• Devika Das

POWER AND PERSUASION: How to adjust your style when communicating with those with more power or thos

Updated: Jul 27


Last month in a coaching session with a vice president of a global retail brand, we spoke about the of managing perceptions with seniors vs. managing impressions with subordinates. This conversation inspired the following blog; I’m sure readers will find the tips here on power and communications helpful.


My client is doing well managing her subordinates; she is perceived as a team player, empowering, creating a safe space for open conversations, etc. However, needed work with managing perceptions of her bosses.


Even though she is qualified for the position of the senior vice president, she is not one yet. My client made a mistake many of us make, that is not to negotiate during the hiring process, and now her pleas were falling on deaf ears. Her approach was to tell her bosses that she is equally skilled to be senior vice president compared to those already in the position and “it is only fair given her contribution to the company” that she is considered for a promotion.


It is unlikely if she continues to use the emotional style of persuasion that the change would come anytime soon. Those who are drivers, hold authority and power are often unmoved by ‘soft approaches.’


Successful persuasion and power held by the receiver and the communicator are related. Power is a psychological state that has lopsided control over relationships. Power differences can be due socio- economic structures as well as social and professional roles (such as boss and subordinate). When one recognizes power undercurrents while communicating the chances of influencing to one’s advantage are higher.



Communicating with those with power 


For those in authority, persuasion should be done using arguments based on competence, information, and facts.

Here is what helps when an argument are based on expertise:

1. There is less scrutiny of the arguments when the case is logically presented

3. Lesser comparison of stronger and weaker points of argument

3. Powerful audiences are usually self-efficacious; they believe that they worked for the power they possess. When one displays competence, they perceive it as having similar ‘work values.’ We like those who are like us and value congruence is one way to present similarities between the communicator and receiver.


Communicating with those with lesser power 

For those who have lesser power and authority than the communicator (employees, subordinates), arguments are better with soft skill approach or with greater warmth are more likely to be impactful.


When communicating with those with lesser authority than yourself the use of communication to empower would bring favorable results compared to trying to influence with facts and information. Emotions that stir up aspirations and make the receiver feel empowered have greater chances of making an impact.


In the case of my client, she should exhibit her competence and not stress as much on emotions as an argument towards proposing the promotion she deserves. Using fairness takes the relationship into an uncomfortable ‘parent- child’ aspect for those in power.

Following are examples of emotional and competence arguments:


Emotional arguments:

1. Your friendliness makes your team comfortable around you.

2. It is great that you accompany visitors to the elevator when they visit our office.

3.Your sensitivity to other cultures makes working with our international clients comfortable.

4.Your team makes the rest of us look good.


Competence arguments:

1. These skills are imperative to the success of this project.

2. We have had the specific training to handle the project with the support of our fantastic team.

4. We’re building our reputation based on education, skills, and competence

5.The processes in place within my team help us exceed expectations.


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