The Power of Influence

There is much confusion around the difference between influence and persuasion.  They are both definitely related to each other: If I influence people it makes me more persuasive; the more persuasive I am, it allows me to build influence. Yet often, we look at these things as separate and many people look at these things as almost diametrically opposed concepts.

Influence comes from a trait that you possess. It is something that you are. Persuasion happens because of an action that you take. It is something that you do. Influence is long term. Persuasion is short term.

So, what is the difference between the two?

When we are influenced, we find it has a long-term impact because we have made the choice of the path that we take. Frequently when we’re being persuaded, it is more short-term oriented because someone else has done the persuading.

In his book, Influence: The Phycology of Persuasion, Dr Robert Cialdini explains the psychology of why people say “yes” and how to apply these understandings. He explains the six universal principles of personation, how to use them to become a skilled persuade and how to defend yourself against them.

The six principles are:

Let’s look at these in more detail:

  • Reciprocity – Giving something to someone without expecting anything in return
  • Scarcity – The rarer something is, the more people want it
  • Authority – Your knowledge and expertise versus power/designation
  • Consistency – If someone commits to a small thing first, they will probably commit to something much bigger later
  • Liking – People will follow others, especially people they like
  • Consensus – People will look to the action of others to determine their own actions


You can learn more about these in the following video:

Let’s take an example to help us with our understanding:

Example:  Before you go on holiday, you need to complete a critical report. The data is with a peer in another team and you need to persuade them to part with the information before you can leave.  Which of the 6 principles of persuasion could you use?

  • Liking – You are not going to get very far if you are not likeable. If you demand the information, you are unlikely to get it!  The principle of liking should be in play for any influencing that you need to do!
  • Reciprocity – If you have helped them out in the past, they are more likely to help you now. However, you could also let them know that part with the data you need now, you will definitely help them out with something they need at a later date
  • Consensus – Maybe you have an example of where other people in the individual’s department have shared information quickly when needed. If so, you could use information to help persuade them as people look to the action of others to determine their own action

You may use all three above, or maybe just one is enough!

So next time you need to influence or persuade somebody, think about the Six Principles of Persuasion!  We are sure you will find them useful!

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