Listen, acknowledge, identify: How to influence people when you don’t have authority over them

By Maria Guida – Content aggregated from Smart

CEOs often have to try to influence professionals over whom they have no real authority: board members, business associates and colleagues who are not their direct reports, members of multi functional teams, or anyone who might be resistant to the ideas being proposed. When faced with this challenge, how can you use your expertise, work collaboratively and build consensus to achieve the best results?

Influencing without authority is not easy. It requires understanding and diplomacy, and you can achieve it by practicing communication skills that project goodwill and respect. If you can get this right, it is more likely that others will:

  • Cooperate and take your recommended actions
  • Help you achieve your immediate and even long-range goals
  • Support your ideas and the advancement of your organization

Strategy #1: Listen actively 

It is often wise to encourage your conversation partners to express themselves fully before you present your own thoughts, opinions and perceptions. People are more likely to listen when they feel that they themselves have been heard. (When writing emails, be sure you have received your readers’ input before writing anything that could be interpreted as a final decision.)

In conversations and presentations, listen actively with the following five steps:

  • Blend: Blending is any behavior that reduces the differences between you and another person. The goal is to increase rapport. People are often thinking, “Are you with me, or against me?”, so building rapport is critical. This means that you will mirror (and not mimic) your conversation partners’ tone of voice, tempo, volume, facial expressions and posture. (One behavior that you should not mirror is aggressive or hostile behavior, of course.) Give receptive signals: “Oh, yes, I see, I understand, uh-huh” and use a lot of head nodding.
  • Backtrack:  The goal of backtracking is to show that you are listening and want to understand. When you backtrack, you repeat verbatim your conversation partner’s words. Here, it is important not to paraphrase; use the exact words. This is very useful on the phone.
  • Clarify: Ask clarifying questions. Your goal is to gather as much information as possible and delay giving your own response. Clarifying questions begin with the words “why,” “how,” and “tell me about…” There are three main benefits to clarification: (1) it shows that you are patient and supportive, (2) it helps reveal any hidden agendas that your conversation partners may have, and (3) it helps an unreasonable conversation partner behave more reasonably.
  • Summarize: Your goal is to show that you have listened and understood; here, you can paraphrase. Say something like, “So, if I understand you correctly… “
  • Confirm: Your objective is to be sure that your conversation partners feel satisfied. You can ask directly, “Do you feel understood? Is there anything else?” Most conversation partners welcome hearing these surprisingly attentive questions; they will appreciate your desire to help them feel satisfied with the dialogue.
  • Read the complete post @                                                                                                                                                           Maria Guida works with leaders who want to develop power speaking skills to be more persuasive, productive and profitable. With her experience as an actor on Broadway, TV and film (working with Paul Newman, James Earl Jones and Kevin Kline), she works with executives to enhance their leadership presence and credibility and help them speak with passion, persuasion and pizzazz. Maria’s clients include executives at American Express, PricewaterhouseCoopers, JPMorgan Chase, and Johnson & Johnson. (Maria can be reached at or at 718-884-2282. Please visit