The Difference Between Influence and Persuasion

by Karen Keller, Ph.D.


There are subtle differences to persuasion and influence

When it comes to influence, your reputation is your best asset.

When you’re advancing in a corporate environment, you, of course, spend a lot of time hearing about persuasion and influence being big parts of your success or failure in the company and that’s very true. However, many people make the mistake of thinking that persuasion and influence are the same thing. That, my friends, is far from the truth. Yes, they are both a means to an end and many times they involve swaying opinions, but there is one thing that I believe influence has that persuasion does not use and that is your reputation. 

What do you mean, my reputation?

I mean that anyone can persuade another person with some slick graphics and the right words, but when you’re working on changing minds through influence, likely the people you’re working with know you, or at least they know your reputation. Influence involves trust and a relationship, where persuasion deals more with solid facts and figures manipulated to get the desired outcome. When it comes to influence, your reputation is your best asset. 

How do I know what my reputation is here?

The simple answer is to ask around with people whose opinions you trust. The slightly more complicated way to go about gauging your influence and reputation is to judge the reactions to your presentations when you’re trying to maximize your influence. If people are open to hearing your suggestions right off the bat, you probably have more influence, and thus, a better reputation. 

What if I have a bad reputation?

Boy, do I wish there was an easy way to fix this, but there isn’t. If your current reputation isn’t all that favorable, you’ve got some hard work ahead to change people’s perceptions of you and your work. This is one area where you don’t want to try to find an easy work around, because it will come back to bite you in the end.

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