How to Persuade Others to Help You Achieve Your Goals


In order to succeed in the new business environment, workers must learn how to influence people over whom they have no direct control. In this article, an experienced organizational consultant shows readers how to build alliances and persuade peers, not just boss them around. He uses case studies and anecdotes from his own practice to illustrate specific tactics that can be used in any work situation.

Mastering the Two Fundamental Factors of Any Influence Situation

Knowing what you want or need from people isn’t enough to help you influence successfully—you have to know what they want. You also have to have some sense of the pressures and priorities within their own department or organization so you can take that into account when approaching them.

In this chapter, you will learn how to prepare to meet your influence subject by thinking through not only your own needs and goals but what the other person might be as well. Later you will learn how to tailor your influence strategy to both sides of the influence fence. Breaking down an influence situation into the two fundamental factors—Your Goal and The Other Person will help you be able to anticipate the reaction of your influence subject and sort out how best to proceed, even when you’ve only got minutes to do it.

Before analyzing a situation, take a moment to think about yourself in relation to the other person and his situation. Put yourself in your subject’s shoes and listen to your own words of persuasion as though you have never heard them before. To better visualize your influence situation, examine Figure 1 on the left.

Of all the product developers at PraxisWare, an up-and-coming software maker, no one knows the products better, has built such good rapport with key customers or has recruited as many talented coworkers as Jim Casey. For that reason, Jim’s boss, Sharon Grander, has recently chosen him to head up a major new software development project that could be the company’s breakthrough contribution to the market.

She’s backed him with all the resources he needs and the proper budget, and PraxisWare’s largest customer has already expressed interest in the product application that he and his team have developed. All he needs now is to move into the critical Stage Two phase of product development testing, so the product can be brought to market as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, Ed Hanson, the senior engineering manager, is standing squarely in the way of the necessary testing for Stage Two completion and product roll-out. Because he’s responsible for keeping product quality testing for the whole company moving along, he says he “doesn’t have time to fiddle around with something that is not proven.” In other words, he wants Jim to get in line with the rest of the new product developers and wait for his turn. Meanwhile, important members of Jim’s team are getting restless, saying that if this project is stalled much longer, they want to go on to something that doesn’t have Ed Hanson as a roadblock.

Jim desperately needs to convince Ed of the importance of beginning testing immediately. He has a strong feeling Ed’s main objection is that testing immediately may open the flood gates for all the project managers to demand special attention for their “pet projects”—not to mention Ed doesn’t seem convinced that Jim’s new application can be the breakthrough seller for PraxisWare that Jim is certain it will be from the Stage One test results. How can Jim get Ed to share his conviction that the new product merits special attention so it can go to market immediately and satisfy that impatient major customer? How does he get Ed on his side?

Learning the Key Behaviors That Drive Influence Success

We have established that there are two fundamental factors to any influence situation. This fairly simple principle becomes complicated, however, when we communicate with at least one other person within an influence situation.This communication produces a certain energy. Think about it. Haven’t you ever felt someone making a real effort to impress upon you the necessity or urgency of doing something? That’s Push energy. Or haven’t you ever felt really drawn to people or their ideas because they showed they really understood your point of view? That’s Pull energy. Put them together, as we often do in trying to influence people, and you get Push/Pull energy. Knowing how to harness these two energies is the key that drives this influence model.

As you can see, the two fundamental factors—Your Goal and The Other Person—are clearly identifiable in the figure. But in the middle, represented by the classic Asian symbol of yin and yang (meaning two opposite forces that complement each other), you will notice the words Push and Pull—two fundamentally different yet often complementary influence energies that interact with the two fundamental factors. Now let’s look at these two energies a little more closely.


Push energy is direct, forceful, and persuasive. It’s not being aggressive so much as it is being assertive or offering specific suggestions. It moves against people’s inclinations to get them to change course or initiate action. They may resist, withdraw, or even push back, but if you know how and when to use Push energy effectively, it can yield amazing results. For example Some restaurant patrons state their desires clearly: “I want a steak, medium rare, pare off the fat, baked potato with butter, no sour cream, string beans, and a very dry martini straight up.

And I need to be out of here in 30 minutes.”They know exactly what they want and how they want it. You don’t need to read their minds or clarify details with them, and they definitely are not asking for your input or advice. Some meeting managers also state their desires clearly: “I need to submit by the middle of next week a report to the Webmaster I’ve hired on what we want our Website to contain.

So I’m breaking you up into ten different teams that’ll each meet from 2-4 p.m. today and tomorrow, and by 5 p.m. Friday I need each team to submit their responses to this worksheet I’ve created on what you think our site should include. I want each team to fill out the whole sheet, and if there are questions or concerns, I’ll appoint each team a representative to take those issues straight to me.”


Pull energy is inclusive and involving. It requires listening attentively and asking questions to draw others out and engage them. Pull energy moves with other people to help them see alternatives, and encourages their engagement by showing a greater understanding of their issues and needs. It may seem “soft” at times, but when used correctly, it can help gain commitment, break down resistance, and create and support strong, productive relationships between people. For example, Sally Pullwell, one of your work colleagues, wants to get you involved on an account you are not sure you have time for.

So instead of asking you outright to share the load, Sally takes you out to your favorite Thai restaurant for lunch and “picks your brain” on the matter by asking you lots of open-ended questions. “I mean, how would you go about developing this account?” she asks. The more you talk about it, the more interested you become.

She doesn’t have to ask directly because you already feel involved, and before you know it, you are her co-director. Now how did that happen? When you say, “Sally, I just don’t have the time to make an open commitment to this account,” Sally says, “Okay, it sounds like you are really busy, so let’s make this short.

How do you think I should approach this project? Could I get someone for one afternoon a week? If you were on a project like this, what kind of people would you get? If we could reduce the workload to one afternoon a week, would that be enough to get you onboard?” It’s much harder to dismiss a focused request like this, with carefully defined parameters than an open, and seemingly limitless, call for help.

Attuning to Personal Communication Styles

By this point, you have already learned some valuable tools for getting people to come around to your point of view. Not only have you learned how to do a quick but useful assessment of the two fundamental factors of any influence situation (your goal and your influence subject), you have also learned five different behavioral approaches, which of the five you are already versed in, which of the five you need to work on, and how to apply them to situations in and out of the workplace. Now you are going to learn another strategy not just what to say to your influence subjects to break through to their own wants and needs, but how to say it in a way that is attuned to their personal communication styles. The Four Communication Styles you need to be aware of are: the Authoritarian, the Analyzer, the Visionary, and the Supporter.

But first, take a minute to think about what you wrote down under The Other Person when you were breaking down the two fundamental factors for your own personal influence situation. What did you speculate was your subject’s mindset? What did you think was important to her? Take a moment to fill out Worksheet 14 to help re-familiarize yourself with your personal influence situation.

Putting Together a Complete Influence Strategy

Effective influencing isn’t just about having all the right influence tools. It’s about knowing which ones to use, when, and in what order. That is what we will cover in this chapter. Not only will you learn the remaining two components to the complete formula for putting together a powerful influence edge strategy for any situation, you will also work through the complete strategy on a sample scenario provided in this section. Before turning to the scenario, stop for a moment and consider the below planning sequence. These four steps represent the complete formula for devising an influence strategy. You are already familiar with the first two steps, and we will be covering the second two very soon:

Effective influencing isn’t just about having all the right influence tools. It’s about knowing which ones to use, when, and in what order. That is what we will cover in this chapter. Not only will you learn the remaining two components to the complete formula for putting together a powerful influence edge strategy for any situation, you will also work through the complete strategy on a sample scenario provided in this section. Before turning to the scenario, stop for a moment and consider the below planning sequence. These four steps represent the complete formula for devising an influence strategy. You are already familiar with the first two steps, and we will be covering the second two very soon:

  1. Identifying Situational Factors
  2. Identifying Behaviors
  3. Determining the Behavior Sequence
  4. Distancing Strategy

Pretend you are a manager at a dynamic company. You support a group of field engineers who rely on you to understand their needs and to seek out training opportunities and other resources for them to carry out their jobs well and support the company’s business units. Recently, Leslie, a quality control manager, has been initiating changes to established procedures that have left the field engineers confused and without a clear understanding of why her changes are necessary. The field engineers have sent you several voice mails and emails asking for clarification.

This has caught you by surprise because Leslie has basically left you out of the communication loop by not informing you of her changes before she announced them to your engineers. This isn’t good because you have to be preinformed of such changes before they are released so you can clarify points with her and be ready to explain and justify the new rules to your people when they come to you with angry, confused questions. But how to get Leslie, who isn’t the most cooperative person in the world, to pull you into the communication loop? Clearly, you need a good influence strategy. Where do you begin?

Strategy Step One: Identifying Situational Factors

Culling what you can from this scenario (and using your own imagination when appropriate), refer back to the section on the two fundamental factors. What are the two fundamental factors of this situation? After you have written down your responses to this question, consider what is provided below.

Practice Scenarios for Increasing Your Influence Skills

In this chapter, we are going to take everything you have learned thus far and apply it to the personal influence situation that you first outlined in Worksheet 4, and that you have been revisiting frequently throughout the workbook. By the time you have completed the work in this section, you should be ready to approach your influence subject with the first strategy steps toward getting what you want or need from this person. STRATEGY STEP ONE: IDENTIFYING SITUATIONAL FACTORS Okay, go back to your personal influence situation and think through responses for the following questions addressing the two fundamental factors. Remember, if you have to enact an influence strategy with someone on the spot and you only have time for one strategy step, this is the one to do.


Just like you did for the situation with Leslie, read the list below and determine which situations and behaviors correspond with your personal influence situation. Circle the corresponding behaviors. Remember, you want to choose behaviors so that they get you close to a resolution (and don’t forget your “back-up” behavior), but not so many that you will have a hard time sequencing them in the next strategy step. (Three is probably enough, but of course, it’s your situation and thus your choice.)

Honing Your Influence Edge by Building Rapport

Now that you know how to put the influence edge strategy into practice, you may be wondering, what more is there to know? Well, believe it or not, there is one more incredibly important element we have yet to talk about. This element is rapport that seemingly magical dynamic between two people, that “click” that makes it a joy and a pleasure to interact with another person as colleague, friend, lover . . . or sometimes, as a combination of all three! And of course, rapport is vastly helpful in an influence situation. I call rapport seemingly magical because, like the powers of influence themselves, it’s not necessarily something that is there naturally from the beginning or naturally not there.

Sure, sometimes rapport between two people is destined to happen, but that doesn’t mean that, if you want a better working relationship with someone, you can’t build rapport— which, at its basis, is simply the ability to sustain good communication with the other person, even when you strongly disagree on an issue. If you want good rapport in a relationship where it’s not already there, however, the process has to start with you.

So how do you “build” rapport? Well, gearing your approach to your subject’s preferred communication style (Authoritarian, Analyzer, Visionary, or Supporter) is one way to go about it. Another is to familiarize yourself with the way your subject’s mind works. How we perceive the world, process information, and communicate corresponds to three principal senses:

  1. Vision
  2. Hearing
  3. Feeling

These three senses (smell and taste are used to a lesser extent) make up what are called our representational systems, and we communicate by speaking the language of one, two, or all three.When we can speak to another person in the language of their preferred representational system, we build greater understanding, strengthen our rapport with them, and increase our ability to influence. We are “talking their talk,” or “speaking their language” as it were. There’s no special trick to this. It just requires that we listen to the other person carefully enough so that we can identify their preferred approach to communication. That way we can best determine not only effective influence behaviors, but also how to deliver our message.

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