Relational influence is important to you as a leader, colleague, friend, partner, politician, parent, human being. You have at least three other methods of influence at your disposal.

  1. Positional Power
  2. Rewards and Threats
  3. Emotions and Data
  4. Relational

It’s best to understand the investment required, costs, benefits and consequences of each. Then make a conscious decision about which method to use in what situations, with whom.

Disclaimer: I have a bias for relational influence. It requires a greater up front investment, but offers the greatest returns. We’ll discuss both when we review how Master Influencer, Joe Biden, authentically grows and uses relational influence.

Positional Power

It’s best to use the authority of your position on a limited basis. Why? The use of positional power often results in compliance. People do what you asked to prove they did what you asked. It’s not an all out effort, never mind one that goes above and beyond. People aren’t emotionally signed on. They’re more likely to feel resentful and signed off. Relational influence, and your personal power, take a hit if you rely on this method too much.

Case in point: When you order a child to clean his room, he employs the least minimal effort - just enough to get you off his back. Want to know where he put all those clothes that were scattered across the floor? Look in the back of his closet. A battle ensues If you order him to clean this secondary mess. If your goal is to start a war, congratulations.You succeeded. Positional power requires little effort on the front end, and gets little effort in return. The unintended side effects include anger and dings to the relationship.

Rewards & Threats

Some of you are good at using rewards and threats to negotiate transactions. You offer to provide something the other person wants or needs. Alternately you threaten to take something away.

Case in point: We saw this method in action when Donald Trump threatened Senator Lisa Murkowski into voting for the Obamacare repeal. She wasn’t swayed and “coincidentally” delayed actions on other issues Trump wants her senate committee to approve. Who trumped who?

Emotions and Data

As much as we revere our logical brains, it’s our emotional brain that wins the Emmy for leading influencer. Use them both, but lean more towards emotions and go lighter on the data. Advertising professionals are masterful in using emotions to influence your decisions.

Case in point: Buckle your seat belt as you watch this video.

Relational Influence

Relational influence requires an up-front investment. You spend time getting to know people as they get to know you. You discover mutual interests. You begin to care about each other. A deeper level of caring develops as we get to know each other below the surface. It mushrooms when we show up with our vulnerabilities. This takes time.

Relational influence combined with emotional influence is incredibly powerful. It also has powerful side effects that go both ways, for both parties.

  • Stronger relationship
  • Deeper intimacy
  • Increased caring
  • Greater influence

Case in point: Joe Biden and John McCain have developed a relationship over the course of many years. Brain cancer has affected them both, albeit in different ways. Shared vulnerabilities create deep bonds.

Biden reportedly swayed McCain to vote in favor of keeping Obamacare. Here’s a snippet from that story in the Washington Post.

Biden, the former vice president who often clashed in a collegial way with McCain, had an emotional discussion with McCain. The Arizonan’s brain cancer is the same diagnosis that Biden’s son, Beau, received in 2013; he died two years later. Those conversations set in motion the most dramatic night in modern Senate history. Just ask the senators who were there.

We build relationships out of genuine interest in others. We share emotions and vulnerabilities because we matter to each other. When we do these things with authenticity, and without self-serving motives, we continuously influence each other’s thinking, feelings, and grow our mutual respect.


Anne Perschel
Anne Perschel
When she is not consulting; coaching; reading and writing about leadership; or enjoying her work in other ways; Anne can be found:

Listening to ocean waves receding over stones.
Enjoying the spontaneous expressions of young children who haven’t yet learned to hide their emotions.
Taking in the scent of freesias, lilacs or salt water.
Enjoying the great, or not so great, outdoors and all variations of nature’s gifts.
At the gym.

As Seen In:

Relational Influence - Lessons from the Master