• Priya Venkatesan

Types of Influence


Who remembers the movie “Twelve Angry Men”, 1954?

I saw it in somewhere around early years of my career. I was in awe at the end of it!

The story line is this: Twelve angry men are entrusted to decide unanimously by a court whether an accused is guilty or not guilty. The protagonist is an ordinary man who thinks the accused is “not guilty” until proven otherwise. At the end of 24 hours, he manages to influence and clinch the support of all the eleven.


Watching this movie, removed many of the cobwebs in my mind regarding influence.

Earlier, I had believed that Influence is more about telling than listening. It’s about charisma and persuasion.

A belief 'burst' happened right there that day I watched the movie.


Some of my clients, like me, are from pre-'twelve angry men' era.

For them, influence comes attached with the words "expressive", "extroverted", "I tell you listen", etc.


In his book, “Exercising influence”, Kim Barnes talks about two types of influence: Expressive influence and Receptive influence.


Expressive Influence is the influence we see quite a bit in the corporate world that includes expression of ideas/thoughts/beliefs to persuade others. This is effective for taking action.

The expressive tactics used are Tell, Sell, Negotiate & Enlist as you can see in the figure below (Courtesy Exercising influence by Kim Barnes).




However, to use expressive influence, the influencer needs to enjoy quite a bit of trust with the people he/she influences. Also, the context should be “uncertain” and the tone needs to be ‘direction setting’.


As you can see, it may be hard to come by in work setting always.

Let’s say you are new in an organisation / working with a new stakeholder. The stakeholder could even be higher in hierarchy than you. When you have spent less time with the person, you don’t have authority, and trust building is on the works, expressive influence is hard to start with even though it's not impossible.




Receptive influence on the other hand, works with the premise of respect for other’s view point and assumes they have a choice. The job of the influencer is to first listen and guide the conversation in a way that works for all the parties.


This type of influence also acknowledges the authority of the other party and their responsibility.

As you can see in the adjacent figure (Courtesy Exercising influence by Kim Barnes) , receptive tactics include inquiry, listening, attuning and facilitating.







Now if you see the clips of Twelve angry men, you will find receptive tactics used quite a bit initially to get support followed by expressive influence tactics.


So when you need to influence people, especially without authority and if the other party is higher to you in hierarchy, explore also the receptive tactics you can use.

  1. Empathise with the other person (Attune)

  2. Disclose your point of view (PoV)/higher objectives (Attune)

  3. Ask open ended questions (Inquire)

  4. Draw their point of view (Inquire)

  5. Check your understanding of their point of view and articulate it to their satisfaction (Listen)

  6. Test implications of going with each of your solutions (Listen)

  7. Pose challenging questions/ play devil’s advocate (Facilitate)

  8. Clarify risks/issues (Facilitate)

  9. Narrow to few options that work for both of you.

  10. Debate and chose the best one.

What new techniques will you use to influence next time?


#coaching #executivecoaching #influence #leadershipcoaching


If you believe that you can do better at influence and would like to be coached on the same click here to book your free consultation.


My other articles on influence

Myths on influence

Introverts & Influence








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