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Influencing Strategies: Persuasion & Reciprocation

Updated: Dec 17, 2021





There will be times in your career when convincing someone of your way of thinking is difficult. Just using your inspirational messaging is not enough. You notice that the person isn’t even listening to you. It can be because they don’t trust you or find you relevant. Yet you see them paying attention to what your colleague has to say. Why are you not getting the same attention?


If you are looking at practicing how to be more influential at work with your manager and colleagues, this article is for you. Just follow the steps next time you need to get your point across at work.


Step 1: Start by assessing the problem you are trying to solve. List the problem statement on a piece of paper to help you focus.


When someone comes to you for help, you have a greater chance of influencing them to your way of thinking because they are requesting your point of view. But in many cases, you are the one that brings up the topic, so it’s important to understand what you want to solve.


Case Example: You want to convince your manager that the way your company deals with drawing revisions needs to be revised. He likes to approve everything, but he is not readily accessible because he is always booked in meetings. The factory supervisor is frustrated because he is always waiting on their revised drawings. Yet your manager doesn’t want to let go of his control. You have tried telling your manager about this and showing him all the emails sent filled with frustration, yet he does not want to change the way things are being done. Your problem statement is to get your manager to understand the repercussions when revisions are not sent in a timely manner.


Step 2: You need to focus on the person you target to influence. It’s essential to know who you are dealing with. Knowing them means you understand what is important to them, their values, and what they believe in. This way you can approach them with examples or anecdotes they can associate with. Make it a point of learning more about the person before using the skills to have a bigger impact.


Below your problem statement, start listing what you know about your manager. Answer questions like: What do they believe in? Why are they not wanting to change? When you saw them agree to things in the past, do you know why they did so?


Case Example: Following the example in step 1, here is the list of responses for the above questions:

  • He prefers micromanaging because he doesn’t think anyone can do as good a job as he can

  • It’s important for him to have the credibility and respect of his team, peers and upper management

  • He only agrees with changes in which he was involved, so as to get credit for it too

  • He likes reminding people he is a big dog in the organization

  • He does things without question when it comes from upper management but always says “no” to anything the team proposes

  • He does look into things when it comes to our customers because it ends up skewing his metrics which are viewed by upper management

  • He hates receiving feedback when he is at fault


Step 3: You can now choose the best influence strategy to use. In this article we will be working with two – persuasion and reciprocation. Let us take the example and simulate how they would be used.


Influencing using Persuasion

Persuasion is the art of convincing someone using facts, logic, and common sense. You can use “show and tell” to help them see your point visually or use stories to help them visualize and better understand the idea. Keep in mind, if you know the person you want to influence, you are able to cater the storytelling and common sense to suit their interests.


Case Example: Go back to the Step 2 example where you have the list of things you know about your manager. You can either formulate a persuasion response based on the list or go through the extra step of listing some possible persuasion responses for each of the descriptions. If you do this extra step, it will look something like the table below.



To summarize, based on the suggested persuasion reasoning in the table, you can approach the manager as follows:


Start by collecting data on what is happening. Facts are important to prove your point. Having a graphical view on the last couple of months showing the average turnaround time with its trend is effective. Next show any emails of frustration from the factory supervisor. Explain to your manager that others are taking steps to put together a metric to show that our group is impacting the on-time delivery cycle time. Finish your pitch by telling him that the team is behind him and want to know how to fix this before it escalates to upper management.


The team have thought of changing the process which he is not in favor of doing. Then consider setting up daily debriefing sessions of 15-30min where he reviews every open revision.

Throw in the possibility of having him spend more time on important meetings and give up approving some of the simpler revisions. This can be achieved by coming up with a checklist of items the manager looks for during his review process. Then the team members can conduct their review.


Influencing using Reciprocating

Reciprocation is the art of using a tit for tat to get what you want. This is tied to the well-known anecdotes: “you scratch my back; I scratch your back” or “what’s in it for me?” You basically need to give something to get something. We learn this influential strategy when we are young. Examples like your parents giving you a weekly allowance for cleaning your room and taking out the garbage: or if they told you that you could go play on your iPad after you finish your homework. Then they were using this form of influencing skill over you.


Now if we were to influence your manager using reciprocating in the aforementioned example may prove difficult. You need to find what to bargain with that does not include going on strike or threatening him. Just as we did in persuasion, you will use the list of descriptions to come up with your plan.


Case Example: You approach your manager to inform him what you heard; that the factory supervisor has had enough of the delays in the drawing revisions. So, the supervisor is putting together a new metric showing how our team impacts the delays. This is going to be shown to upper management in the upcoming review. You are giving him heads up. When you manager gets upset or anxious, you tell him that you are willing to act as the messenger. That you will tell the supervisor that your manager has decided to modify the revision process in order to speed it up. Throw out some suggestions like having him approve anything in the pipeline at the same time every day or training his people so something does not need his approval.

In our next article, we will be looking at the art of Negotiating with allies.

Want to read inspirational stories that make you think? go to our Anna & Dude series.


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