Use These 9 Tactics to Effectively Influence Others

POSTED: Nov. 02, 2016

Program ParticipantDo you ever wish people would just do what you asked and that you could get people to follow through on their part of the project? Maybe you wish you could get your point across better, or perhaps you have trouble saying no? The solution to all of these situations is learning how to influence others well.

Luckily, the ability to influence others isn’t just an innate ability that some leaders are born with; it is a skill that you can learn. More then making your life easier, influencing others is an essential tool to being successful in the workplace. The truth is, we are all influencing one another all the time, whether we know it or not. The real question is in what direction are you influencing others and is it the one you want?

Influence is simply attaching pain to the direction you don’t want someone to move toward and attaching pleasure to the direction to which you do want them to move. That means our natural reactions to people are forms of influence, even a cold reply or a warm word of encouragement can influence how people will behave in the future. If you’re not intentional and conscious of how influence works, those natural reactions could make matters worse.

In the workplace we tend to think of this simply as a manager rewarding or disciplining an employee, but we can and do influence our peers and managers. Maybe you wish your employer communicated with you better or you wish your colleague didn’t wait until the last minute to get their part of the project done. You can influence them by rewarding the behavior you are seeking and even attaching pain to behavior you  prefer would change. But first, you’ll have to figure out what brings them pain and pleasure. You have to know your audience.


"Great reference tool - thanks"

Great reference tool - thanks!

Now at this point, some of you might be thinking that ‘influencing others’ sounds like a euphemism for manipulating others. To this I’d say manipulation is just one form of influencing others, and a negative ineffective one at that. Manipulation quickly backfires when, not if, people see through it. To be truly effective at influencing others, whether you’re using pain or pleasure, you have to think about the other person first and what’s best for them. While this is counter to human nature and business culture, the people who are most effective at influencing others are those who have mastered the art of creating win-win situations. Win-wins transform influencing from a tug-of-war into a team pulling together to achieve the same goal.

If influencing others isn’t manipulation then what exactly is it? It can look very different in a number of circumstances, but some of the best tactics you can use are positive ones. How many people have been inspired to change their behavior by Gandhi’s quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I know I have and inspiration is just one tactic you can use and will learn about in the Kent State program, Influencing Others that I facilitate. A more concrete example is when your teachers give you grades that either reward excellent work or attach some pain to correct a mistake. They are trying to influence you with your best interest in mind – namely teaching you how to succeed in your field. In turn, by successfully helping you succeed in your field, they are succeeding in theirs – teaching – so you both win.

In principle this might all sound very simple, but in practice it can get tricky. Influence isn’t a math formula, it’s a dialogue and sometimes a chess game. To learn the rules and tactics of this dialogue, in the program, we’ll start by going over the 9 tactics for influencing others that I recommend, and how and when to use them. Then we’ll take the opportunity to practice using them in real-life situations with small group activities.

Part of that practice will be learning how to use these tactics as a situation escalates. The first five on the list are soft tactics and should always be used first. They’re positive and easily create win-win situations. The last four should be used sparingly and only after other tactics have been tried. The last two especially should only be used as a last resort because they don’t create win-win situations, which means you’ll have to use more time, energy and power to be successful. Not to mention it harms the relationship, which will hinder your ability to influence them in the future.

Use These 9 Tactics for Effectively Influencing Others

1. Logic – Convince someone by using factual, logical and step-by-step reasoning.

2. Inspiration – Suggesting what may happen as opposed to fact-based reasoning. This appeals to emotions more than logic.

3. Participation – Asking a number of questions where the answers will lead the other person to draw his own conclusions.

4. Uplift – Making someone feel good about him/herself and start listening to you.

5. Deal – Offering something in return for something. Quid pro quo (Latin) “this for that”.

6. Favor – Asking for something you want.

7. Collective – Using the view of other people to influence someone.

8. Policy – Authority is effective as a quick response to a problem. It is very blunt and sometimes provocative.

9. Force – Exercising power. Always a last resort.

Part of using each of these tactics well is setting the appropriate atmosphere, what Stephen Covey calls the psychological air, in his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Creating this psychological air begins by getting to know your audience. You start by listening. This not only helps you get to know the person, but when a person feels heard they are more likely to listen in return. Just as influencing others appears to be a simple equation at first, listening appears simple, but takes skill and intentionality to do well.

Influencing others is a powerful tool in business and in life that it is essential for every manager and leader to develop to be successful. In the process, it will create a healthier, more productive atmosphere of collaboration in the workplace, where everyone can win, and work is done effectively and efficiently. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to start out with a natural talent for influencing others to become effective at using these tactics. Learning is a process and the Influencing Others program will give you the tools to start developing your abilities, but it will be up to you to put in the work and continue to develop these skills on your own. It will take time and hard work to master the ability to influence others well, but it will pay enormous dividends in your life and career.