Don’t try harder, try different – adapt your influencing style

In our work lives (and personal lives, but let’s stick with work) we need to influence other people.
You may need…

  • to be great within your specific field, but you still need to bring others along on the journey
  • access to senior people within your organisation
  • acceptance of some conceptual and high-level thinking before you progress
  • to collaborate with other organisations.

Discovery Learning, Inc. and Innovative Pathways conducted research to identify and measure influence styles. They created five categories which describe the different ways of influencing people. You most likely have one of these categories as your preferred style:


1. Bridging

You build relationships and connect with others through listening, understanding and building coalitions.

2. Rationalising

You put forward your ideas and offer logical, rational reasons to convince others of your point of view.

3. Asserting

You insist that your ideas are heard and you challenge the ideas of others.

4. Inspiring

You advocate your position and encourage others with a sense of shared purpose and exciting possibilities.

5. Negotiating

You look for compromises and make concessions to reach outcomes that satisfy your greater interest.


Your default influencing style works in some situations, with certain people. But not all situations with all people. Like many things we tend to amplify our default style when facing resistance. We get a sense that we’re not making progress so we just increase the intensity of our default style.  It’s like talking more loudly to someone who doesn’t speak your language.

Great influencers are agile and adapt their style to the situation they are facing. They may use a range of influencing styles within the same interaction with the same person to progress their objectives.

Next time you face some resistance take a breath and be aware of how you are choosing to influence. Try a different approach. Ask some searching questions to assess your stakeholder’s preferred method of communication.

Better still plan your interactions. Be more deliberate about the style(s) you choose with possibly some prior knowledge of those that you’ll be interacting with. Don’t try harder, try different.

Along similar lines to adapting your influencing style to suit the situation you’re in, is adapting or ‘flexing’ your communication style to your audience to achieve your desired outcome.  We include the following models in many of our coaching and leadership workshops to demonstrate the importance of assessing a situation and adapting your delivery to make sure you get your message across clearly and achieve the outcome you and your stakeholders all want.


Adapting your style

Everyone is different. There are times when you’ll need to change your approach to get the best out of a situation.

When communicating with others, the aim is to adapt or ‘flex’ your style to get a win-win outcome. ‘Style flex’ is a temporary adjustment that you can make to your behaviour to suit the style of who you’re communicating with.


The four-step plan for adapting your style

Source: Bolton & Bolton


Philosophy of a good communicator

Assume 100% of the responsibility for understanding what the other person means. Assume 100% of the responsibility for making sure that the person you are communicating with understands you.


People Styles at Work

For us to continuously improve how we communicate, we need to be aware of our own communication style and the styles of others around us.



This article was written by Dan Tohill who is our Inspire Group founder and CEO. Dan is a learning specialist with a background in business psychology, which provides an academic underpinning to his innovative and pragmatic solutions. Over the last 20 years Dan has led a number of high-profile learning initiatives in New Zealand and Asia Pacific. He is also a keen guitarist, father of two, supportive leader and all round good guy.


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2 Responses to “Don’t try harder, try different – adapt your influencing style”

  1. aimee

    This is really useful, thanks!

    One suggestion – from an accessibility standpoint (eg people who’re using screenreaders, or who can’t download images, etc), having the images only means some people can’t get the full value from the article. I suggest both linking to the sources of the images and, if possibly, having text versions of them (as alt text minimum and, even better, also available as text on the page) 🙂


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