Developing skills to influence and persuade are very important to your success as a business person, especially if you have key responsibilities in sales. But most importantly, it starts with you and how you influence yourself!

The psychologist behind Team GB’s cycling success is Dr Steve Peters. Steve teaches sportsmen and women how to “keep the chimp in the cage”How to keep your emotions in check, not get overwhelmed and be calm in triumph and defeat. 

Peters has been an integral part of Great Britain Cycling Team’s accomplishments since his initial work with the team in 2001, helping each rider better understand and use the brain they possess and ensuring that they are in control of what he labels the ‘chimp’, an emotional machine that can act for us and influence us.

“Every person has a machine in their head, which has thoughts and emotions. What we want to know is what are these thoughts and emotions doing and how does this impact on their sporting performance?” explains Peters. “Part of the brain can be thought of as operating similar to a chimp – it may give us thoughts and feelings we really don’t welcome, that may sabotage our success but can be useful at other times”.

Although Peters focuses on sporting performance, this is true of our performance in various areas of our lives and especially business. We all have that nagging voice in our head that continually points out our failings, where things could go wrong and why they probably will! To be a success in sport or business, we have to manage the negative inner voice and thoughts. For some this is a small issue, for others it could destroy their business or career.

Here are 7 tips to manage your inner voice and influence yourself in the most positive way:

1. Appreciate that your inner voice and your thoughts are not your identity. Become aware of your negative thoughts and detach yourself from them and observe them more objectively. Or as Peters would say, simply put them in a cage when you are about to carry out an important presentation or meeting.

2. Monitor any “I can’t” auto responses and look to turn these to “I can” or “How can I”. This is moving yourself from “Effect” to “Cause” side of the equation.

3. Look to reframe any negative perspective you may have on a situation or outcome. Look to reframe this in a positive way, by finding a more helpful perspective.  This is the foundation of Cognitive Therapy.

4. Focus on “failing forwards” when outcomes are not as you would have wished. By this, I mean accept that any progress has setbacks. Learn from them, take them as good feedback and adapt for the future. Don’t beat yourself up about failures, we all have them!

5. “Act As If” to bring confidence and positive emotions. Over a century ago the brilliant Victorian philosopher William James proposed that “if you want a quality, act as if you already have it”. Write from your posture, physiology and through to your behaviour, act as if you are successful and this is proven to have a strong influence on your psychology. This is as simple as making more of an effort smile, as this has been proven to make us happier. There is more of this in an interesting book called Rip It Up by Richard Wiseman (Britain’s Professor for the Public Understanding of Psychology).

6. Utilise inevitability thinking and make commitments. Just writing something down – goals you may have for example – makes a stronger commitment in your mind. If you really want to influence yourself further, make your commitments public. Tell people what you are going to achieve and when.  Making them public will increase your motivation and accountability to achieve them.

7. Journal about positive things that you have achieved and things you are grateful for. This is part of programming your mind to look for the positive. For many of us, our minds seem to habitually look for the negative on a regular basis. Our minds need to be trained to look for the positive out there and journalling or keeping a regular log of positive occurences will wire us more to seek and recognise these.

The journey to influencing others starts with ourselves, so take some steps to “keep your monkey in the cage” at those important moments and look to influence yourself in a positive way on an ongoing basis.