How to Change Minds at Work Without Manipulation


If you’re like most workers, there are times you need to influence other people, whether it’s a co-worker whose help you need, a boss you want a raise from, or a prospective customer who is deciding whether to buy from you.

“We all need to influence people sometimes, but most of us need to be better at it,” says Rob Jolles (, a global speaker and trainer specializing in influence and persuasion, and a multi-best-selling author.

Rob has spent 30 years teaching people from sales reps to soccer moms how to influence others. He has also conducted original research, polling more than 50,000 people across three decades and four continents, on how decisions are made.

“Whether at work or in life, on issues big or small, people seek to change minds as a matter of course,” says Rob. “What’s more, the vast majority have good intentions and genuinely want to influence people, not manipulate them.”

In his new book How to Change Minds: The Art of Influence without Manipulation (published by Berrett-Koehler), Rob says influence without manipulation is a process that is “repeatable, predictable, and measurable.” It is also highly practical and can be adapted by anyone, at any time, to any situation.

Here, from Rob Jolles, are several of the keys he has identified to help you to influence, not manipulate, and change minds:

Initiate change.

We’ve all heard the saying, “You only have one chance to make a first impression.”

When it comes to initiating change, that one chance usually boils down to about 45 seconds. This makes your opener particularly important.

The worst opener: “I need to talk with you.” (Think about how those six words make you feel. Not great, right?)

The best openers include softer words and phrases, such as ask you, listen to you, or need your help.

Establish trust.

If people don’t trust you, they won’t allow you to influence them. A smart, simple way to establish trust is to talk less and listen more.

Try using the 4 A’s:
• ask open questions
• actively listen
• aim well (to guide the conversation in the desired direction)
• avoid problems
By alleviating the stress that a conversation about change can cause, you’ll build trust.

Create urgency.

Four out of five people readily admit that something in their life requires a change, but they just as readily admit that they aren’t doing anything about it yet. This is why influence requires urgency.

To create urgency, ask probing questions that help people to consider the issue, contemplate the what-ifs, and comprehend the consequences.

Use a sequence of simple probes that gently move the conversation closer to the real problem—questions such as, “What concerns do you have about the debt you’re building up?” and “How do you think this’ll ultimately affect your company’s future?”

Your goal is to guide people to see the potential impact of indecision.

Overcome objections.

It’s human nature for people to resist change. They may fear change, think it’s not needed, or feel there’s no hurry.

The good news? People are more likely to change their minds if they have at least one objection.

To overcome objections, you must clarify, clarify, clarify. Only then can you get to the bottom of someone’s concerns and distinguish between real objections and procrastination.

Gain commitment.

Most people don’t just show up ready to commit to change—to, say, simply end a destructive addiction or leave a detrimental relationship or work environment. There needs to be a moment of truth, a moment of commitment.

Ask the most important question never asked: “Are you committed to making a change?”

Finally, the line between influence and manipulation often comes down to intent. So ask yourself if you believe. That is, do you truly believe that the idea or solution you seek to push someone toward is in that person’s best interest?

If your answer is yes, you have the very foundation of influencing—not manipulating.

You can find more information about Rob Jolles and his new book How to Change Minds: The Art of Influence without Manipulation at

Tag Goulet is co-founder of, a publisher of books on how to get started in a dream career, and Academic Director of the International Association of Professions Career College. To contact Tag visit