What is the power of influence and persuasion? Many of us shy away from our ability to influence because it often has negative connotations. But, in today’s workplace and within all aspects of life, we must be able to persuade, i.e. influence which means the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something. According to Merriam Webster it is the power to change or affect someone or something: the power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen. The key phrase here is “without directly forcing them”. Maybe you have a position that entitles and authorizes you to demand something, but what happens when there is an extent to what you can demand? That’s when you need the ability to influence and persuade. In fact, you possess more power when you can influence versus using your title or position which are only two forms of power. But, why do people shy away from influencing and persuading? It’s a critical skill that we mastered as children but abandoned as adults because it was often seen as manipulation.

Unfortunately, we did a better job of influencing people, i.e. parents, teachers, etc. when we were children and young adults than we do as adults. Just think back to when you were a kid and you wanted to go to the game and spend the night at a friend’s house but your mom had other plans for you. You would first understand what made your mom tick and what ticked her off. In this understanding, you were careful to appeal to her better side. You would share with her what you wanted and before she could answer, you would share with her the benefits of your being able to do whatever you were requesting and then you offered something up such as you would wash her car, spend time with a sibling, etc. You gave her more reasons to say yes than to say no. We have given up that skill as if it were something undesirable. Seriously, think back to when you were a kid. Remember wanting something that you knew that your parents wouldn’t agree to? So, you persuaded them to give you what you wanted and you did it with finesse. Why did we give up that powerful trait? Because we are often ridiculed as manipulating others based on misunderstanding the difference between the two.

It’s important to recognize the difference between manipulation and persuasion! Manipulation involves deceit, withholding information, a person feeling threatened or used, there is unwillingness/reluctance, to be influence deceptively and/or to change or alter something, usually fraudulently. While persuasion is to give an opinion held with complete assurance, to reason earnestly with a person and give the facts and disclose the truth so that there is free choice. Persuasion is using one’s whole self to get others to do something that they would ordinarily not do. It is the opposite of manipulation. There is so much written about manipulation but persuasion is difficult to really sum up because it requires a level of finesse based on your personality, bearings, dress, movement, body language, listening skills, speaking style and non-verbals. All of which people intuitively pay attention to based on trust and integrity. People are cautious about being manipulated so these aspects play a key role in your ability to persuade.

Here are two scenarios that demonstrates the difference:
First Scenario: One early morning, I was speeding to a charity golf tournament. I was going pretty fast because I didn’t want to be late for my group’s tee time. I was hoping that I wouldn’t get stopped but I heard the police siren and then the police car pulled behind me. He waved me to pull over and I complied. The officer walked up to my window and asked if I knew how fast I was going. I smiled and said, “Yeah…I was speeding. But, officer I’m on my way to a charity event and I don’t want to be late.” He looked at me and said, “Give me your license and registration ma’am.” I started reaching for the glove compartment to get the requested registration. I asked, “Sir, are you in the military?” And added, “I was in the Marine Corps and I truly don’t want a ticket. In fact, my son was in the Marines and served with the Military Police bomb unit.” The officer requested my license that I still haven’t handed over. I said, “And, my brother is a retired police officer. I support the police force. If you went to my office, you’ll see in my office window a sticker where I support the Fraternal Order of Police Officers through donations.” I said all this with a smile while giving him my license. He looked at the documents and then looked at me. Before he walked off I quickly asked as a last-ditch effort, “Officer…I’m sure you can give someone a break at least once a day. Can I be that person this morning?” He walked away and I could see in my rearview mirror that he was writing the ticket. He walked back and handed me the ticket. I smiled and took the ticket. When I looked at the ticket…he had written on it. WARNING! I was so happy. He then said, “Ma’am, I retired from the Army, my son is in the Marine Corps, and you need to slow down.” I thanked him and we chatted for a moment before I drove off. Was this manipulation or influence/persuasion? It was persuasion hands down. Everything I said was the absolute truth. I used my personal power to demonstrate a connection and he still held the power to give or not give a ticket. I simply gave him reasons to not give me a ticket.

Second Scenario: A HR manager had to make a difficult announcement. The company was changing insurance companies because of its growth. She found several vendors and liked one more so than the others, but knew any change was going to be met with resistance. The insurance company that she preferred would cost more than the current vendor. So, she called an all hands meeting to announce the insurance changes to everyone. She shared with the group a vendor that the company would use. She took the highest cost vendor with the least options and told the employees that the insurance company would be their provider. That company was horrible. The employees were very upset. So, the manager said, “Hold on… I can go back and see what else is available to us.” She told them to give her a day to go back to the drawing board. The next day she met up with the employees again, and shared with them the good news. “I found another vendor. They are a little costlier than our current insurance provider but they offer far more than the company I proposed yesterday,” she said, as if she were doing them a favor. The employees were relieved that what they were getting may be higher in comparison to what they were accustomed to but not as high as what was proposed initially. She convinced them to switch the plan with little to no pushback. Was this manipulation or persuasion? It was blatant manipulation. She withheld information to entice them to do what she wanted even though the change was inevitable. In short, you should never deceive, embellish or withhold information to persuade people: that is manipulation and people will eventually learn the truth and resent you.

I believe people don’t even try to persuade because they’ve been manipulated so often that it has become confusing to know the difference. But, if you can harness the skills of influencing and persuading you will increase your ability to get more of what you want and need; thus, having power. The key words are to be authentic, transparent and honest. I spoke at the Warrior Women Project Conference; wherein, the Founder Annette Comer spoke on persuasion and she shared the acronym POWER as a way to persuade:

P = Pal Develop some sort of camaraderie to affect the situation
O = Only The individual understands s/he have the option to decide, not you
W = We Make the situation a collectively shared issue
E = Exchange Offer to give or attain something to seek cooperation
R = Request Word your request to get the results you seek

If power is something that you struggle with, please consider purchasing my book to learn how to use power appropriately based on the various forms of power. Contact sinclair@4-DPerformance.com or plan on attending my session(s) that teaches you how to be more impactful.