Monday 20th May 12:27

Influencing Skills: Indirect Influenc

indirectinfluence_142One of the principles of working successfully with your boss is to make sure that you don't outshine him or her. This is simple boss-subordinate pyschology: you are there to find solutions and your boss is there to take the credit. Understanding this key aspect of the relationship is the secret to both of you getting on. That means that when you want your boss to do something you care about, you must find subtle ways to put your case. One of the most important techniques of doing this is Indirect Influence and here is a story that shows you how to do it.

Indirect Influence: The Prince's Gift

The Prince of Chi was at war with the Prince of Chu. He decided he needed the support of a neighbouring prince and so asked his son-in-law, Chun-Yu, to go and plead on his behalf. Chun-Yu asked what gift he was to take and his father-in-law gave him the derisory amount of a hundred pounds of silver. Chun-Yu knew that this would be insulting to the neighbour and, not wishing to insult his father-in-law, he began to chuckle.
"Why are you laughing?" asked his father-in-law.
"Well, this morning, I saw a farmer sacrificing a pig's foot and a single cup of wine and asking the gods for an abundant crop, a full garden and bursting barns and I couldn't help thinking that a man who asked so much should offer so little."
The Prince of Chi at once saw the point and increased the value of his gift.

Indirect Influence: 7 Techniques

What Chun-Yu in this story knew was that approaching his father-in-law directly would amount to disagreeing with him, criticising his choice, and setting himself up in opposition to him. When power is with the other person, none of these approaches is likely to succeed. So here are 7 other techniques to use to indirectly influence your boss.

1. What if?: a "What if...?" question is a hypothetical way of gently suggesting your solution to a problem. "What if we computerised...?

2. 2nd person quote: by talking about your solution as if it were happening to someone else, your boss will relate the story to his or her own situation. "I know Accounts had the same problem and used consultants..."

3. softeners: softeners put proposals in ways that give the boss room to think..."Do you think it might help if...? "I wonder whether...? "Maybe..."

4. visual metaphor: the visual metaphor helps the boss to see things in a different way. "This problem's like untangling spaghetti..."

5. repeated "yes": several repeated "yeses" from the boss put them in a favourable frame of mind for your solution.
"We do need more business, don't we?"
"We need more revenue, wouldn't you agree?"
"A computer would be more efficient, wouldn't it?"

6. presupposition: a presupposition gets your boss to mentally accept your solution. "What software would we need for a computer like this?"

7. modest diffidence: modest diffidence is a way to put forward a view to your boss without arguing it with certainty, eg "If I'm not mistaken..."; "I'm fairly sure it will work...".

Indirect Influence: Don't Outshine the Master

Indirect Influence is good management and good common sense. It allows you to put your ideas across in a way that is acceptable to the other person. As Baltasar Gracian said, "Avoid outshining the master. The superiority of a subject over his prince is not only stupid, it is fatal. This is a lesson that the stars in the sky teach us. They may be related to the sun and just as brilliant, but they never appear in her company."

Other Resources on Indirect Influence

Here is an article on Control, Direct Influence and Indirect Influence from Luc Reid.

Get Judith Tingley's book on "The Power of Indirect Influence" on Amazon .

Indirect influence is one of the skills you'll learn with  Influencing and Negotiating Skills products from ManageTrainLearn. See our wide range of products here.