Since my oldest daughter was three, I have always worked from my home. While my children perceived this to be a wonderful benefit, it did present a minor complication when it was “Take Your Daughter to Work Day”.
On one of these annual occasions, when my daughter, Emma was about 7 or 8, she remarked how unfair it was to have a mom who worked at home and she did not really understand what I did anyway! So, I set out to explain the complicated world of training and development and my role within it. (Being a lawyer or doctor would have been so much easier!). Emma wanted to know what I actually “trained” so I started to explain how often I train courses on “Influence” Skills.
“What’s that?” she replied.
“Well, it involves teaching people how to use a set of behaviors that will help them achieve results in their jobs and build relationships with their co-workers”. And as if this would make sense to a 7-year old, I then went on to describe some of these tactics and behaviors such as expressing needs, offering reasons, coming up with incentives, listening to others, asking good questions, drawing others out and getting others excited about your idea.
She looked puzzled as I continued my explanation and cried out, “Wait a minute, you teach adults, right?”
“Yes that’s right”, I answered.
“Well then why do you need to teach grown-ups about that? You’re teaching them how to get their own way, and kids already know how to do it. I don’t get it!” Emma exclaimed.
Well, from the mouths of babes….
I often reflect on this exchange. On one level, she was right. Children know how to go after what they want and they are persistent, goal-focused, and unrelenting at times. They pay close attention to the interpersonal clues and environment and can figure out how to navigate their way through the intricacies of their needs and the barriers standing in their way. They often know how to read a situation, ask lots of questions with no apologies to get information they need to make their case, and they are willing to show their vulnerabilities as well. And with all of this, they are also quite ADORABLE and CUTE!
So, what happens as we mature? How come we lose our confidence to go after what we want, speaking directly in an unabashed way? I suspect many of us have paid the price for directly communicating about our needs. Or perhaps, when we have tried, we have forgotten how to take the situational cues into account when pleading our cause. Maintaining behavioral flexibility and understanding context is key to our success as adults in achieving what we want to accomplish. Let’s not forget what we knew how to do so well in childhood. (And never mind about being adorable).
Written by Lauren Powers, Eastern Regional Director
Want to know more about influence skills and being more effective at getting things done? Visit our website at: www.barnesconti.com to learn about Exercising Influence – the world’s most widely used influence skills program.