A successful career in IT is a combination of both technical and non-technical skills. You will not be working in isolation, hence you will need to interact with others, including persons in non-technical roles. We will explore an aspect of the non-technical skill you need to be successful in this article- Specifically, Your ability to influence others or your persuasive skills. There are 6 principles we will look at, based on the works of the renowned psychologist Robert Cialdini. This forms a basis for how to influence others in a work environment.

The Six Principles Of Influence

1. Principle of Liking

If people like you, they are much more likely to be persuaded or influenced by you. We are influenced by people we like or want to be like. It is the same reason we are much more likely to take a piece of advice from a friend. This is where soft skills and interpersonal relations become critically important. The converse is also true, it is difficult to influence people who hate you or are put off by your attitude. In your workplace, try to cultivate healthy habits that are generally endearing. Show genuine interest in how others are coping with challenges while at the same time keeping it professional.

A colleague might be having a bad day or turned up for work looking depressed, Try to be a bit more polite, and see if there are ways you could help out without neglecting your own duties or breaching professional conduct. Be honest with people and look for ways you can help bring out the best in them. Interact with people and develop likable qualities such as empathy, patience, tolerance, respect, etc. Get them to trust you by building a good reputation. These add up to create a better and more likable version of yourself. That way, you will be better able to influence or persuade others ethically when the need be.

2. Principle of Reciprocity

People have an innate desire to help those who have already helped them in the past. More like “one good turn deserves another”. Try to help people when you can, it may mean being temporarily inconvenienced and might require some sacrifice from you. If you help someone out with a task, they are more likely to return a favor in the future when you might need one too. When you help someone, you deepen the relationship and make them compelled to help you in the future.

When you render a favor to a colleague, do not devalue the effort and resources you put into it by saying things like “it was nothing”. Instead, say things such as that you value their friendship and that you trust they would have done the same for you if you were the one asking for help.

3. Principle of Scarcity

People find things that are scarce resources much more valuable. You should do the same with your expertise. You want to help people as much as you can but you also do not want to pass the wrong message that your work is not valuable. That’s why the earlier response of saying the work you did meant nothing is a no-no.

If someone is asking for your help and you are genuinely busy at the moment (do not abandon your main task), let them know you are busy, that you value their friendship, and that you will get back to them as soon as you can. That way, you have increased your value by creating scarcity, you have placed a value on them too by not turning them down outrightly, and have also planted the seed for future reciprocity by offering to help.

4. Principle of Social Proof

People like to make decisions that are in line with what other leaders in similar positions will likely do. This can be very powerful when you are making a case for a particular solution or suggestion, Let your audience know that what you are proposing is something other successful businesses in a similar situation are doing and are getting the desired result. You should normally appeal to social proof after you have enumerated the benefits of your proposed solutions.

People generally tend to assume that the greater the number of persons who find any idea correct, the more likely the idea will be correct. You use the principle of social proof to solidify your suggestion.

5. Principle of Authority

This principle suggests that people will be more inclined to listen to someone who is an authority in a particular field than someone who is not. If you are making a case for a solution in a field in which you are an authority figure, let them know that fact. They are more likely to be persuaded if they know you are an expert in that field. People want to follow the lead and advice of legitimate experts. It helps to properly introduce yourself and demonstrate your expertise.

Conversely, if you are not an expert in a given subject, let people know. They will respect you for it. Do not pretend to be what you are not. Do not mislead people. Let them know you may be reaching out to an expert in the field if you are handling something that is outside your area of expertise or that you are taking some training to help you with the task. You should let them know you are getting access to the best resources to complete a given task.

6. Principle of Consistency and Commitments

People are likely to do things that are in line with their past decisions and their values. People want their beliefs and behavior to be consistent with their values and self-image. If you asking someone to do something for you, ask for something that is consistent with their values. That way you will not be asking them to go against their principle and are likely to get a positive response. Ask people things that are in line with their beliefs or inclinations and you will likely get a positive response.


Michael Gibbs



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