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  • Terry R. Bacon

What is Influence and Why Should I Care about It?

Influence is the art of getting others to do something you want them to do, agree to something you want them to agree to, or believe something you want them to believe. Here are some examples of influencing:

  • You smile at someone and that person smiles back.

  • You introduce yourself to people and hold out your hand. They shake your hand and introduce themselves.

  • You tell your young son to top bouncing on the sofa, and he stops. If he doesn’t stop, you threaten to ground him. He stops.

  • You ask your daughter to pick up her room. She grouses about it but complies.

  • You ask friends to dinner, and they accept.

  • You say to your spouse or significant other that you want to see a particular movie, or go to a museum or exhibit, and he/she says yes.

These commonplace examples may not seem like influence, but they are. Your words or actions cause other people to agree with you, make a decision, or change their behavior. That’s influence. Here are more examples:

  • You write a column for a newspaper recommending that people read a particular book, and many of your readers purchase or borrow the book and read it.

  • You take a wealthy potential donor to lunch and ask for a donation. The person agrees to support your nonprofit.

  • You explain to the police officer that you didn’t know you had a taillight out and promise to get it fixed right away. The officer issues a warning instead of a ticket.

  • You speak at a religious gathering and people are so moved by your words that some have renewed faith.

  • You suggest to your boss that work in a particular area could be streamlined by making some changes to the process. Your boss thinks it’s a good suggestion and agrees to the changes.

  • You give a formal presentation to a group of potential buyers. They seem interested but have some questions, which you answer. They haggle with you on price, and you negotiate an acceptable solution for them and you.

Every time you convince some to do something, agree to something, or believe something, you are influencing them. Clearly, life would be difficult if you had no influence at all.

Leadership is an act of influence. So is management and supervision. But so is raising a family, belonging to a team or club, selling anything, buying anything, having friends, and so on. There is no way to know how many times a day each of us attempts to influence someone else, but if we were to count—if we could count—it would likely number in the hundreds.

All of us learn to influence as infants. Crying to get fed is influencing. It’s safe to say that by the time you reach adulthood you are fairly experienced at influencing, although you may not be as effective as you’d like. Greeting people and getting them to return your smile is easy. Getting the job you want may be hard. So is persuading others to accept your proposals, especially when they are initially resistant. So is getting a raise or promotion, selling that big-ticket item to a customer, persuading your colleagues in the senate to vote for your bill, or convincing the country that austerity measures, though unpopular, are necessary.

Why is influence important? Because without being skilled at it you are likely doomed to disappointment, frustration, and perhaps hard times. However, if you learn how to influence effectively, you can open a lot of doors for yourself. Influencing is about achieving your goals by influencing others to do, agree to, or believe something you want. That’s why it’s important.

Photo credit: ID 175226515 © Clare Jackson |

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