Influence is a catalyst for change; change is often met with resistance. To maintain control and comfort, some people do not yield to influencing tactics, regardless of intent. The idea of influence is worth consideration, to understand its prosocial potential and negative perceptions.
Influence can be used to persuade, advocate, or manipulate. Perceptions of influence can be impacted by two factors, visibility (overt or covert) and intent (fairness).
Let’s look at the characteristics of a few influential tools.
Persuasion is often overt with the intent to change minds. It often looks like someone making a case, presenting evidence, logic, or reasoning. It may also be relationship based and include personal appeals.
Advocacy is also overt, with the intent to benefit a group or cause. Inspirational appeals and creating coalitions are strategies in this persuasive approach.
To impact someone’s thinking or mindset you must connect with them, understand their needs and preferences, and determine how (or if) your idea is relevant for them; make it a discussion about your idea rather than a seminar.
The dark side of influence is manipulation; it is generally covert and is associated with negative intent- to use or oppress one person or group for an other’s gain. No one likes to be manipulated. Pressure, deceit, threats, and emotional pleas are often manipulative tools. Root causes of negative perceptions of influence often refer to manipulation.
Exchange is an interesting form of influence. It can be the basic sale, providing products or services. Influence is used when there are market choices. There is a promise of tangible benefit in exchange for doing business. Exchange feels like manipulation when there is an unscrupulous salesperson, someone is sold something that does not fit their needs, or the perceived benefit does not align with the cost. Exchange also feels manipulative if it is a requested repayment of a past favor.
Persuading others, influencing, and advocating are all means to shift the status quo or current reality. Ideally used to create win-win-win situations, we can advocate effectively when we start by connecting with others. Learn more by signing up for our Advocacy SparkShop.