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  • Terry R. Bacon

How to Be More Effective at Appealing to Relationship

Appealing to relationship is an influence technique you use when you already have a close relationship with someone—your spouse, your best friend, other close friends, close family members, long-time trusted colleagues, and others with whom you share strong affinity and trust. In effect, when you want to influence that person you are appealing to your existing, close relationship. The key is mutual trust. Both parties know that what the other one wants or needs will be reasonable and will not threaten the bond between them. Typically, you can ask your closest friends and family members for favors that you would be unable to ask people who are not as close to you.

Appealing to relationship is the most frequently used influence technique in the world. We learn the technique as babies when we want something from our parents, and we learn that we can rely on them more than we can rely on other adults. Unfortunately, children from neglectful homes learn that they cannot trust their parents or other adults, so they typically form close bonds with other children their age. Research shows that most people form close relationships with anywhere from five to fifteen other people, the norm being seven or eight. Within this tight group, you can use appealing to relationship, and, if you are like most people, those influence attempts will usually succeed.

Tips on Using Appealing to Relationship

  • Avoid taking advantage of your close relationships. What you ask for or want the other person to do must be within the ethical bounds of the relationship. If you ask close friends to do something they consider unethical, you will damage or destroy your trusted relationship with them.

  • Favors exchanged among close friends and family members should never be transactional. Do favors for your inner circle without expecting anything in return. Likewise, they should do favors for you without expecting immediate reciprocity. Your goal is not to create obligations from your friends but rather to show a willingness to help them when they need it as they help you when you need it.

  • Always thank your close friends when they do you a favor. Showing appreciation helps them feel good about themselves and increases their willingness to do favors for you in the future.

  • If you promise them something in return for the favor, always keep your promises. Otherwise, they may feel that you have taken advantage of them, and this will lessen their willingness to do a favor for you next time. NOTE: Promising something in return for a favor could also be seen as exchanging, but among close friends it usually does not feel like a negotiation.

  • Although you are not keeping score, make sure that the number of favors your close friends and family do for you is about equal to the number you do for them. Imbalanced relationships do not endure, no matter how close you were. It is the same with winning arguments. If you always win, resentment will build. It is like playing tug-of-war with a dog. If you always win, the dog becomes disheartened. In close relationships, parity is important.

If you begin to feel like close friends are taking advantage of your relationship and asking for more than they are willing to give, it is time to reevaluate the relationship. Also, beware of friends asking you to do something you consider illegal, immoral, or otherwise unwise. It is best to say no and ensure that clear boundaries are in place.

You will find more tips on using appealing to relationship effectively on pp. 110-111 in Elements of Influence: The Art of Getting Others to Follow Your Lead (AMACOM Press, 2012).

Photo credits: two older men fishing: Photo 119855169 / Friends © Rawpixelimages |; Asian family in park: Photo 12405440 / Families © Monkey Business Images |

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