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Exercising Influence: A Guide for Making Things Happen at Work, at Home, and in Your Community, 3rd Edition by B. Kim Barnes

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Chapter 15Putting Your Plan to WorkTreating the Unexpected as an Opportunity

The one thing in the world of value is the active soul.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Improvisation

If practicing influence skills is like participating in a fitness program and planning for influence is like preparing for a journey, carrying out an influence plan is a lot like doing improvisational theater. You go in with a objective, some ideas about how to reach it, and a lot of knowledge about the situation. There is no script, however, and you're not the only actor. You have to respond to the lines the other players feed you and to the developing situation without losing track of where you want the performance to go. You have to be fast on your feet and flexible in your approach.

There are many lists of “improv rules,” but here are a few that apply well to the practice of influence:

  • Always say, “Yes, and…” Don't waste time disagreeing with or negating the other players. Instead, find something, even a small something, where you agree and build on that.
  • Show, don't tell. Whenever possible, find an active, engaging way to demonstrate or prototype your idea or concept.
  • Treat mistakes or unexpected information as opportunities. Take the new information and turn it in the direction of your objective. Acknowledge your own mistakes or misunderstandings openly and good-heartedly and find the humor in them.
  • Stay positive and flexible. Allow yourself to be influenced and keep the performance moving toward a positive ...

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