“To influence,” is to produce an effect on someone by imperceptible or intangible means; or, to sway, modify a person or even (in some cases) a group in some way. When we seek to influence someone we are trying to have an effect on them – usually to change their mind, or modify their way of thinking in some way. We do this all the time, but we don’t necessarily think about it. Nonetheless, influencing is a key skill that can be improved with effort and practice.
When we talk about influencing someone we are really talking about changing his or her mind, which is often hard to do. People don’t readily change their mind. For example, in a customer service operation you often get customer complaints. An employee in this situation is often hard pressed to change the customer’s mind, or attitude, from a negative one, to a positive one – it’s quite a challenge! It takes skill, knowledge and determination to take on this challenge – that is to know how to positively influence another person so that we get a positive result for both parties.
Influencing approaches or styles come in two varieties – push and pull. Push styles are proactive. Push styles are:
- Selling – can be a straight sell (describing the advantages and benefits) or more of a manipulative sell (distorting or exaggerating to sell);
- Coercive – involves using bribes, threats and other unethical means to get someone to do something;
- Assertive – straightforward approach that sets forward the ideas or goals and gets the other person “on board” with the idea usually through offering mutual benefits.
- Rational/logic – uses reasoned argument, point-by-point to convince someone of the logic of a particular idea or approach.
Pull influencing styles are not as aggressive/assertive, or usually as proactive as the push styles. The pull styles include:
- Expert – operating as an “expert” – someone who can be learned from because he or she holds superior knowledge or experience (like an expert witness);
- Educative – like the expert style, this style provides information that the person doesn’t know (not having the same education). It is also exhibited as a teaching kind of style.
- Emotive – a people-centered style that calls on people’s feelings or values (“please do it for me”)
- Involvement – the most collaborative pull style. It aims to use gentle steering of the conversation plus active listening to arrive at common goals.
In summary then, an individual first decides whether a push or a pull influencing style is likely to work best in the circumstances and then once this is done, selects the particular style from the list above that is likely to be an even better fit. If this is done appropriately and well, influencing success is likely to be much more frequent.