Many business owners shy away from their ability to influence because it often has negative connotations. Professionals often confuse influencing with manipulating. But, in today's business setting and within all aspects of life you must be able to persuade, i.e. influence which means the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something.

According to Merriam Webster, it is the power to change or affect someone or something: the power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen. The key phrase here is "without directly forcing them." As the owner of the business, you are in a position that entitles and authorizes you to demand something, but what happens when there is an extent to what you can demand? That is when you need the ability to influence and persuade. In fact, you possess more power when you can influence versus using your title or position.

But why do people shy away from influencing and persuading when it is a necessary tool in your toolbox? It's a critical skill that you mastered as child but abandoned as an adult because it often was seen as manipulating.

Unfortunately, you did a better job of influencing people, e.g. parents, teachers, etc. when you were children and young adults than you do as entrepreneurs. Just think back to when you were a kid and you wanted to go to the game and spend the night at a friend's house but your mom had other plans for you. You would first understand what made your mom tick and what ticked her off. In this understanding, you were careful to appeal to her better side. You would share with her what you wanted and before she could answer you would share with her the benefits of your being able to do whatever you were requesting, you addressed perceived concerns, and then you offered something up such as you would wash her car, spend time with a sibling, etc. You gave her more reasons to say yes than to say no.

The more successful entrepreneurs understand and use the power of influence. However, many of you abandoned that skill as if it were something undesirable. And, in most cases you did so because you were ridiculed or felt as if you were manipulating others!

It is important to recognize the difference between manipulation and persuasion. Manipulation involves deceit, withholding information, a person feeling threatened or used, influenced deceptively and/or to change or alter something, usually fraudulently. While persuasion is to give an opinion held with complete assurance, to reason earnestly with a person and give the facts and disclose the truth so that there is free choice. Persuasion is using one's whole self to get others to do something that they would ordinarily not do. It is the opposite of manipulation.

There is so much written about manipulation but persuasion is difficult to really sum up because it requires a level of finesse based on your personality, bearings, dress, movement, body language, listening skills, speaking style and nonverbals. All of which successful entrepreneurs intuitively pay attention to based on trust and integrity. People are cautious about being manipulated so these aspects play a key role in your ability to persuade. Here are a few tips to strengthen your influence muscle:

Become knowledgeable

Understand the pain points of whomever you are attempting to gain favor of. Don't take advantage of that information but rather demonstrate how you can resolve their issue. Also, know what that person finds appealing so that you can infuse that need into your request when possible or be honest and share why such is not possible so that they can make a fair and intelligent decision based on your integrity. Address an issue from a shared vantage point Involve the person whom you are attempting to persuade in the story. As you share your desires, include the person whom you are speaking to so that they feel as if they are a part of the solution, decision, or whatever you are attempting to do.

Show your hand

If you believe in what you are saying or doing, be honest and forthcoming. Let the other person see what you have and where you are trying to take them. When others see that you are authentic and transparent that will lower their shield thus gaining you true access to what may be their true concerns. This then allows you to address each issue or concern at hand.

Ask for what you want

Swallow your pride or tuck away your fear of rejection. You have to ask for what you want plain and simple. More times than not, you will not get what you want because you aren't asking for it. As a teen, you asked for what you wanted, but as an entrepreneur you may skirt around asking for the business or whatever you may want out of fear of appearing too forward or to avoid being told no. Asking for what you want is a part of the influencing dance.