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How to Influence and Persuade

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

“Mind if I lead?” Fred famously asked Ginger. In business, as in dancing, it is important to know when you can be directive like this, and when you need to let the other person ‘lead’. Both a ‘push’ and ‘pull’ style of influencing can work; the key to becoming an effective influencer is understanding which approach to use in each situation.

In any given situation, ask yourself:

  • What is the status of our relationship? Where is the balance of power here?
  • Do they see me as the expert?
  • Am I ‘consulting’ or ‘telling’?
  • If I take charge, will they resist? Or thank me for being decisive?

The answers to these questions will guide the route you need to take.
Follow my guide below to become a master of influence and persuasion:


Plan your approach

Step 1:

Be clear about where the person you want to influence stands on your issue.

Step 2:

Aim to move them a few places towards you. Be realistic: they are unlikely to go from ‘diametrically opposed’ to ‘in total agreement’ so plan accordingly. Will ‘neutral’ be enough for now? What might need to change for them to move further towards you?

It’s not what you say it’s the way that you say it

We all have our own style and yet there are some behaviours which will impress others and help us to influence. By being aware of what works, you can focus on developing this when aiming to persuade.

Handling objections

What do you do when the person you want to influence stops listening? The signs are all there: eyes glazed over, checking their watch … you’ve lost them. The first thing is to stop talking! Then you can ask questions, focus on their concerns and address what’s important to them.


Horses for courses

What works for some, really won’t work for others. How well do you know the person you want to influence? Are they impressed by facts and figures, or blue sky thinking? Do they prefer things in writing? Or a chat over coffee? Understanding your own personality preferences makes you better equipped to find out what will work for influencing those who differ from you. So consider some psychometric testing (eg. Social Styles, MBTI, DISC).

Influencing in meetings

If your work involves getting agreement around the table, make sure you start with the end in mind.

Ask yourself:

What do I want from this meeting?
Who are the decision makers? Are they attending?
What do I need to do and who do I need to talk to before the meeting?
What methods will I use during the meeting to present/listen/get agreement
What can I do after the meeting to follow-up or confirm?

Did you find this guide helpful? Is there a situation you’ll approach differently having learned these tips? I’d love to know, comment below or Tweet me at @MaryFosterCoach.


Lead photo: by Elijah Macleod on Unsplash, Photos this page:

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One thought on “How to Influence and Persuade

  • Simon Kilbey

    Another great page , always simple and to the point. I really enjoy reading the contributions. A heading which covers influencing with honesty and integrity would be good.

    Best wishes