Learning & Development

The Art of Influencing - getting them to say 'yes'

by Katherine Baker, Co-Founder, Congress London

Mastering the ability to influence or persuade someone means understanding the art and science behind getting other people to say yes. A key part of this is grasping the real reason someone is saying no.

It is a basic truth to say we are all different, but many people forget this simple fact. Yes, race, age, gender and culture make us different, but we are also vastly different from the other members in our family or close friends.

So, if this is true, why do we assume that if something makes sense to us, then that line of reasoning must make sense to other people? To influence someone, you need to be creative in how you position your request and make sure it is tailored to your audience.  

The successful influencer uses a creative approach that speaks to the psychometric make up of their audience.


You should also consider personality traits and how someone likes to receive information. If your audience fully understands your request or your presentation, they are more likely to agree. For example, if the person you are trying to influence is extroverted, direct, organized, decisive and results-orientated, when you approach them you should be business-like and factual while focusing on the expected results.

On the other hand, if the person you are influencing is a team player, cooperative, easy going, sensitive, values working in a group and doesn’t like confrontation, you should begin with some chitchat, don’t push or rush, be relaxed and don’t argue. It is up to you as the influencer to change your style of communication to match the other person’s.

If ever in doubt, a good trick is to mirror their style and energy.

However, even after you have created a sound message and understood the personality of your audience, the answer may still be no. They will give you a reason, but is this the real reason? To figure this out, have you considered their personality, personal goals and aspirations, or what is going on in that person’s life?

We assume people make decisions for ration reasons like price, quality, quantity or timing, but in fact people make decisions based on emotional reasons like trust, habit, politics, fear or prestige. Unfortunately, when people say no they usually give us a rational reason.  

Think about it. If your colleague asked you to go for drinks after work but you didn’t want to, you would come up with the excuse that you didn’t have time. A perfectly rational excuse, but the real reason is probably that you don’t really like that colleague and therefore would rather not spend more time with them after work.

So, next time someone says no, try to discover why they are really saying no. It is human nature to move heaven and earth for the things we emotionally want to do even if they do not rationally make sense.   

Getting someone to agree is not pushing useless information at them and continually bullying them into submission. It means coaxing, asking questions, building trust and pulling out the real reason for a yes.  

  • Katherine Baker is Business Development Director at School for CEOs - check out www.schoolforceos.com for more info