There’s a big difference between power and influence, and it’s important to understand what each one is and exactly how they differ. Power gives someone the authority to change the behavior of others by showing you are above them and make them do things that they might not do otherwise. Influence, on the other hand, is the ability to alter other people’s perception of any situation they’re in. It’s more about changing others feelings rather than making them do it just because they know they have to. There are a lot of differences between the two, but the main way to think about it is that power is showing your authority over someone, while influence is more subtle and doesn’t force the person to do anything. I found an article that talks about power and influence and gives definitions, the difference between them, and then a comparison chart (see below).
I am definitely someone who responds way better to someone who is trying to influence me over someone who just powers over me. It’s not as common between friends and peers and stuff like that, but you typically see it more in the workplace with bosses and authority figures. If my boss exercises their power every day and makes everyone fearful of them, they’re probably not going to get as good of results because they’re using it in the wrong way. People are going to resent you for making them feel small and forcing them to do things rather than appealing to their empathetic side and asking them nicely and showing you care about them as an actual person, not just as your worker.
Sometimes when you hear the word “influence” it can be synonymous with manipulation and I think it’s important to talk about why that isn’t always the case. It doesn’t have to be manipulative, but if it’s used in the wrong way it can definitely move closer to that. I found a video that was called “How To Influence Someone Without Them Knowing” and I thought this could be good for our topic. When I watched it, he used influence and manipulate as if they were interchangeable and meant the same thing. He talked about how to get someone to like you based on just your environment, and honestly, it sounded like a bunch of crap to me, but you be the judge. He had 3 ways to do this:
- Have a physically warm environment (hot coffee, warm temperature, etc.) because people are more likely to like someone if they feel warm.
- Influence what they think about before they think about you. They had a guy ask different women out in front of a bakery, shoe store, and flower shop and he said the guy was twice as likely to get the woman’s phone number in front of the flower shop because they were “primed” for romance.
- Think about the image you project. This one is the only one I can see working because if you are dressed in a suit and are talking to someone, they’re automatically going to assume you’re more important just because of the way you present yourself.
When you google just the word “power” you get a lot of images with a big clenched fist that looks powerful and strong. When you google the word “influence”, you get a lot more illustrations that look like people are working together and helping each other rather than just using their fist to make you do something. Knowing the difference between these two will help in your future as both a friend, employer and employee.