Influence others

How influential are you?

Employers often ask for communication skills but this is sometimes used as shorthand for being able to influence others.

Influencing involves more than just talking

If you find you are not getting your message across to others or are being ignored, you may need to focus on active listening, assertiveness and being interested in others, as much as talking or writing about your own concerns.

Influencing skills have consistently been shown to be core competences of high performers at work, so these fundamental social skills are likely to have a big impact on your career.

  • Get feedback from others on how effective you are and how you could improve. A trusted informal mentor may be more helpful here than your supervisor.
  • Observe the behaviour of those who seem to get their message across with ease, and ask for their advice.

For researchers

  • Engage other researchers by showing genuine interest in their work, asking questions about their research and exploring ideas which may inform your own work.
  • Try to engage with the social side of academic life, such as evening events and dinners at conferences. Contacts made here could eventually lead to collaborations or even job offers.
  • Look out for researcher development training sessions on topics such as Influencing, Assertiveness or Active Listening (see the Training Catalogue on eProg).

Can you adapt your approach?

Influencing is not about manipulating or coercing. It's about taking into account the other person and adapting your approach to their preferred style, to get your message across.

  • How well do you know the person you need to influence? Listen, observe and understand from their point of view before you decide how you will try to influence them.
  • Do they prefer facts to emotions? Get your figures right!
  • Do they avoid giving a straight answer immediately? Give them information beforehand and time to think before you expect an answer.
  • Do they get bored easily? Excite and inspire them by being enthusiastic and get to the point quickly.

Your preferred style

The online personality questionnaire, Type Dynamics Indicator, gives you feedback on your preferred approach and how that might need to be adapted when you are dealing with someone with a very different personality. This is available to all current and recent students and graduates of the University of Manchester.

If the report indicates that your preferences are not very clearly defined, don't panic, it may just mean that you are versatile and can already adapt your style to others.