Influencing – How to use soft skills to get hard results

May 28, 2012 | By

Rational Influencing Approach

This is very much a preferred approach among managers and organizations. It is essentially an approach where you prefer to deal in logic rather than emotion. It is a hard, left brain type of approach, and managers who use it are often suspicious of softer, more emotional and right brained approaches. As the culture of many organizations values rationality, logic and objectivity, this approach is often used to great effect. The potential problem is that it can be overused, ignoring the reality that people are emotional beings as well as rational ones. We know that emotions do play a huge part in decision making, so if you overuse this approach, you will not be as effective as you could be in terms of influencing others successfully.


People who use this approach are often regarded as analytical, logical and objective. They like facts, figures and proofs. People who are successful in using this approach are well prepared, have done their research and established the pros and cons for their case.

They take time to research things, get the facts, and are good with details. Sometimes their rational approach can seem lacking in emotion, and may cause them to be regarded as too cold, impersonal or even arrogant. Rational people believe that because they have spent time researching the issue and looking at the facts, they are going to be right. They have done their homework on the cold facts (as they see it) but they often haven’t done enough homework on other people’s perspectives and emotions. For example, one manager we met complained that his reason for not being influential was that he was always right but that his team didn’t agree with him! We pointed out to him that being right is good, but it’s certainly not enough. And that is a trap that the rational people among us fall into, thinking that logic and analysis will be enough to win the argument. It is necessary, but it’s rarely enough!

The exclusive use of this approach can lead to a lack of support or commitment from others.

When to use it

You can effectively use the approach when the issue you are facing is unambiguous and has a clearly identified solution. Not all issues we face are complex and ambiguous, so logic is appropriate here. You can use it when you know there is very definitely a right and a wrong answer to an issue and you can demonstrate why you have the right answer by putting forward a rational well thought through case.

Of course it is also an effective approach when the subject area is highly technical or theoretical and where there are no major emotional issues. Those of you who prefer the rational approach however, often tend to think that there are no emotional issues, or if there are, think that they are irrelevant! We know, however, that people are emotional creatures, are rarely purely logical, and emotional awareness is necessary to be a really effective influencer. Unfortunately logical people do not always have that necessary awareness.

The approach will also be effective when your credibility as an expert is very high. That is when the other people are confident in your expertise. There is a difference between being an expert and being perceived to be an expert. Too many experts don’t take the time to fully establish their credibility, or build a relationship with their audience.

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