How To Influence Without Authority - 6 Key Tips

How To Influence Without Authority - 6 Key Tips. Graphic

The Fundamental Principle Of How To Influence Without Authority

We live in an interconnected world and knowing how to influence without authority is an increasingly important communictation skill.

There are many situations at work or in your personal life where you are not in charge, you do not have formal authority, and yet you need to resolve things and get things done.

A major focus of this site is on thinking skills and this article is part of a series on the art of persuasion, communication and change.

This material is grounded in my own business career over 45 years and in this article I am going to share some important tips on how to influence without authority, and it all starts with Newton's Third Law Of Motion:

"For every action there will ways be an equal and opposite reaction."

    The fundamental principle of how to influence without authority is mirrored reciprocation whereby you get what you really want by giving other people what they really want.

    This goes beyond the transactional and is about building a "win-win" that addresses our deepest needs as human beings.

6 Key Tips On How To Influence Without Authority

(1) Assume everyone is a potential ally

Assume everyone is a potential ally. Graphic

"We are more united and have far more in common with each other, than things that which divides us."

These words were spoken by UK MP Jo Cox in her maiden speech to Parliament in 2015. One year later she was murdered and her words went viral.

I recall becoming very aware of this when I first traveled to, lived and worked in various countries in South East Asia.

I noticed very quickly that despite our ethnic, cultural and other differences, at root we all want the same things. We value the same things. We see things in the same way.  We have more in common.

We all want to be loved, to be respected, we all want the best for our children, we all want to good health, at the most basic level we all want food, sex, shelter and money.

  • The best mindset to cultivate is one that assumes that everyone is a potential ally.
  • The magic words "I wonder if you can help me?" can yield surprisingly good results.

(2) Identify the trading currencies

Identify the trading currencies. Graphic

I want to introduce the idea of primary and secondary currencies. Understanding this and how it works will give you a significant edge in how to influence without authority.

  • We all naturally tend to think in terms of the tangible results that we want to achieve. These are things that can be seen and meaured such as facts, figures and money. This is primary currency.
  • But there is another dimension that is often over-looked and that is those things that are subjective and have high value and importance to the other person such as skills, knowledge and intelligence/information, or qualities such as reputation, recognition, influence, intangibles such as space, freedom, peace of mind etc. This is secondary currency.
  • There can be a very interesting and profitable interplay between primary and secondary currency and how one can be leveraged to greatly increase the other.
  • There is a deeper aspect to all this and that is understanding how to find hidden value [or margins] that can have a big impact on your and your potential allies lives.

I have written a comprehensive and practical article on this and I strongly recomend that you read this because it will considerably  expand your understanding of how to influence without authority.

How To Benefit From The Unseen Margins

These tips on primary and secondary currencies can give you:

  • Leverage in your relationships with others.
  • Insight into finding hidden value.
  • Enhanced skills in how to influence without authority.


Because I am a businessman I automatically seek primary currency in all of my interactions with other business people. In my area of business, which is the fuel sector, I build long-term relationships with key people.

  • One of the ways I do this is by focusing on and meeting the personal needs of my seller or my buyer. I do this in addition to focusing on their business and organisational needs.
  • I look closely at how they are being impacted by the situation, and I  try to find out their secondary currency needs and requirements.
  • For example, are they looking for a someone they can really talk to, are they seeking respect, do they want to entertained, do they want to be educated and informed?

I always ask myself: "How can I help this person?"

  • Addressing people's secondary currency needs inevitably unlocks the primary currency that I seek. But it often this takes time.
  • I am always prepared to take the long view and build up a large balance of secondary currency with the other person or party. This means that when a suitable opportunity arises for them to reciprocate, they are likely to do so on a far bigger scale than they might otherwise have done.

There is an important business relationship I have with a major supplier, and over the past 2 years I have undertaken research projects for him at at the expense of a lot of my time. anMore recently I have undertaken a major marketing initiative for him - which was also time consuming.

And here's the key point, I did all this knowing full well that what he asked me to do was very unlikely to succeed, but he was committed to these activities and so I gained some major goodwill with this guy for having tried.

There will come a point when I can call in these favours by asking for more favourable terms on a major fuel transaction. A few additional points on the discount structure could mean a large amount of additional money to me.

    Not all value is easy to see, and finding previously unseen value is incredibly valuable.

(3) Clarify what you want, when and why

Clarify what you want. Graphic

It is important to be very clear in your own mind about what you want from a potential ally.

[a] Separate organisational goals from personal goals.

  • There are different contexts in which you may be seeking to influence people and your approach needs to tailored accordingly.
  • There is a difference between organisational goals and personal goals.
  • The other person may respond positively and support our personal goals but be reluctant to suppport your organisational goals if they do not align with the other person's organisational objectives.

[b] Be clear about priorities and timescales

  • You also need to be clear about your priorities and the order of your priorities, and timescales.
  • Are you able to play the long game - or are you under pressure to achieve your goals quickly?

[c] Is your goal a one-off or a repeat?

  • Can you afford to risk burning a relationship to achieve an important one time goal?
  • Or are you looking for a longer term relationship with potential repeated involvement from your contact?

Your clarity about these points will shape your approach to engaging with the other person.


As I have outlined above, I am always seeking secondary currency opportunities that I can leverage into significant amounts of primary currency.

My specific goals are introductions to new potential high quality buyers or sellers, and to attract luctrative new business opportunities.

I am very clear and specific about my commercial objectives.

My timescales are usually long-term and strategic and I am prepared to play the long game.

(4) Building and utilising relationships

Building and utilising relationships. Graphic

[a] Build credibility & trust

  • The comedian Steve Martin, once said that his advice for aspiring entertainers was to “ so good they can’t ignore you...”. 
  • A well earned reputation for knowing what you are talking about will open doors and attract support.
  • Even more importantly, is a reputation for trust and integrity coupled with a preparedness to share your knowledge and experience.

[b] How can I add value to this person or this situation?

  • One of the key questions to ask yourself is: "What does the other person or people really want and how can I help them get it?"
  • Thinks carefully in terms of primary and secondary currencies.

[c] Mobilize your allies

  • In an organisational context you will benefit from the support of others with whom you have trust and credibility and who share your goals.
  • You will benefit from emotional, practical and political support.

[d] Drop your ego

  • An important, and sometimes difficult, lesson to learn in how to influence without authority is to give the other person the credit for the achievement of your goal.
  • It is the result that matters and allowing the other person to look good can be an important part of your success equation.
  • "High EQ and low ego" is an effective motto.


Each of the 4 points above and the 4 points below encapsulate my whole approach to influencing people over whom I have no authority.

Over time it has become a mindset to building a business.

(5) Understand the other person's situation

Understand the other person's situation. Graphic

[a] What is affecting the other person?

It is useful to understand - or attempt to understand - the influences, pressures and requirements of a potential ally.

Once you focus on this you can directly and indirectly ascertain a lot of information about the other person's situation and especially about what is important to them.

[b] Where is the common ground and what is non-negotiable?

  • Finding the common ground will show where your interests are aligned, and you can build on this.
  • Understanding the non-negotiable areas enables you to demonstrate that you understand the other persons' constraints and boundaries and to steer away from possible confrontation.

[c] Listen hard and seek to understand

  • Listening is fundamental for all effective communication.
  • The essence of how to influence without authority is seeking to understand and listening mindfully to really hear the other person’s needs.
  • You have to be continually seeking to up your game and keep asking yourself: "What do they see that I don’t see?”

[d] Only bring practical solutions

  • The other person most likely has enough of their own issues and problems to deal with, so bringing practical solutions to the table that are aligned with your common goals will help build your credibility and move you closer to your objectives.

(6) Knowing when the time is right to trade

Knowing when the time is right to trade. Graphic

  • You have to earn the right to trade currency with the other person.
  • Once you have undertaken the analysis of the other person's situation and what is important to them, identified trading currencies and where necessary improved your relationship, then (and only then) are you in a position to trade with the other person - when the time is right.
  • The timing will dictated by their attraction and need for what you have to offer balanced against your need for what they have to offer.

The power of influence. Graphic

Further Reading:


[1] The Art Of Persuasion The One Fundamental Principle - Create A Win-Win

[2] The Art Of Persuasion Advanced Communication Skills - Gaining BuyIn

[3] The Art Of Persuasion Planning For Success - Here's How To Do It!


Getting From A to B Is Not Aways A Straight Line

Group Culture - The Invisible Software That Rules Your Life

Change Questions To Change Your Outcomes


How To Influence without Authority - 6 Key Tips

Return from "Change Questions" to: Communication Persuasion and Change

Or to: Walking The Talk

Contact me

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