Wouldn’t it be grand if you could successfully influence mothers, bosses, friends, and everyone you know to promote, support, and protect breastfeeding? What if I told you that you and other healthcare professionals can influence others in this way—and more—by adhering to six simple principles from an 80-year old book?

In his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie describes six ways to get people to like you. Whether your relationship with the person is personal or professional, there’s a higher chance that you can influence her if she likes you, right? So, take a look at these six simple principles.   

1. Become genuinely interested in others. 

Have you ever met someone who is just doing their job, but isn’t really interested in you or your problems, or your goals? Yeah, me, too. To demonstrate our sincere interest in the person, our first step should be to focus on their interests, watch what we say and what we don’t say. To demonstrate your interest in others, you can make suggestions (“You might want to consider…”)  rather than issuing commands (“You have to…”).  

2. Smile.

Les Giblin reminds us, “If you’re not using your smile, you’re like a man with a million dollars in the bank and no checkbook.” Ron Gutman, author of Smile: The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act, compiled the results of many studies from across the globe. These studies show how our smile affects us–for example, it provides the brain with as much dopamine as chocolate bars. But our smile affects others, too. For example, research in Upsala showed that it was difficult for people to frown when someone was smiling at them. Hmm … that’s powerful.

3. Be a good listener.

Using 6 principles, healthcare professionals can influence mothers, bosses, friends, and others they know to promote, support, and protect breastfeeding.

If you’re like me, you feel compelled to spout all of your knowledge of breastfeeding in an attempt to help or persuade someone. Here’s why it doesn’t work: “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” (The phrase has been attributed to Teddy Roosevelt, John C. Maxwell, and others.) It’s so true. So, save your speech, and just listen. Healthcare professionals can influence others by being not just a listener, but a good listener.

4. Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

We could debate all day about whether it’s best to address someone formally (as “Miss” or “Ms.” or “Mrs.”) or to use their given name or their nickname. Just ask them how they prefer to be addressed. The important thing is to use their name.

If you’ve ever attended one of my live courses, you know that I make a concerted effort to address each attendee by name. Why so? Because from Maslow’s hierarchy, we know that the upper levels are about the person and their sense of self. By using their name, we acknowledge their identity, massage their ego, and boost their self-esteem. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t need that, and addressing people by name is such a simple thing to do!  

5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interest.

We can get our point across more effectively when we talk in terms of the other person’s interest. Here’s a simple 1-minute video that highlights how we can frame our own agenda by keeping the other person’s interest front and center in the discussion.Somewhere, you learned that healthcare professionals can influence others, and here’s the key to doing so.

6. Make the other person feel important–and do it sincerely.

This can be easy when you’re interacting with a new mother. Just remember that the woman sitting in front of you has just been part of a miraculous event. From a few cells, she has grown an entire human being! From her power and strength, she has pushed through her pain and fears, and brought that little person into the world. Now, she has undertaken the responsibility of being the sole source of nutrition to her growing baby in the first months, and later, giving him the resources and guidance that he needs for development in the next 18 or more years.

Truly, she is important. Without her, and others like her, the species could not have survived. Tell her what a good job she is doing. (It’s true.) Tell her to follow her motherly instincts. (They are usually accurate.) Tell her you have confidence in her. She may need to hear that when she doesn’t have confidence in herself.

In what way have you seen that healthcare professionals can influence others? 

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