Study skills advice
Influencing and Negotiating
Study Guide
Study Guide
Negotiating and influencing (or at least trying to) are skills that we develop from a very early age.
Think about some of the situations mentioned in the opener to this chapter (should chapter references
be included as they aren’t used to organise content in the CWS? Consider rewording), but you can
probably already add a lot more of your own. Have you been in situations where you have had to
negotiate a price over the purchase of a second hand car, a computer, or a musical instrument? Have
you been in situations where you have tried to persuade a group of people, maybe classmates,
colleagues at work or members of a voluntary group, round to your point of view?
Negotiating and influencing as a study skill
You are likely to use these skills in two ways while you are a student. Like any other communication
skills, you can use them informally, as part of your everyday life, and formally, as part of assignments
and assessments. You negotiate informally every time you ask to borrow a book from a friend or
persuade a student to give you a few minutes of his or her time. You negotiate formally if you are
working on a group project and sorting out who is going to take on various areas of work. You
influence formally, when you try to lead a seminar discussion in a certain direction.
Will my course include it?
Influencing and negotiating skills are not necessarily formally taught in many courses, but you will get
plenty of chances to use them. Think about teacher training and trying to get a class of students to
pay attention. Consider law courses, where you might have practice advocacy assessments. Ponder
the various debates you might have over the merits of modern architectural design, the worth of
particular philosophical arguments or the value of particular business models, depending on what you
are studying. You can probably think of several examples that are relevant to your own academic
A subtle influence
The ability to get someone else or a group of people to listen, to agree or to change a habit or a
course of action is one that often eludes us when we most need it. Influence can be a much more
subtle thing than negotiating, because although you may not necessarily be taking a stance that is
opposite to that of the people you want to influence, the fact that you want to influence them means
you do want something to change. Often we come up against barriers to being able to influence
because of the limited repertoire of techniques to get the outcome we desire.
Four influencing styles
For a range of influencing styles, you should have a look at the takeaway tip at the end of this chapter
(should chapter references be included as they aren’t used to organise content in the CWS? Consider
rewording). This gives more details on the four styles mentioned here.
Carrot and stick style
Carrot and stick influencers operate by offering both praise and criticism to others. They communicate
their demands and requirements and make it very clear as to what exactly they are prepared to do
and what they are not. They offer bargains and rewards, as well as punishments. They are easy to
spot because they use a lot of words like “should”, “must” and “ought”. To others, they can appear to
be sitting in judgment.
Bridge-builders influence very differently from those who like to wield carrots and sticks. They are
open about their intentions and motives and they are also prepared to acknowledge mistakes they
have made and admit to weaknesses. They are good at drawing other people out and at appreciating
someone else’s point of view. They show trust and confidence in others and, as a result, they are very
good at building up trust, especially where sensitive negotiations are taking place. Are they perfect?
Well, one possible drawback is that they can work so hard towards consensus that nothing is ever
Anyone using the visioning style of influencing appears to throw himself or herself into it
wholeheartedly. They show enthusiasm by gestures, tone of voice, and the words they use. They are
good at finding different ways of viewing a situation, especially using imagery, and encouraging others
to use their imaginations to achieve a better solution for everyone. They appeal to people’s need to
work towards common goals and have shared aspirations. They are excellent at building group
solidarity. Their way of influencing can be extremely entertaining and it can work well, but sometimes,
it is so imaginative that it strays a little far from what is realistically possible.
The reason and logic style
Rather different to their visioning colleagues, people who like to influence by logic and reason are very
good at coming up with ideas and suggesting solutions to problems. Unlike the carrot-and-stick
people, they make proposals that are genuinely open, rather than those that are based on prescribed
solutions that they expect to achieve. They are very good at coming up with reasons, arguments, and
relevant facts to support a position they have taken. If they express agreement or disagreement, it is
based on logical reasons, not on personal preferences. They are very constructive to deal with, but
can sometimes lack a bit of imagination and flair.
No such thing as a perfect style
If you have read the above, you probably have ideas, not just about how you try to exert influence,
but about how others try to influence you and which styles you are likely to respond to positively or
negatively. No single style is right. In fact, people who are good at persuading are most likely to use a
combination of the better elements from each style. It is quite reasonable for a salesperson to offer a
carrot, and it is certainly a tactic employed by many parents. In other situations, this approach would
be highly inappropriate and likely to irritate than to influence.
What is negotiating?
Negotiating implies that two people or two groups of people are starting with different objectives in
mind. The classic example might be an industrial relations dispute, where a workforce would like a rise
of 5% and employers want to pay 2%. Negotiations take place in order to try to find a compromise
upon which both sides can agree. Let us imagine it is a perfect world; the negotiations go smoothly,
and 4% is agreed upon as a satisfactory rise. If you find yourself buying or selling a property, you are
likely to have to negotiate an acceptable price.
Work towards win-win
In any situation where an individual or a group is trying to persuade, influence, or negotiate, there are
four possible outcomes.
I win < >You lose
I lose < >You win
I lose < >You lose
I win < >You win
No one wants to be a loser, so much so that most people want to be in the “I win-you lose” situation
or the “I win-you win” situation. People who are very competitive want to win at all costs. People who
are collaborative want both parties to be winners. The collaborative style tends to build better longlasting relationships and achieve more successful overall results.
Yet more terminology
Negotiations and negotiators are often described as being either extrovert or inductive. Forgetting the
jargon – what does this mean? Extrovert negotiators
Always have plenty to say.
Produce loads of ideas.
Often enjoy an argument.
Quite like to stir things up.
Are inclined to reveal innermost thoughts, whether or not this is appropriate.
Often gets his or her own way in a conversation.
Extrovert negotiators can be aggressive and can end up browbeating rather than persuading people
into agreements. It is a style that can work well for someone who already has power on their side, but
otherwise it may cause problems.
The inductive negotiator
This negotiating style is completely opposite to its extrovert counterpart and its practitioners:
Put other people at ease.
Encourage them to come up with lots of ideas.
Build on those ideas by extending and developing them.
Encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere.
Give credit and praise to other people.
Take care not to upset other people.
Would it not be great if everyone you had to strike an agreement with were like this? Over long and
complex negotiations and many short and simple ones too, this style is far more effective. Most of us
are far more inclined to want to help and work with people who behave in this way.
And to make things even better
You can develop and build on this style by listening carefully to what other people say and checking
that you have understood what others are saying. You should also ask lots of open questions when
you are negotiating and persuading. These are questions that start with “what”, “when”, “why”, and
“how”. They make it impossible for the person you are talking to to answer with a simple “yes” or
“no”. This gives the impression that you are concerned and interested in the other person or people in
a group, and also enables you to elicit the kind of information you require in order to negotiate
Time and place
As a student, your negotiating and influencing situations will be beyond your control. If you are
allocated a group project, or asked to meet a tutor at a particular time, you are likely to go along with
this. Sometimes though, and certainly, as your career develops, you will find yourself in a position to
be the one to choose the time and place for a negotiation. If you are choosing the time, think about
when you are least likely to be interrupted, what time of the day you are at your most alert, and how
much pressure you will feel under to work within a particular time limit.
Your place or mine?
The answer to this depends very much on the nature of the negotiation. There may be times when
you feel it is more appropriate to be on the other person’s territory, or occasions when you decide that
a more neutral territory is the most suitable for both of you. On the whole, you will always feel in a
more strengthened position if you are on your own territory, though. Wherever negotiations are to
take place, the environment should be conducive to discussions. It should be comfortable, and quiet,
without constant telephone calls and other interruptions.
Dealing with meanies
Of course, much of the above assumes that you are in a position of power and are in a position to call
the shots. On many occasions, especially early in your career, you are not going to be the one to
choose the time and place and while you can do your bit to create a good atmosphere, it will never be
entirely up to you. Knowing that bad timing and constant interruptions may be used as a tactic to
distract or undermine you can mean that you are less likely to be distracted and undermined.
Plan your strategy
Whoever initiates a situation where negotiating and persuading is on the agenda, being well prepared
beforehand always helps. There is nothing worse than being called into an impromptu meeting, or
demanding one yourself. Important points can easily get missed. Whether it is you or someone else
who initiates a negotiation, make sure you have a list of what you want to get out of it. Put your
demands in rank order, so that you already have some inbuilt grounds to be flexible. Even though you
have your list, be sure to listen to the other person and really concentrate on what they have to say
Assert yourself
One of the keys to developing excellent communication skills, especially those associated with
influencing, negotiating and persuading, is the quality of assertiveness. Assertiveness is a confident
way of dealing with situations: you do not become aggressive and ignore everyone else’s feelings, but
you also do not allow yourself to be treated as a doormat, simply agreeing to something because you
do not have the confidence to challenge it. Have a look at the following situation, it will help make the
distinctions between different behaviours very clear.
A cold cup of coffee
In a bistro, you are served an expensive cup of coffee that is only lukewarm.
1. You slam your coffee cup down on the table, shout for the manager, say you are not going to
pay, and that you think the whole place is rubbish.
2. You drink the coffee, even though you do not enjoy it. When you are paying, you mumble that
the coffee was actually cold but you do not like to be a nuisance, etc.
3. You call a waiter over and ask quietly if he could replace your cup of coffee because the one
you have been given is cold.
Put yourself in the place of the waiter and ask yourself which of the three approaches is likely to be
most effective. Remind yourself of this whenever you are trying to gain influence.
Influencing and negotiating your way into the world of work
Being able to influence and persuade are communication skills that are extremely significant in you
job-hunting in two ways. Firstly, organisations may well list these skills as being one of their selection
criteria and this is not just true for sales jobs. Even more significantly, if you are good at influencing
other people, you may be able to use this technique in your job interviews, persuading the interviewer
that you really are the ideal person for the job. If you come across as confident and assertive without
being pushy you are offering a live demonstration of the very skills most employers are looking for.
And at work
Being able to influence colleagues, customers, clients, senior managers, and fellow professionals,
without making them feel bullied, manipulated, or exploited is one of the most valuable assets for any
employee. It also means that you are less likely to be manipulated or put upon yourself, because you
are well attuned to the various styles and techniques of influence being used. Almost every meeting,
project, or training initiative requires someone getting someone else to agree to do something, and
this is regardless of how senior you are or the kind of organisation you work for. If you are a good
communicator, you will be a happier employee.
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