Influencing another person requires that person to make a decision – whether to say yes, say no, discuss, negotiate, or offer an alternative that you both can live with. Decision-making related to influence is generally driven by needs, which can be practical or emotional in nature. Sometimes the need is obvious and discussable, such as a need for more time or resources. Sometimes the need is emotional and perhaps below awareness, but powerful all the same. While we may prefer to think of ourselves as rational and thoughtful decision-makers, recent studies by brain scientists and behavioral economists have shown that emotional needs are frequently the primary drivers behind our decisions.

Most of our important business, professional, and personal relationships are ongoing. Relationships in which we communicate and influence one another develop a history. Any specific influence opportunity or event is affected by the past and helps shape the future of the influence relationship. In other words, every time you influence someone you are making it either easier or harder to influence him or her the next time.

The holiday season, with its themes of light, hope, peace on earth, and goodwill is meant to bring out the best in people. Unfortunately, the holidays also present many opportunities for stress, anxiety, and high expectations. It is during these times we can exercise leadership to help bring out the best in ourselves and others in moving from conflict to harmony.

…While we both focus on the topic of influence, we approach it from different backgrounds. This has led to many interesting conversations. We thought it might be useful to share some of them with you. We took several influence situations (borrowed with permission from Barnes & Conti’s Exercising Influence program material) and thought about how we might advise a client to approach them.

You need the support of a senior manager to sell your department on the need for a change in a key business process. This manager is not noted for risk-taking and usually prefers to have direct reports out front on changes. This time you need a strong and public commitment.

Allan Cohen, Ph.D is the author of many books about leadership and influence, including Influence Without Authority (with David Bradford; Wiley, 3rd edition, 2017). Kim Barnes is the CEO of Barnes & Conti Associates, Inc. and is the author of several books including Exercising Influence: A Guide for Making Things Happen at Work, at Home, and In Your Community (Wiley, 3rd edition, 2015.) Allan and Kim are neighbors, colleagues, and friends as well as fellow Wiley authors.

While we both focus on the topic of influence, we approach it from different backgrounds. This has led to many interesting conversations. We thought it might be useful to share some of them with you