8 ways to get people to do what you want

How to persuade and influence your colleagues without them even noticing.

by Kate Bassett
Last Updated: 19 Nov 2019

Struggling to get your team to listen to you? Failing to influence your boss? 

There are plenty of ways to get people to do what you want – without them even realising you’ve persuaded them.

We rounded up psychologists, leadership experts and an Olympic-winning sports coach for their top tips on how to win people over.

1. Get emotional

"Plan out what you want someone else to do but, more importantly, explain why  you want them to do it. The 'why' needs to be emotional," says Phillip Adcock, commercial psychologist and author of Master Your Brain. Emotional persuasion is 3,000 times more effective than rational argument, because our brains are still predominantly wired for fight, flight and find a mate.

2. Manage your boss

Start up-managing your boss. "Don't wait for them to organise reviews or meetings – suggest them yourself and find ways of having contact time with them to build rapport and trust," advises Ben Ryan, coach to Olympic gold-winning Fijian Rugby 7s team

3. Give them a choice

"When my kids were small I'd try to get them to go for a walk with me in the countryside most Sunday afternoons. It used to start with me asking them if they wanted to go. Stay in the warm by the TV, or go for a walk outside? You can guess their response. I then changed tack. I’d turn off the TV and say, 'We’re going for a walk, do you want your red wellies or your blue wellies?' The sense of choice was usually enough to mask the embedded command!" says Philip Cox-Hynd, change implementation specialist and author of Mindfulness and the Art of Change by Choice. "The same principle is true with grown-ups. State the thing that has to be done, and then highlight the choices around how to get the desired outcome."

4. Be brave

Even in the face of adversity, show emotional strength and a willingness to achieve your goals. It's the quickest way to build a great reputation and gain the admiration and support of others, according to Sebastian Salicru, business psychologist and author of Leadership Results (Wiley). "Never shrink from threat or challenge, act with integrity, keep your promises and speak on what you believe is right. Others will soon follow," he says.

5. Pretend it was their idea

People always buy into their own ideas, right? So if you want them to buy into yours, make it theirs. And give them credit for it (preferably publicly). Richard Templar, author of The Rules of People (Pearson), has a few strategies up his sleeve. "Say: 'It was your perceptive comment last week that made me realise we need to do this...' Or turn their objection round. When they say, 'This isn’t the accepted way of doing things,' you say, 'I quite agree, it’s a really innovative approach. Good point'"

6. Listen

"When a colleague can sense and feel you're really listening to them, you'll increase their feelings of belonging and status," says coach Ben Ryan. "Use body language to show you're fully engaged with what they're saying. If you value their input, you'll create better relationships at work."

7. Negativity robs your power

Don't have a hissy fit at work. Reacting negatively, impulsively or out of frustration towards a colleague robs you of your power and puts them in the driver’s seat. Vent your negative emotions with someone you trust (eg a friend or a mentor). "Everyone feels compelled to do anything for those who show kindness, courtesy, compassion and good deposition," says author and psychologist Sebastian Salicru.

8. Say thank you properly

"People are more likely to co-operate if they know they’ll be recognised and appreciated afterwards. So find ways to thank people in a way that makes them feel really great about themselves," says author Richard Templar. Spell out exactly what you valued: "Your ideas for the Powerpoint slides were what made the presentation stand out." Finally, think about how to thank the person – maybe with a gift or in an email copied in to your boss.


Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Don't pity the young: For me remote working means freedom

The luxuries of home working may not be evenly distributed - yet - but the...

Resolving business conflicts - with a little help from my mum

Some relationships are non-negotiable, but that doesn’t mean you always have to agree.

How to empower people without being a pushover

The leaders that made me: Autonomy can be a powerful leadership tool when used right,...

Should you be transparent about employee pay?

We ask eight leaders if it's time businesses put all cards (or rather, cash) on...

93 per cent of CEOs don't know their 'why'

Do you know yours?

How to convince people that your workspace is safe

When restaurants reopened they had a similar challenge to the one facing offices today.