“How to influence people to believe in your ideas – an analysis with the recent case-study of Anna Hazare”

I’ve been excited about writing this article ever since witnessing the Anna Hazare movement spearheading the nation in the recent past to fight against the epidemic of corruption. As I pored over the rather enormous amount of literature on influencers and the art of influencing, I realised that the ‘Hazare Effect’ had definitely some valuable lessons for everyone to get inspired from. The entire subject of influence is entrancing because it is prominent and exhilarating to learn how you can influence people to believe in your ideas. It is effortless to influence others but exigent to persuade while standing on both ethical and universal grounds. The principles I am sharing with you are effective techniques for influencing people to believe in your ideas and achieve success in what you want. Anna Hazare has proved to the world that the ‘The key to success today is influence and not authority’.

In his journey from a steadfast soldier to a social reformer, Anna Hazare’s expedition in terms of non-violence and his effectual idea of revivification of a barren village into an `ideal village’ model is a true inspiration to many. Thousands of fellow citizens from hundred cities across India joined his campaign. Online, Mr. Hazare received the support of lakhs of Indians in a span of 24 hours just through fasting and bhajans. How did this happen? Let’s view the Hazare’s conduit of how to influence and sow the idea in the minds of movers and shakers and decision makers – all within an ethical milieu.

  • Hit the bull’s eye: Visualise that you have a striking idea and you want to put it across; your boss walks in and you grab the occasion to share it with him and he responds, ‘I have exactly two minutes to spare, get started’. Your reaction would be, ‘come on, where I begin?’ A mediocre influencer would introduce an idea in a predictable fashion like WHAT is the idea, HOW does it work and WHY it’s important to believe in it. On doing that, your boss would react, ‘So? I know this; tell me something NEW!’ This was the reaction of many of us when we were told about the idea of building a corruptionfree nation through Gandhian strategy, but the man in white with plain language proved the practicality of what was mearly a distant dream. Hazare believed in the vision, hit the bull’s eye by answering WHY this idea, HOW does it work and finally WHAT the idea is. He struck the chord that instigated the drive to know what the whole idea was about and instilled pride in being a part of it. This is the power of communication.

           Remember, people don’t buy what you do, but people buy why you do.

  • Strike with energy: People with energy energise others. Think about the whole episode – a man in his late 70s with apparent enthusiasm to make a difference to the status quo and energy to spearhead a people’s revolution is definitely the spark; it helped him put across his idea. Develop passion for the idea and the cause. Your idea to ignite the believer with the fire that is in your belly spells the difference between the delivery and demise of your idea. Articulating with zeal is the key. Energy and persistence conquer all things.

“The dream of India as a strong nation will not be realised without selfreliant, self-sufficient villages, this can be achieved only through social commitment and involvement of the common man.”- Anna Hazare

  • Slice the ‘M’: Avoid being Melodramatic. Don’t debate the niceties. If you spend time debating the minutiae of your idea, people will stop thinking about the idea. Create demand and watch the action. Practice the art of speaking the language of things; don’t talk to a man in the language that reaches his head but talk in a language that reaches his heart. It’s no dark substance or black magic but just an ethical crusade for attention and action. The takeaway from Mr. Hazare’s style is simple. Understand the ability to simplify the means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.
  • Challenge the skeptics: Be a statesman, accept resentment with grace. The biggest challenge to any visionary is to break the cynicism of the people and prove the skeptics wrong; treating everyone with respect draws attention toward you. The more facts you can provide to strengthen your argument the less skeptical the other person will be and the easier it will be to persuade him. Present facts; people tend to believe you more if there are facts supporting the idea. Make enough connections and you will be able to cross from conversation spiced with I’s to We’s. Persuasion and evidence is a strong combination.
  • Set the stage with out conviction: One of the extreme sources of powerful influencers is conviction. One of the few characteristis universal to all visionaries is that they have firm views and stick to them. It is hard to influence someone when you don’t know where you are leading them to. Exhibit confidence, bring people aboard, excite them about the idea and earn support; they will in turn do that to all those around too. The takeaway from the Hazare effect – One person with a belief is equal to a force of 99 who have only interest. The action demonstrated with personal humility by Anna Hazare showed his conviction to the goal and his capacity to make others see the value of the idea.

“When you choose to decode your idea from the monarchy of possibility to the dominion of actuality, you are exercising the drives within you. The two work in perfect agreement and help you to reach the goal..”

  • Leave the impact: There are ways to make yourself verbally impressive. The tip here is to attend to the style and substance of the idea with a pinch of simplicity and feasibility. It was surprising and funny to imagine the idea of voicing through ‘non-violence in violent times’. Initiating his day-long hunger strike at Rajghat to protest against corruption, this Gandhi devoteee commented that if the Lokpal Bill was not passed, he would fast unto death at Jantar Mantar. This proves the point that how you say determines more than what you say. This is not as paradoxical as it may seem in the beginning. Practice a result-driven approach. Remember the words of Thomas Jefferson: “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock”.
  • Build support: Rather than waiting for a big opportunity to introduce your idea and see how things take off, be the change. Append idealism, imagination and valour to the whole exercise. The realistic challenge of a visionary is to fight against the darkness and the creation of a concrete altered state. It is worth the time. Build the power of judgement by being in the right place at the right time to say the right thing to the right person just once! By sheer commitment and simplicity, he has demonstrated that Gandhian principles are relevant even in 21st century India. His idea witnessed hundreds of thousands of supporters, and the waves of support grew into a barrage through candles lit across the globe.

A belief is a strongly anchored perception that has deep roots, and although attending a belief is exigent there are ways to bring about a change in the minds of people and influence them to believe in your idea. While one particular drive dominates, each of us possesses a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic drives. When you choose to decode your idea from the monarchy of possibility to the dominion of actuality, you are exercising the drives within you. The two work in perfect agreement and help you reach the goal. It is important to understand people’s beliefs. If you go about persuading anyone without even ascertaining the person’s actual belief, then you are not getting anywhere. Learning how to influence the belief of a person is tricky but not impossible. Move from abstract to concrete, and as you influence you will notice a small incremental success. Then, move the idea to the next success level.

No idea works unless you work on the idea. The journey begins with your excitement about doing things – better for you, for the others and for the world itself. Happy influencing!