beings influence each other. Despite what we’re often told, the primary source of your influence is not what you say.

The true starting point for influence is what you notice about the person you seek to influence, and in particular, where they are directing their attention.

“The quality of your attention determines the quality of other people’s thinking.” Nancy Kline, Time To Think

Here’s how the model works:

  • When you seek to influence someone, first pay attention. What would they like to happen? Where is their attention?
  • Then, you are in a position to guide their attention. The simplest and most effective way to do this is with questions.
  • Once you’ve guided their attention to somewhere that seems fertile for what you have to say, say it!
  • Pay attention to the person’s response, and iterate.

Here’s why the model works:

Think for a moment: what happens when you are asked a question?

Even in a book, where you can’t reply directly, a question guides your attention to the answer that you would have given. It focuses your attention.

In the same way, when you ask a question, you guide a person’s attention. That is 
a powerful act of influence, because where attention goes, energy flows. The person’s emotional state follows their attention: for example, ask them about happy experiences and they’ll usually 
feel happier.

This works for groups, as well as for individuals.

By guiding their attention with questions, paying attention to the response and guiding with more questions, you can change the way people will receive whatever you eventually say.

And you’ll be in a strong position to tailor your message, because you’ll know what they want to hear.

How it links with Clean Language

Clean Language questions work especially well for guiding attention with precision, while at the same time building rapport. That’s because they include one or more of the other person’s own words in the ‘X’ spot.

Here are two Clean Language questions to play with:

  • What kind of X?
  • Is there anything else about X?
  • The Collaborative Influence Cycle forms part of my Collaboration Dynamics and ENGAGE Remote Facilitation training programmes. Copyright Judy Rees and Steve McCann, 2018.

An Influence Escalator

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