Stephen Covey, in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” says that the single most important principle he has learned in the field of interpersonal relations is this: “Seek first to understand then to be understood”. This principle is the key to effective interpersonal communication. If you want to influence me, whether I am your child, your spouse, your friend, or your patient, you first need to understand me. But most people seek first to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. And quickly if possible. They are either speaking or preparing to speak, thinking of what to say next. If all we do is “tell” our patients what they need to do and give them logical reasons to do it, many of them won’t “buy”. And the same goes for our spouse, our child, or our friend. If you tell your teenager not to get that tattoo because it will be with them forever and what if they change their mind in the future, or because tattoos are a sign of lack of education and look, you don’t see an educated professor or a high-end lawyer or doctor with them, then the second they find even one of those people with a tattoo, your argument and your logic goes out the window. And the same goes for your patient. If you tell them they need a crown because “patching it up” won’t work long-term, and then you slap on some resin and it doesn’t immediately fall off, guess what, you were wrong about that crown!

So learning to influence requires you to learn to listen to your patients, but not just with your ears. It requires you learn to listen with your eyes, and with your heart, so you start listening for a feeling; you start listening for what things mean to them. You are looking for their motivation, their interpretation of the world around them and the words they use, and how they use those words. Are they looking for “strength” or are they looking for being “holistic”? Are they influenced by what others say and think about them and how they look, or are they more motivated by their internal voice? Are they animated when they speak, or are they quiet and withdrawn? Are they more auditory, visual or didactic? Are they a “move towards something” type of person, or are they more about “avoiding something”?

Becoming a master of influence requires you to become like them, feel what they feel, believe what they believe, and then tell them how this thing you are about to do to them will solve their problem and be in line with who they are. Understanding the person in front of you, knowing what motivates them and how they identify is about diagnosing the whole person before prescribing any treatment. This is what I often refer to as The Invisible Secret. And if you want to learn more about this, check out: