How To Influence Others Without Manipulating Them

By Priscilla Bejjani
·  6 min read
how to influence people without manipulating them

While there aren’t any tricks to influencing people, a consistent pattern of behavior is evident in those who are influential. This applies to business relationships as well as to personal ones and to online ones as well as to face-to-face ones.

Four characteristics define those who motivate others without manipulating them -authenticity, integrity, servanthood, and passion.

1. Authenticity

Authenticity is your ability to feel comfortable in your own skin and to project that confidence onto others around you. Authenticity is often offered as a common excuse for all sorts of bad behavior, though, so don't confuse authenticity with spontaneity. Spontaneity can be thoughtless and childish, like the shopper who spends hundreds of dollars just because there was a sale. Authenticity is disciplined and stable. 

Authenticity is disciplined and stable. 

Impropriety, too, often masquerades as authenticity, too, but is more dangerous than spontaneity! "Being yourself" ought never to conflict with societal norms. Impropriety - breaking the rules for the sake of breaking the rules - isn't authentic; it's just wrong. The common thread of both impropriety and spontaneity is actually the person’s discomfort with him or herself. This discomfort leads them to try to seek attention or affirmation from other people by behaving outside the bounds of social norms or morality.

True authenticity is rooted in personal stability. An authentic woman will be aware of her own failings, and - more importantly - won't try to hide them. This doesn't mean you're indifferent to your weaknesses but are rather willing to be open and humble about them, to learn from them, and to inspire others by overcoming them. You're comfortable with yourself, even when aware that you aren't perfect. This spirit of confidence is both contagious and uplifting. 

2. Integrity

Integrity is close to, but different from, authenticity. Authenticity has to do with personality; integrity is about morality. You need both for true influence, though. A good leader has to set a good example for her followers in order for them to believe her. No one wants to follow a hypocrite. A project coordinator who badgers others into volunteering, but does not invest in volunteer work herself will quickly lose the respect of her staff. Trying to influence your friend to go jogging while not living a healthy lifestyle yourself probably won't be that successful.

A good leader has to set a good example for her followers in order for them to believe her.

Influential women demonstrate integrity in different ways, depending on their place. Mothers influence their children best, not by promising rewards or punishments, but by daily showing her care for and interest in her children. This results in her children seeing that her actions of care towards them line up with her instructions to them to be kind to others. As in every other relationship, a leader whose actions don't line up with her words will have either a small or a suspicious following.

3. Servanthood

The third necessary trait for influence is servanthood. Aubrey Hepburn may have gained fame through her extraordinary acting abilities, but she touched more lives in her role serving as a UNICEF ambassador. Similarly, business owners, project leaders, and managers will be able to be more influential if their method of encouraging production is not to focus on the advancement of the company, but on the personal wellbeing of their employees. Any person who is truly driven by service, both to employees and customers, will ironically be exponentially more influential and successful than a person motivated by success alone. An influential leader will demonstrate a genuine interest in her followers. 

Any person who is driven by service, both to employees and customers, will be influential and successful.

Servanthood includes listening and reaching out to others to show that you care about them. In order to truly motivate people in any area of life, you must show that they matter to you. Remember their names. Remember their story and interests. Influence can only be genuine if people know that you care about them as much as you care about your business, your dream, your career, and your plans. Treating people as a means to an end is a method quickly discovered and always hated. No one, least of all those you want to influence, want to be used.

Again, these four traits are inseparable. To be influential, you can't pretend to care for others. It has to be sincere. Great leaders realize that success is fleeting, but human souls are eternal, so treat them accordingly.

4. Passion

Passion is your drive, excitement, and enthusiasm about a project, idea, concept, or business. Enthusiasm about a project can be just as encouraging and infectious as a smile to a stranger. Perhaps you want to start a nonprofit movement but are not sure how to encourage others to join you. People tend to respond well if offered a challenge. You can also exhort others to join your cause by appealing to their knowledge of justice and goodness, and by encouraging them to be part of it. Those who have difficult backgrounds may have the empathy needed to join your cause, but, besides being passionate, you will also have to demonstrate that you are sincere and compassionate in order for them to support you. 

Women are usually great at persuasion, but this power can be used for good or evil because passion alone can be an influential force for evil. It's very contagious. Leaders who are wicked, but passionate about their beliefs and vision, can influence a crowd to follow them. You can influence, but not for good, unless you combine passion with the other three traits, especially integrity. Being passionate without being genuine is a typical characteristic of hypocrites, e.g., famous preachers who are highly excitable on stage, but who turn out to be unfaithful to their wives. 

Women are usually great at persuasion, but this power can be used for good or evil because passion alone can be an influential force for evil.

However, a genuine and selfless leader who is passionate about a cause and vision will be unstoppable. Her power to ignite the flame of interest in like-minded followers can lead anywhere - the founding of a new business or the growth of an old one, the start of a charitable organization, a grassroots movement, or a culture shift. 

Closing Thoughts

The four qualities listed above are not magic tools to boost anyone to greatness, but are simple characteristics that make anyone a better person. While simple, it's difficult for anyone to refrain from selfishness and pride. Yet those who can control themselves will end up being able to influence others without manipulating them. I hope this has encouraged you to try.