How Influence Works

Influence is the application of power to accomplish a specific purpose. Research shows that people typically try to lead and/or influence others using ten positive influence techniques: logical persuading, legitimizing, exchanging, stating, socializing, appealing to relationship, consulting, alliance building, appealing to values, and modeling. There are also four negative or "dark side" influence tactics: avoiding, manipulating, intimidating, and threatening. For a complete explanation of these influence techniques, see my forthcoming book Elements of Influence: The Art of Getting Others to Follow Your Lead (to be published in Fall 2011).

power of influence
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Influence can be as complex as forming an alliance of nations to try to influence a rogue country's leadership to change its policies or as simple as a child smiling and extending his hand in an offer of friendship. Every time we try to affect how other people think, behave, or decide, we are trying to influence them. A smile and a handshake are attempts to socialize (see below), to form a connection and break down barriers. As people get to know us and like us, they are more likely to say yes to our requests.

Rational approaches to Influencing

Logical persuading

Using logic to explain what you believe or what you want. The number one influence power tool throughout the world. The most frequently used and effective influence technique in nearly every culture, but it does not work with everyone—and in some circumstances will not work at all.

Legitimizing

Appealing to authority. On average, the least-effective influence technique in the world, but it will work with some people most of the time and most people some of the time and can result in quick compliance.

Exchanging

Negotiating or trading for cooperation. Most effective when it is implicit rather than explicit. Used less often globally than any other influence technique, but it is sometimes the only way to gain agreement or cooperation.

Stating

Asserting what you believe or want. One of the influence power tools. Most effective when you are self-confident and state ideas with a compelling tone of voice. Can cause resistance, however, if overused or used heavy-handedly.

Social approaches to Influencing

Socializing

Getting to know the other person, being open and friendly, finding common ground. Includes complimenting people and making them feel good about themselves. One of the influence power tools. Second in frequency and effectiveness globally. A critical technique in many cultures and situations.

Appealing to Relationship

Gaining agreement or cooperation with people you already know well. Based on the length and strength of your existing relationships. One of the influence power tools. Third highest in effectiveness globally.

Consulting

Engaging or stimulating people by asking questions; involving them in the problem or solution. One of the influence power tools. Fourth globally in frequency and effectiveness. Works well with smart, self-confident people who have a strong need to contribute ideas.

Alliance building

Finding supporters or building alliances to help influence someone else; using peer or group pressure to gain cooperation or agreement. Not used often and not always effective but in the right circumstances may be the only way to gain consent.

Emotional approaches to Influencing

Appealing to values

Making an emotional appeal or an appeal to the heart. One of the principal ways to influence many people at once and the best technique for building commitment. A frequent technique of religious or spiritual leaders, idealists, fundraisers, politicians, and some business leaders.

Modeling

Behaving in ways you want others to behave; being a role model; teaching, coaching, counseling, and mentoring. Fifth globally in effectiveness. Can influence people without you being aware that you are influencing. Parents, leaders, managers, and public figures influence others through modeling all the time - positively or negatively - whether they choose to or not.

The Dark Side Influence Tactics

There are also four negative influence techniques: avoiding, manipulating, intimidating, and threatening. These are negative because they take away the other person's legitimate right to say no. They force them to comply with something contrary to their wishes or best interests, they mislead them, or they force them to act when they would otherwise choose not to.

Avoiding

Forcing others to act, sometimes against their best interests, by avoiding responsibility or conflict or behaving passive-aggressively. The most common dark side technique. In some cultures, trying to preserve harmony can look like avoiding.

Manipulating

Influencing through lies, deceit, hoaxes, swindles, and cons. Disguising one's real intentions or intentionally withholding information others need to make the right decision.

Intimidating

Imposing oneself on others; forcing people to comply by being loud, overbearing, abrasive, arrogant, aloof, or insensitive. The preferred technique of bullies.

Threatening

Harming others or threatening to harm them if they do not comply; making examples of some people so others know that the threats are real. The preferred technique of dictators and despots.

Copyright © 2010 by Terry R. Bacon.  All rights reserved.

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Email: terry@terryrbacon.com
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