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Overt and Covert Influencing

Aug 17, 2007
These days everyone has to be able to influence in some aspect of their lives, be it the workplace or on the personal front. Good influencing is a great skill to have and some people are just naturally adept at it. Whether using a charm initiative, empathy, business acumen, humour, persuasiveness, even persistence, there are all kinds of ways to influence.

There's one aspect of influencing that might help you prepare your influencing strategy more effectively, and that's to look at the whole arena in terms of overt or covert influencing.

Here's how we define the difference.

In overt influencing both you and 'influencee' know what's happening; both of you are conscious of what's going on. It's like flirting: you know your doing it and the recipient knows as well.

In the case of influencing it's as though everyone's cards are on the table: everyone knows what hand the other 'holds'.

There tends to be a free exchange of useful information that will be mutually beneficial and all parties prefer things to be transparent. Along with that, agendas and goals are also clear and agreed and the influencing 'play' if you will is about how to 'get there'.

When the influencing is covert, you are conscious of what's going on and your own behaviour, but the other party/ies will usually be unaware that you are trying to influence them. In this situation you need lead by example: you need to have a clear strategy in your head and have an end goal to aim for. Not only that, you may both have completely different agendas (not necessarily conflicting, just different), so it's up to you to involve them as though were helping you create the strategy.

As well, you need to understand what they want and need and accommodate your personal style to better suit their needs. Now by this we don't mean twist yourself into knots and become someone you aren't. Rather, it's about understanding what part of your own personality fits theirs and 'turning up the volume' on that one part.

For instance, perhaps most of the time you're a straight-forward, no-nonsense person with a quick mind who makes decision really fast. But you're trying to influence someone who doesn't think in the speedy way you do and likes to consider things very carefully.

In this case, you won't get very far on the influencing stakes if you show impatience or try to talk them into seeing things your way. This is a time when you could turn up the volume on your listening skills to demonstrate that you are considered as well (you may very well be considered it's just your quick-wittedness may not look like it to other people).

Once you define whether an influencing situation is overt or covert, you can adjust your behaviour accordingly to get a result you'll all be happy with.
About the Author
Jo Ellen and Robin run Impact Factory who provide Influencing Training, Presentation Skills, Communications Training, Leadership Development and Executive Coaching for Individuals.
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