How to Tap into Your Power to Persuade

Most of us don't realize how much personal power we actually have to persuade and influence people we deal with as teammates and colleagues, in business transactions or in advising clients to do what's best.

I have often presented at accounting and law conferences and firms on "building your influence quotient (IQ)" and the use of the 6 principles of persuasion popularized by Prof. Robert Cialdini in his book Influence: Science and Practice (Allyn & Bacon, 2001). Those principles are: scarcity, social proof, authority, reciprocity, commitment, and empathy or liking. Here is a list of related ways to exert influence or authority, including dealing with people of other generations. Most of these techniques don't depend on seniority. Try them in your interactions, and feel your confidence grow.

  • Motivating reciprocity (one of the 6 Principles of Persuasion): making others feel obligated to do one for you if you do a favor for them first. Some call this the "favor bank mentality." It is one of the most common forms of influence and is the basis of effective networking. Pay it forward by offering something first.
  • Building alliances: exchanging support or resources between peers, mentors, and mentees, or other combinations of people with potential common interests. This is a technique used by organizational power brokers. Alliance building is more important than ever given complex issues and diverse constituencies. It will help your clients and prospects see you as a valuable resource.
  • Possessing the ability to control resources, whether tangible or intangible, such as access to people or information. People often underestimate the power executive assistants can have, for example. Treat them well, and you will have ready resources.
  • Being able to steer the outcome of a decision, even without the power to make the decision. Some examples: knowing how to order, emphasize, or withhold information while making a presentation; or placing a controversial issue at the end of an agenda, reducing the likelihood it will be taken up or addressed attentively.
  • Benefiting from "confirmation bias," one's tendency to interpret actions or develop expectations in light of initial impressions. This phenomenon emphasizes the importance of first impressions to jump-start a power-base. Think through in advance how people will perceive your words and actions.
  • Developing a reputation for power or influence through past actions and achievements. This reputation is usually built over time, but could be catapulted by a dramatic accomplishment that receives considerable attention.
  • Having a personality/personal style that harmonizes well with the culture and/or unwritten rules of the organization. Conversely, it is difficult to be influential with a style that goes against the style or culture of the organization—unless there is widespread resistance to acceptance of that established style and you can tap into the discontent. Think about "cultural fit" when contemplating your career trajectory.

Savvy, perceptive people in politically charged work settings know instinctively or learn to pick up on ways to acquire, apply, and counter informal influencers. Influence and power can be exerted for the good of the whole or can be used manipulatively for individual gain. The former is preferable; be wary of the latter.

About the author:

Phyllis Weiss Haserot helps firms attract and retain clients of different generations and improve the working relations of their multigenerational teams, including knowledge transfer. She is president of Practice Development Counsel and a recognized expert on workplace intergenerational challenges, author, speaker and facilitator. She is the author of The Rainmaking Machine and The Marketer's Handbook of Tips & Checklists (both Thomson Reuters/West). Reach her at, View her YouTube videos at her Generational GPS channel. © Phyllis Weiss Haserot, 2014. All rights reserved.


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