How to Get What You Want at Work

Every day we're trying to influence people whether it's getting your boyfriend to agree to watch The Housewives of Beverly Hills or persuading a colleague to agree to your new product development schedule. Most of us can see influence tactics in say used car sales, but the corporate conference room can be an altogether different arena. How do you influence a group of people when you're not the one in charge?

That kind of influence requires forethought and discipline. One slip of, "Just do it, idiot!" and you've lost the battle and the war. It can feel unnatural and bothersome, but doing a little homework will get you what you want—every time.

Some tactics:

1. Plan ahead if you can—what do you want out of the interaction or meeting? Who will be in the meeting and what might their agendas be?

2. Remember process can help—if you want to influence the outcome of a meeting, suggest how you want the meeting to be run or initiate an agenda

3. Ask a question as a means to raise a point or argument—if there's a strong voice in the room, a question can be an easier way for that voice and others to hear an opposing viewpoint

4. Build allies and lock them in with a public commitment—get them to say how they will follow through for you or how they will back you in a meeting; sticking to one's commitments is a very strong imperative in humans

5. Pay attention to your physical presence in the meeting—take up more space to appear more in charge and confident; e.g., standing up in a meeting causes others to have to look up to you

Finally, influence only works on those who can be influenced. Don't waste your efforts on people you know can't be persuaded. And should you encounter particularly aggressive or emotional opposition to a proposal of yours, use psychological jujitsu—just relax into their reaction. More often than not, they will flame out and the floor will be yours.

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  • David Molden

    I can agree with all these fundamental points except the final one - everyone can be influenced. The smart execs are getting trained in pacing and leading techniques, information frames and influential language patterns. The ability to influence is so critical you need to invest in the communication skills as much (if not more than) your particular specialism. Often the people who seem the most dogmatic and fixed in their ideas are the easiest to persuade once you know how to pace and lead.


  • Alicia Morga

    Thanks for the comment David. I could have definitely said it better but what I meant is that you don't always need to influence everyone to get what you want - and often not even the ones you think are your biggest opponents. For example, in a group, the loudest are often easy to topple without having to go at them directly but focusing your efforts instead on the folks who end up making the silent majority.