Personal development

Top 10 influencing skills for life and work

Make life go your way with these 10 strategic influencing skills

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If you think influencing skills are something that benefits only politicians and snake oil salesmen, then you are missing out big time!

Influencing skills come naturally to us, as social beings. The first things newborn babies learn to do is to use influence, by expressing emotions. It is simply the way in which we interact with each other.

Influence is the ability to affect the behavior or decisions of another person.

The word sheeple describes people who, like sheep, get pulled along with the heard by the sweet talkers.

You don’t want to be a sheep, do you? Well, maybe you don’t want to be a wolf either; but I’m sure that you want some basic things in life to go your way.

Anyone, with any sense, wants to advance their quality of life, as well as sustain strong relationships in life and work.

These 10 influencing skills will help you achieve just that, and more.

Top 10 influencing skills

Confidence is the key to influence

When you believe in yourself, then you project an air of confidence which tells people that you know what you are doing. (1)

Without confidence, on the other hand, you will not be able to muster up the will power to change minds.

The trick to improving your confidence is by genuine belief in yourself and the idea you are trying to communicate. If you try to fake confidence, then you may come across as arrogant and that’s not good.

 “There’s a thin line between confidence and arrogance… it’s called humility. Confidence smiles, arrogance smirks.” – Author unknown

While confidence should not be faked, there are some tricks, which you can use, to improve your feeling of confidence as well as the message you want to communicate.

Tips to appearing confident and trustworthy:

  • Make eye contact.
  • Talk clearly and with conviction.
  • Maintain good posture.
  • Keep your hands visible
  • Use descriptive hand gestures when talking.

Practice what you preach

It is important that you behave in the same way that you advise other people to behave. Otherwise, you will lack conviction and people will hesitate to trust you.

When you genuinely believe in what you are saying, then you will speak from the heart. Because of this, your audience will easily see why you care about it and why they should as well.

Also, put a bit of effort into your research. Learn more about how you proposition is valuable. Plain and simple authenticity goes a long way when it comes to influencing people.

Know your audience

If you don’t know you audience, then you might as well be talking to a wall. 

Whether you are in sales, management or marketing, you need to know your audience in order to understand how they think and which approach works best.

You don’t have to be a mind-reader to communicate well. Instead, you just have to know some basic things about the person or audience that you are talking to.

These four questions will help you find out exactly how and when to make your suggestion.

Who are you pitching to?

Is it your colleague, boss, client, friend or life partner? Tailor your approach to the nature of the relationship.

What are you suggesting?

You must know the boundaries that you have with your audience. Sometimes a solution you have to offer is not appropriate for certain relationships.

Why should they listen to you?

What are the obstacles you’re helping them surpass? What are the consequences if they don’t follow your advice?

What is the setting?

Knowing the right time and place to make your pitch can make a world of difference for your success rate.

“The size of your audience doesn’t matter. What’s important is that your audience is listening.” –Randy Pausch

Active listening

Active listening is the best influencing skills when it comes to one-on-one influencing. If you can handle this one right, your success rate will go through the roof.

People like being listened to. When you pay close attention in conversations, people will tend to open up to you.

When you are building rapport, you need to steer the conversation to your proposition and then give your audience the opportunity to speak up.

Once your audience has a chance to voice their concerns, then you need to pay close attention. Listen to what they are saying and why they are saying it, but also try to retain the way they said it. The way they say it is the secret sauce behind this influencing skill.

Why? Because if you offer a solution to their concerns in their own words, then you will instantly change the way the person thinks about your proposition.

Think about it, people get apprehensive when they are insecure. And most often, people get insecure over minor details.

When you give them an opportunity to voice their particular concern, and attend to it fully; then you can easily exhaust their objections until they only see the benefit from your proposition. Not because you wore them down, but because you listened to their needs and gave them the solution.

Emotional intelligence (EI)

Emotional intelligence is a measure of your self-control and your people skills. (2)

People with high emotional intelligence have a developed understanding of their emotions and the emotions of others. This ability can be used in positive ways to empathize, communicate, resolve conflict and relieve stress.

High emotional intelligence is a powerful influencing skill, because it enables you to make genuine connection with your audience.

4 tips to improve your emotional intelligence:

  1. Empathize with the emotions of others. Put yourself in their shoes.
  2. Find a healthy way to vent negative emotions.
  3. Maintain positive emotions. Find little ways to keep your spirits up.
  4. Think of problems as opportunities and direct your emotion to solving the problem.

Use these tips to form good habits for dealing with emotions and, over time, you will see a significant improvement in your quality of life and relationships.

Related articles:
The 3 types of good habits | How to beat anxiety

Decision cycle

Decision cycle is a common way to describe the thought process that we all go through when we are faced with a need. Also known as OODA, which stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. (3)

Here is how the decision cycle, or OODA, works:

Observe: Observing a need is the first step. You have to create a demand with your audience by pointing out to the struggle they’re having by not using the right solution, which you are offering.

Orient: Now that we have a need, your audience is orienting to the choices available to solve the need. It is your job to demonstrate how and why you are offering the best solution.

Decide: Most often, people are good at deciding, they are just bad at orienting. If you offer a solution that brings more benefit than the available choices, then people will follow your advice – because it is in their own best interest.

Act: The final step is their acceptable to follow your advice. Here, the trust you have established with your audience will be put to the test. Someone may listen to you, but if they do not see you as credible, then they will hesitate to commit – even if it is in their own best interest.

influencing skills | decision making cycle | OODA

“Care enough to create value for customers. If you get that part right, then selling is easy.” –Anthony Iannarino

You need to have a strategic approach with your proposition, and the best way to do that is by following the stages of the decision cycle.

The decision cycle is a robust influencing skill, which can help you tune in to the way your audience thinks.

Related articles:
How to improve your decision making process | 10 tips to stay focused

Reciprocity bias

Feeling an obligation to return a kindness is very common. When someone accepts help or favor from you, they will feel willing to do something for you in return. (4)

Reciprocity bias is the way in which we cultivate relationships. This is an old habit that has helped us pull together, survive and thrive; since ancient times.

You need to cultivate this habit of bringing value to those who subscribe to your advice. Snake oil strategies do not work well in business and neither as a recipe for healthy relationships.

This brings us to the next influencing skill, which also helps build a lasting relationship in business and social life.


Commitment means taking a relationship to the level of long-term stability.

Small favors and thoughtful acts most often cost you next to nothing, but they can mean a lot to someone when they really need them. Being there for someone when they need you will make you is the very essence of a reliable relationship.

The very best way to establish trust with someone is to be reliable and, as you know by now, trust is the closing element that will make people act on your suggestion.

“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.” – Tony Robbins

Commitment is not something that you can fake. Instead, it is an influencing skill that you earn with time by being there for those who subscribe to your advice and who count you among friends.

Do not make the common mistake of trying to please everyone! Instead, be picky about the people you take into your inner circle, both in professional and personal life.

Treating different people in different ways is not healthy for your mindset. To avoid this, commit only to those that will enrich your inner circle. Do not waste your time on people who do not appreciate you and reciprocate the commitment.

Related articles:
Productivity gadgets for 2020| Time management skills |Increase productivity

Elevator pitch

Before you can build commitment with new audience, you need to make a connection with them.

Sometimes you will only have a short window of opportunity to impress someone and influence their decision.

Let’s say you have an important job interview. You are qualified and the job would mean a lot to you, but in order to make them hire you, you need to stand out from the other candidates. The elevator pitch is your best bet in this situation.

An elevator pitch is when you have a simple, clean and straight-to-the-point pitch; which you could deliver in the time it takes to ride an elevator.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” -Albert Einstein

The elevator pitch is the most useful influencing skill, because it is easy to learn, easy to apply and it delivers great results – when done properly. (5)

How to do an elevator pitch?

There are no tricks when it comes to an elevator pitch. Just because it is short and simple, does not mean you can wing it.

You need to prepare your pitch as if you were making a 10 minute presentation on all the values and benefits you can bring to the table. Then, you need to boil that down to a 30 second pitch of the unique benefits that only you can bring to the table.

A well delivered elevator pitch will captivate the imagination of your audience. Hence, when your elevator ride is finished, then your audience will be left eager to know more and feeling like they will be missing out if they let this opportunity pass.

Related articles:
Guide to career development | Guide to career transition

Create urgency

Creating urgency is an important element of a good elevator pitch, as well as a contributor to the fear of missing out bias. (6)

Fear of missing out, well known in the financial industry as FOMO, is an excessive worry that you are missing out on a rewarding experience. This bias is often triggered by seeing, or imagining, someone else profit from the rewarding experience.

Be careful that you do not mistake creating urgency with applying pressure. Much like confidence and trust, if you fake urgency, then it can easily backfire on you.

Applying undue pressure will make you seem desperate and manipulative. Instead, you need to make your audience feel like you are offering something unique, that will not be on the table forever.

Here are two clever ways to create urgency without putting pressure on your audience:

  • Make scarcity a part of your pitch from the start instead of springing it up on your audience at the very end. The end of your pitch is a test of the trust you have established, so this is not the ideal time to twist the arm of your audience.
  • Keep your audience focused on the problem that they need solved and the messy consequences which need to be prevented. In this way, you will create in your audience a feeling of pressing need to get that problem out of their hair once and for all.


To wrap things up with a bow, here is an elevator pitch of what we have learned so far:

  1. Build up your confidence, so that your audience will have faith in you.
  2. Practice what you preach, so that your audience can relate to you.
  3. Know your audience, so that you don’t mistake them with brick walls.
  4. Listen to your audience, so that you know where they are coming from.
  5. Empathize with your audience,

Finally, there is an important lesson that provides a common ground for your new influencing skills. Trust is one of the biggest factors of successful influencing.

However, trust is not a skill, but rather, a quality of the relationship between you and your audience. As such, trust is a goal to which all other influencing skills work towards.

Did you enjoy this article? Leave a comment and let me know!

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  1. Enhancing human performance.
  2. Emotional intelligence.
  3. The decision cycle.
  4. Reciprocity bias.
  5. The elevator pitch.
  6. Fear of missing out (FOMO).

11 comments on “Top 10 influencing skills for life and work

  1. Tanja Zol

    Great point there on commitment, appreciating and reciprocating your commitment. Most people end up using others for the benefit of their arguments or stance, but by commitment we can fulfill our human nature in valiable connections that in the end result in influencing each other in the most positive way to progress…
    But this makes me wonder, what about todays’ so called “influencers”? We can see them daily on Twitter, FB, Insta,..etc. with millions of followers online..In my opinion I wouldn’t even relate that word to them, I would rather say Advertisers, or am I wrong?? What does influencing mean for us today? Any thoughts?

    • Hey Tanya,

      Great comment! You’re exactly right, many people nowadays use influence against people in order to exploit them but it’s actually a much more versatile skill than that. When you believe in yourself and offer a solution that makes sense, influence comes naturally to us and we don’t have to resort to sales gimmickry to succeed.

      With regards to social media influencers, these are people who’ve risen up in their popularity on social media and who capitalize on that popularity by being a voice or a face for products in their industry for ad revenue.

      With that in mind, it would be fair to call them both influencers and advertisers.

      As for influence itself, I would stick to the explanation given in the blog that it’s simply a capability to affect behavior. On the other hand, it is up to all of us individually to recognize and reject unethical influence.

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