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Chapter 14

Choosing and Using Influence Behaviors To Achieve Your Goal

Reviewing the Influence Framework

During the preliminary influence planning process, you have set your goal and thought about the person you are influencing and your influence relationship. You have explored other factors in the context in which you will be influencing. All of this information will help you choose the behavioral tools or tactics that will help you achieve your goal. (I know the word "tactics" sounds military, but in this sense it just means the behaviors you consciously choose and use to move toward the result you want to accomplish.)

Look over the notes you have made and highlight the things that seem especially significant to this influence opportunity. In general, the more important the influence opportunity, the more elements you will take the time to consider. Now you are ready to develop a plan of action.

Selecting the Most Useful Behaviors

Tables 14.1 and 14.2 show criteria for selecting behaviors that will be most effective in your situation. You have probably already made a preliminary choice. In many cases, you will simply confirm this. However, the criteria will enable you to notice where context issues could make a particular behavior less effective than you would like. In that case, you can either select another behavior or, if there really is no practical alternative, you can do something to change the context. For example, if the situation requires that you make a suggestion about something when the other does not believe you to be an expert, you will probably want to enlist a person who is respected in that field to work with you.

Once you have decided on three or four behaviors, use the "sentence starters" in Appendix D to develop some ways to use them. You will not be reading from a script during the real event, but this practice will enable you to become more comfortable with the behaviors, especially if they are not the ones you use most often.


One of the most important things you can do to prepare yourself to influence is to use what you know about the person and the organization to reframe your ideas in a way that will make sense within his or her model of the world. Earlier, we discussed the importance of understanding the values, needs, and aspirations of the other person. Once you do, you are in a position to take an idea that is important to you and frame it so that the other person can understand and see the value of it. This does not mean being dishonest about it; there are usually many different ways of looking at the same set of data.

You will need to look at the issue through the other person's frame if you are to be influential. For example, as a parent, you may want to influence your child's teacher to provide more individual attention and challenging assignments, rather than punishing him for misbehavior that you know comes from boredom. You know that she sees herself and wants to be seen as a supportive and helpful person. Rather than telling her what you think she is doing wrong, you might mention how much pleasure your son received from the time she spent with him, working on a special art project (Encourage).

Table 14.1.    Guidelines for Choosing Expressive Behaviors

Use Tell behaviors when:

Use Sell behaviors when:

• The other is uncommitted on the issue

• You have a clear direction you want to take

• The issue is open to different ideas, issue solutions, and interpretations

• You can be relatively objective

• Choose Suggest when the other has defined the issue as a problem and you are seen as an expert

• Choose Express Needs when the other would see your need as legitimate

Do not use if the action would be against the other's interests

• Choose Offer Reasons when you are seen as an expert on the issue

• Choose Refer to Shared Values and Goals when you are seen as a partner

Do not use if you are not open to influence on the issue

Use Enlist behaviors when:

Use Negotiate behaviors when:

• You are on the same "team"

• The other is hesitant to take action

• Vested interests are involved

• The other perceives you as fair

• Choose Encourage when the other respects you and you are willing to offer help and support

• Choose Envision when you want to align and motivate

Do not use if you are not genuinely enthusiastic

• Choose Offer Incentives when you have tangible or intangible resources to exchange

• Choose Describe Consequences when the other needs to know about them in order to make a good choice

Do not use if you are unwilling to deliver on them

Table 14.2.     Guidelines for Choosing Receptive Behaviors

Use Inquire behaviors when:

Use Listen behaviors when:

• The other wants to be consulted or involved

• You are genuinely interested in what he or she has to say

• The other believes you have a right to know

• The other believes you can identify with his/her concerns

• Choose Ask Open-Ended Questions when you are opening a new topic

• Choose Draw Out when you want to go deeper

Do not use if the other does not trust you

• Choose Check Understanding when the information is relatively straightforward

• Choose Test Implications when you want to deepen your understanding

Do not use if you feel hostile toward the other

Use Attune behaviors when:

Use Facilitate behaviors when:

• You would like to create more openness

• The other has a need for allies

• The other is accountable for taking action

• The other would not lose face by accepting assistance from you

• Choose Identify with Other when the other already trusts you

• Choose Disclose when you are willing to make yourself somewhat vulnerable in exchange for more openness

Do not use if you do not trust how the other would use the information

• Choose Clarify Issues when the other seems to be "stuck"

• Choose Pose Challenging Questions when the other needs a stimulus toward action

Do not use if you have a specific action in mind

Planning Your Approach

The most useful parts of your approach to plan in some detail are:

Remember, this will not be a play in which you and the other person have blocked the action and rehearsed your lines. It will be improvisational theater, and things will happen that you don't expect.

Planning will help you anticipate and respond to these events only if you prepare for that possibility, so put some "what-ifs" in your plan.

Troubleshoot it. Think about the worst case and what you might do if it happens. Think about what might signal you that things are going off course. Then decide what to do if this should occur. For example, what if your influence target becomes angry? What if he or she presents you with a major piece of information that is a complete surprise? Consider what could trigger a decision to set your goal aside while you use receptive behavior to probe for information. Under what conditions might you disengage? Consider the possibility that you might succeed sooner than you expected to. Is there a way you can build on that to accomplish other influence goals while you are on a roll, or should you end the meeting early and hope the other person doesn't feel that he or she has been a pushover?

Setting Yourself Up for Success

You can do a few things before you begin actively influencing the other person that will help you be successful. They may include:

By taking some of these actions, you are not just trusting to luck or the other's good mood, but actively creating the conditions that give your plan the best possible chance for a successful outcome.

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