The art of influencing is more important than ever.

As organizational hierarchies shift, responsibility and decision making are often determined by the unwieldy, sometimes confusing process of influence. In this setting, you need to sharpen your influencing skills — and understand the dynamics of influence taking place around you.

“We all have basic behavioral styles that we bring to our work environment as well as home and personal situations,” says Chris Musselwhite, president and CEO of Discovery Learning, Inc. “Understanding those behaviors is crucial to how we interact effectively with each other and as a team.”

Musselwhite and colleague Tammie Plouffe have identified five influence styles, each representing a preferred approach to selling your point of view.

  • Rationalizing: You put forward your ideas and offer logical, rational reasons to convince others of your point of view.
  • Asserting: You insist that your ideas are heard and considered and you challenge the ideas of others.
  • Negotiating: You look for compromises and make concessions to reach outcomes that satisfy your greater interest.
  • Inspiring: You advocate your position and encourage others with a sense of shared mission and exciting possibilities.
  • Bridging: You build relationships and connection with others through listening, understanding and building coalitions.

“The real skill in influencing comes from knowing and using the style most effective in each situation, even when the most appropriate style may not be what feels most comfortable,” says Musselwhite. He offers the following tips for influencing others based on their preferred style.

Rationalizers want you to provide evidence-based facts and figures in a clear and concise manner. Show that you know the numbers (data, statistics, finance, etc.) and ask questions that deepen everyone’s understanding of which data, facts and figures are important to the subject at hand. Be able to identify and discuss critical themes found in large quantities of information.

Asserters also seek logical and reasoned arguments. In addition, they want you to be direct and decisive in your approach and transparent about where you stand on an issue. It is important that you demonstrate your competence and expertise but also let them know that you understand their position. Be sure to summarize your understanding of their view and work toward clear solutions.

Negotiators are always looking for win/win solutions. Look for areas of agreement and be willing to compromise. What can you give up in order to move forward to a mutually agreeable solution? And be sure to follow through on the trade-offs or concessions you make.

Inspirers focus on shared purpose and higher possibilities. How can positive outcomes — ones that everyone cares about — be achieved? To influence this group, you need to understand what is important to them and show that you see it as important, too. Use stories and metaphors that explain your position or why you value a certain approach or outcome. Connecting on an emotional level is not only okay; it’s needed.

Bridgers also seek to pull people together toward a shared view or goal. You’ll want to find ways to involve others in the development of your idea or solution. Listen carefully, ask lots of open-ended questions and summarize what you have heard. Attempt to understand others before you attempt to be understood yourself. Don’t forget to recognize others’ contributions and give credit where credit is due.

“Bear in mind that often you need to gain buy-in and commitment from many different stakeholders, with various influencing styles,” Musselwhite adds. “You’ll want to draw on elements of each style to effectively engage and influence those around you.”

Discovery Learning recently introduced the Influence Style Indicator™ (ISI), an online assessment tool based on the five styles. The tool helps people understand their dominant, preferred, secondary and underutilized styles and learn to influence more effectively. It is also designed to help organizations understand how patterns of influence can impact organizational decision making.

Join Chris Musselwhite for a CCL Leading Effectively Webinar: Getting Your Way: The Art and Science of Influencing.

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