Persuasion, Manipulation, and Influence – What’s the Difference?

When you mention the words “persuade” and “manipulate,” the word “influence” isn’t usually far behind. Influence is basically the “power to change or affect something” or the “power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen.” While influence can be interchangeable with persuasion, the important point here is that it is done indirectly and the listener is compelled to do something without being told directly to do so.

The word “influence” itself is a neutral term. It doesn’t necessarily mean that when you influence someone, the results will be positive for both parties. Therefore, it is up to you, the influencer, to use the power of influence to drive things in a more positive direction.

Experts say everyone has the power to persuade and/or influence others. But the key is knowing how to do it effectively, especially if you’re dealing with a large group of diverse people.

1. Strive to understand before being understood.

You cannot force others to do something unless they are willing. Sure, you can threaten, bully or manipulate them into completing a task but the results are not sustainable or satisfactory.

If you want to persuade, or better yet, influence others towards a positive direction, always strive to understand before being understood. Listen and think about what they want and how they would want to be influenced for a particular work or situation. Doing thorough research on how others would benefit from your solution or proposal could make a huge difference in making your influence more lasting and effective.

2. Be someone worth listening to.

Having credibility is very important as an influencer, both in the workplace and life in general. Being an expert at something incites interest and respect from others. Therefore, before you persuade others to act according to your idea, ensure you are someone worth listening to. Build your authenticity and credibility, which comes from experience and your past and present achievements. Determine how you can present them and lead by example to ensure you get the best outcomes.

3. Know strengths and limitations.

The best influencers understand they can never know and do everything. They seek help when they need to. To be an effective influencer, understand what you know and don’t know about the person(s) you are trying to influence.

4. Be an effective communicator.

Adapt your style of communication to the person or situation you’re dealing with. And when things go wrong, don’t blame others. Holding people accountable for their actions is important, but blaming them for mistakes can sow discord and affect morale. Always remember the difference between accountability and blame is the way you communicate and address a problem or situation.

5. Develop relationships.

To be able to effectively influence others, an influencer needs to build and maintain trust. Getting people to trust you isn’t a one-time thing. It should be cultivated and maintained. One way to build trust is to develop and grow strong relationships. Ensure that you’re genuinely interested in them as an individual and that you’re not just after a win for yourself.

Are you a good influencer? How do you measure your success as an influencer with key decision makers?

Share your thoughts with us.

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