by Brad Roderick

This is the first in a three-part series on how to help other people obtain their needs and achieve their goals by influencing how they think and the actions they take. I spent quite a bit of time carefully crafting the previous sentence. I did this because when we start diving into how to “get other people to do things” we can use the knowledge for purposes ranging from entirely altruistic to altogether evil. Hitler knew how to get people to take action, as did Dr. King. It is not the tool that defines good and evil, but the intent, purpose and application of the tool. So let’s use this stuff for good.

We need to recognize that there are four options for compelling people to think specific thoughts and take specific action – power, payment, negotiation and persuasion – before we can dive into the granddaddy of influencing others – persuasion. There is no universal, “best approach,” just as there is no universal answer to most anything. Each approach has its time and place. In this installment we will cover the first three options and then spend more time in installment two and three focusing specifically on the art and science of persuasion.

  1. Power. If little Johnny starts to run across the street without looking and his father grabs him and pulls him back, he has used physical power. Certainly appropriate in this case. Power can come from position also. Driving 100 mph in a 50 mph speed zone, you suddenly see the red lights and hear the siren. You pull over. Why? The police officer has the power of his position. If you do not obey, he is in a position to make your life miserable and, in this case, he may well use physical power if necessary.  Your boss likely has the power (position) to make you do certain things, such as show up for work. Of course you can choose not to show up, but after a period of time, you will no longer have the option. And you probably won’t be getting that bi-weekly little goody sometimes known as your paycheck.
  2. Payment. I recall a few years ago wanting my son to cut the lawn. I am the parent and I was bigger than him. I could have used power (either form) but for those parents out there, you know how that would have ended: moaning, wailing and one lousy-looking lawn. In this case, I decided to pay him. By offering a few dollars, he cut the grass and did a reasonable job. I added a bonus the next time for doing a better job and he stepped it up. This cost me more money than a pure power play but it far outweighed the other costs. As a sales manager, you pay commission for actions and you may elect to pay an extra bonus based on a higher level of action – one that is based on exceeding quota.
  3. Negotiation. Every now and then my wife and I go on a date night. Recently I suggested that she choose the restaurant if she would let me choose the movie. I really wanted to see Die Hard 17! (You know, it’s the one where Bruce Willis has rocket launchers mounted to his walker … .) The point is that I gave up choosing the restaurant so that I could choose the movie. And I did get to see the movie — after a $300 steak and lobster dinner! Be very cautious about who you negotiate with! By the way, “Let’s split the difference” is not negotiation; it’s lazy and usually ensures that neither party is satisfied for very long.
  4. Persuasion. While this is the topic of the next two posts so we won’t go into detail here, think of “persuasion” as the most effective tool for driving thoughts and actions over an extended period of time. Dr. King had a dream decades ago. A dream that continues to shape how people think and act today. He had no ability to use power – he couldn’t make people follow his ideals. He didn’t use payment – he couldn’t pay millions of people. He certainly didn’t negotiate – his ideals were not up for compromise. But he could persuade. And it was his ability to persuade people that continues to influence people today.

In the next installment we will look at how we can begin to build our arsenal of persuasive weapons — for good of course.

Read the rest of the series:

Part 2

Part 3

Brad Roderick is executive vice president of InkCycle Inc. He is an industry veteran with more than 25 years of sales and marketing experience. He is an active member of the imaging industry as an author, trainer and speaker focusing in the areas of industry trends, strategy, sales and marketing, and environmental sustainability.