Six Weapons of Influence

Have you ever attempted to influence one person? What about a group of people?

Think about who has influenced you. What was it they did? How did their influence create behavioral direction in your life?

Psychologist and world-renowned persuasion expert, Robert Cialdini, identified six weapons of influence in our battle to direct human behavior. I thought they could be helpful whether you lead paid staff or a group of volunteers.

  1. Reciprocation: People feel obligated to return the favor when you do something for them.
  2. Commitment and Consistency: People feel obligated to do things they have publicly committed to doing, and they want to seem consistent-both to others and to themselves.
  3. Social Proof: People are more likely to do something if they see other people doing it.
  4. Liking: People are more likely to be persuaded by you if they like you.
  5. Authority: People are also more likely to be persuaded by you if you are a legitimate expert or authority figure.
  6. Scarcity: People see (positive) things that are scarce or rare as more valuable.
You can do extraordinary things if you deliver your appeal in a way that syncs with their motivational focus.
— Drs. Heidi Grant Halvorson and E. Tory Higgins

Many of us spend time sharing vision and direction with our teams. I have to learn that when we think we have communicated our message enough, remember we are just beginning. Perhaps the person or team we lead just need a nudge with a message that fits where they are and where we need to go. What if I took my message and filtered it to ensure its delivery would achieve influence and not to get what I want?

The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.
— Ken Blanchard

Researcher and Author, Terry Bacon, provides insights on three approaches to influencing and the dark side influence tactics often employed by leaders.

Rational approaches to Influencing

Logical persuading

Using logic to explain what you believe or what you want. The number one influence power tool throughout the world. The most frequently used and effective influence technique in nearly every culture, but it does not work with everyone and in some circumstances will not work at all.


Appealing to authority. On average, the least-effective influence technique, but it will work with some people most of the time and most people some of the time and can result in quick compliance.


Negotiating or trading for cooperation. Most effective when it is implicit rather than explicit. Used less often than any other influence technique, but it is sometimes the only way to gain agreement or cooperation.


Asserting what you believe or want. One of the influence power tools. Most effective when you are self-confident and state ideas with a compelling tone of voice. Can cause resistance, however, if overused or used heavy-handedly.

Social approaches to Influencing


Getting to know the other person, being open and friendly, finding common ground. Includes complimenting people and making them feel good about themselves. Second in frequency and effectiveness. A critical technique in many situations.

Appealing to Relationship

Gaining agreement or cooperation with people you already know well. Based on the length and strength of your existing relationships. Third highest in effectiveness.


Engaging or stimulating people by asking questions; involving them in the problem or solution. Fourth in frequency and effectiveness. Works well with smart, self-confident people who have a strong need to contribute ideas.

Alliance building

Finding supporters or building alliances to help influence someone else; using peer or group pressure to gain cooperation or agreement. Not used often and not always effective but in the right circumstances may be the only way to gain consent.

Emotional approaches to Influencing

Appealing to values

Making an emotional appeal or an appeal to the heart. One of the principal ways to influence many people at once and the best technique for building commitment.


Behaving in ways you want others to behave; being a role model; teaching, coaching, counseling, and mentoring. Fifth in effectiveness. Can influence people without you being aware that you are influencing.

Leadership is influence; nothing more, nothing less.
— John Maxwell

The Dark Side Influence Tactics

There are also four negative influence techniques: avoiding, manipulating, intimidating, and threatening. These are negative because they take away the other person's legitimate right to say no. They force them to comply with something contrary to their wishes or best interests, they mislead them, or they force them to act when they would otherwise choose not to.


Forcing others to act, sometimes against their best interests, by avoiding responsibility or conflict or behaving passive-aggressively. The most common dark side technique.


Influencing through lies, deceit, hoaxes, swindles, and cons. Disguising one's real intentions or intentionally withholding information others need to make the right decision.


Imposing oneself on others; forcing people to comply by being loud, overbearing, abrasive, arrogant, aloof, or insensitive. The preferred technique of bullies.


Harming others or threatening to harm them if they do not comply; making examples of some people so others know that the threats are real. The preferred technique of dictators and despots.

Show genuine interest in someone else. Remember people’s names. Listen. Sincerely make someone feel important. Smile.
— Dale Carnegie