Winning people over isn't always easy. Yet the ability to apply the gentle art of persuasion to relationships new and old is essential. 

"Every single day, we are faced with the task of persuading others. And every single day, we face resistance," says Bob Burg, author of Adversaries Into Allies: Win People Over Without Manipulation or Coercion. Whether you are paving the way to a business deal or speaking with the customer service rep who claims she can't authorize a refund, understanding how to get your way and bring about a winning outcome for both parties is a delicate operation.

But remember: Winning people over is not about manipulating them to like you or do things your way. It's about giving them reasons to respect you--enough that they want to engage with you and actually listen to your point of view.

"For immediate and long-term results, helping people make decisions that are not only in your best interest but in alignment with their best interests as well is the way to go," says Burg. Doing this effectively, consistently, and predictably, however, takes influence.

What Exactly Is Influence?

On a very basic level, influence is simply the ability to move a person (or persons) to a desired action, usually within the context of a certain goal. Burg describes it as having pull. After all, have you ever heard someone say, "Wow, that Karen sure is influential. She has a lot of push!"? Probably not. You don't want to push people; you want to pull them in with tact, kindness, and great communication skills.

Whom do you consider great influencers? Think about those you know through politics, business, television, religion, and the Internet. They attract people to themselves and to their ideas. Notice that they are able to do this because their focus is on how to best benefit those they are influencing. There is no coercion or manipulation.

You can get the results you want from others while making them feel genuinely good about themselves, the process, and about you. Begin with the five steps Burg defines in Adversaries Into Allies: 

1. Control your own emotions.

You always have a choice when dealing with a potential adversary: to react emotionally or respond rationally. Don't be controlled by outside circumstances. Responding calmly rather than allowing your emotions to get the better of you will ensure that you don't put others on the defensive but rather help them remain open to your ideas.

2. Understand the clash of belief systems.

Every individual operates on the basis of an unconscious set of beliefs, experiences, and ideas, which are most likely very different from yours. Understand this and you can avoid confusion and numerous misunderstandings that stand in the way of most people's ability to influence. As you become more and more aware of how these beliefs drive people's actions and choices (yours included), your ability to relate positively to others, as well as persuade and influence them, will evolve and grow.

3. Acknowledge the person's ego.

People want to feel good about themselves; if you make someone genuinely feel good, you're one step closer to making an ally. Don't shame, embarrass, or cajole others. And be cautious about that tongue-in-cheek humor. Here's a good rule of thumb: If you have to say, "just kidding," it probably wasn't funny.

4. Set the proper frame.

People react and respond to other people. Approach potential conflicts from a position of benevolence, resolution, and helpfulness, and the other party will follow suit. Reach out with a pleasant countenance, a genuine smile, and friendly hello. You can frame your influence in how you approach your first conversation as well. Invest the time to ask people questions about themselves, their business, family, and interests. When they feel good about themselves, they are more likely to want to get to know you; they will like you, and begin to trust you.

5. Communicate with tact and empathy.

Though the first four principles are vital, this is what brings it all home. Saying the right thing at the right time makes all the difference in terms of moving people to your side of the issue and taking the appropriate action that benefits all concerned. Edit your speech before you speak. Actually ask yourself this question: How will he or she feel regarding what I'm about to say and how I'm about to say it?

Mastering these people skills will get you ahead in the game. Learning to influence without manipulation or coercion will certainly make your life and business more fun, less stressful, and a lot more profitable.