26 Influencing Techniques
John Spacey, updated on March 20, 2021
Influencing is the art of using communication and social skills to impact the actions and decisions of others. It is associated with selling products, services, strategies and ideas. It is also considered a fundamental skill of leadership, management, interviewing and public speaking. The following are a few general techniques and approaches that can be used to influence.
Abundance MentalityAn abundance mentality is a leadership approach that can be described as serving others to build influence. It is associated with supporting peoples ideas and helping people to develop their abilities. In the short term, the people who you support may reciprocate and support your ideas. In the long term, the people you help to develop may become leaders and loyal allies.
AnalogyThe use of catchy analogies and metaphors to make complex ideas seem more intuitive.
Anticipating ObjectionsAnticipate how your ideas or proposals will be challenged and plan how you'll defend them.
Argument From AuthorityReferring to authorities on a topic to support your ideas. Based on the classic influencing technique known as ethos.
CandorBeing open and honest to build rapport, trust and reputation.
Choice ArchitectureProviding stakeholders with a list of choices as opposed to a single recommendation. In some cases, choices may be framed such that they are likely to lead to a particular decision. For example, a list of choices may include a decoy.
CommitmentMaking and keeping commitments tends to garner respect and reputation as opposed to avoiding commitment or failing to deliver. Delivering to commitments is easier said than done and involves both negotiating commitments that are reasonable and managing a portfolio of work.
ConsistencyChanging your mind in response to new ideas and information is only a sign that you're intelligent. Nevertheless, changing your mind is often perceived negatively. People tend to crave certainty and may follow leaders who provide it. As such, changes that are presented as being consistent with past direction are likely to be more successful than simply saying that you changed your mind.
ConvenienceConvenience is a surprisingly strong motivator. Strategies that are presented as making life easier are more likely to be accepted that strategies that appear to make life more difficult in some way. If your proposal is likely to result in overtime, missed holidays, instability and problems it may face strong resistance.
EmotionEmotion is considered a fundamental tool of persuasion. Emotional factors include things such as optimism, team spirit and professional pride.
EthicsPersuasion techniques often include ethically questionable approaches such as manipulating people's fears. People can typically see through such attempts and will likely direct equally tricky responses back at you. This may escalate into a downward spiral of negative politics. As such, it is more effective to take the high road, to establish a strong set of professional ethics and try to live up to them.
ExamplesMaking your ideas clear with straightforward examples that have a point.
HumorHumor is known to be a potent tool of communication and influence. That doesn't mean that you need to be a stand-up comedian to sell an idea. Adopting a lighthearted mood and not taking yourself too seriously tends to lead to an appropriate level of humor.
IdentificationPeople tend to be more influenced by people with whom they identify. As such, skilled influencers may seek to discover similarities over the course of a conversation. A seemingly insignificant commonality such as cheering for the same sports team may cause people to identify with you.
Internalization vs ComplianceInternalization is when people accept your strategies and ideas because they believe in them. Compliance is when people simply choose not to resist an idea. It is often important to identify the difference between the two because compliance may turn into resistance at a later point in time. For example, it's dangerous to assume that silence implies agreement.
LikeabilityPeople are more easily influenced by people they like and are more likely to like people who like them. As a result, looking at people in a positive light tends to generate influence.
ListeningListening with intent to understand is an important communication skill that is a basis for influence. For example, understanding other points of view helps you to overcome objections.
LogicA well framed logical argument can be persuasive.
Message FramingThe response to a message such as a sales pitch often differs greatly by how the message is framed.
MetricsDeveloping meaningful measurements to sell an idea or promote the value of your work.
ParticipationPeople are more likely to support a strategy they played a role in forming. Giving individuals a voice may increase your influence.
ReciprocityAsk for a lot of favors and return them in kind. Exercises of reciprocity, no matter how small, tend to build alliances.
ReputationReputation is important to influence but it's often more effective to focus on things such as ethics and delivering value than focusing on reputation directly. If you're moving forward quickly, your reputation will catch up.
Social ProofSocial proof is the tendency for people to use social information such as social status in decision making. It has broad implications for influence. In its most direct form, if you manage to be popular and widely known within your organization, you will enjoy more influence. It also applies to recognizing the importance of gaining support from people beyond official roles & responsibilities. For example, a programmer who garners much respect for her intelligence may have no official role in a decision but her support may have sway nonetheless.
Team BuildingParticipating in available team building opportunities both official and unofficial to build your network. Organizing outings, even if they are unofficial, tends to boost your social status.
VisibilityA classic mistake of influence is to be cold to everyone but the specific executives you'd like to impress. Knowing as many people as possible will translate into influence. Going to meetings, challenging ideas, accepting worthy action items and getting to know people with indifference to their level of authority will improve your visibility over time.
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