Strategies of Influence

In·flu·ence [in-floo-uhns]-noun

1. The capacity or strength of persons or things to be a powerful force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others: He used family influence to get the contract.

2. The action or course of action of producing effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of another or others: Her mother’s influence made her stay.

There are at the minimum three general categories of behavior associated with influencing others:

  • Retribution
  • Reciprocity
  • Reason

It is beyond the scope of this article to make value judgments on the techniques presented: I leave that up to the you. My intent is simply to help you become more aware of them so you can react consequently when someone tries to use them on you.


This is the most early and straightforward method of influencing someone – simply threaten them. Although the “civilized” world of large institutions, both public and private, would not condone overt threats being made, we have devised more subtle methods of getting what we want.

We may not threaten others directly but we imply similar meanings when we use these techniques:

  • Social Pressure – “Everyone else in your group wants to do it. What about you?”
  • Positional Pressure – “I’m sure you and I can resolve this without having to get the Boss involved” or “Because I’m the Boss, that’s why!”
  • Exhaustion – “I’ll stop (the action) if you’ll give in.”
  • shortagen & Time Pressure – “If you don’t act now, they’ll be gone!”
  • Martyr – “If you don’t give in, the others will suffer.”

When in your work experience have you had the retribution tactic used on you or seen it used on someone else?

Was it effective? Why or why not?


This is an exchange of items of value or a sense of obligation assumed by one side in hopes the other will be shamed into the desired action:

  • potential – “If you’ll do what I want, I’ll reward you.”
  • Vanity – “People you value will think more (or less) of you if you’ll do (or not do) this.”
  • Exchanging– “If I do this for you, will you do that for me?” (This differs slightly from ‘potential’ in that I am offering to make the first move, not waiting for you to do it.) Please observe that we suggest that you never ask someone to concede something as part of exchanging. For many people, “concede” method giving up something to the other side; i.e. a win-lose consequence. We suggest that you say, “Let’s trade this for that” because trading implies an exchange of value that retains the social level of those involved; i.e., a mutually satisfactory outcome.
  • Debt – “You owe me this because of things I have done for you in the past.”
  • Reciprocal compromise – “Since I changed my initial price/offer, I expect that you’ll act favorably.” (It does not matter whether the initial price/offer was reasonable or not.)

When in your work experience have you had the reciprocity tactic used on you or seen it used on someone else?

Was it effective? Why or why not?


We proportion similar personal values or viewpoints (or I want you to think we do).

  • Outside Proof – “These expert opinions that you respect should convince you that I’m right.”
  • Basic Needs – “This is what I need. Will you help me?”
  • Your Goal – “Doing this will help you unprotected to your goal of X.”
  • Consistent Values – “Doing this fits right in with your belief about X.”
  • Vanity – “You are the only one we know with this skill. Will you help us?” (observe that this is a slightly different variation of the ‘Vanity’ shown above.)
  • Loyalty – “As a friend (fraternity, sorority, specialized group member), will you do this for me?”
  • Altruism – “Will you do it for the good of the group?”

If you know that others are trying to manipulate you by one of these strategies, you stand a better chance of withstanding it – or turning it back on them. Wouldn’t that be fun?

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