Chapter 5Receptive InfluenceInviting Ideas and Stimulating Action

Explore and explore. Be neither chided nor flattered out of your position of perpetual inquiry. Neither dogmatize [nor] accept another's dogmatism.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Purpose of Receptive Influence

Receptive influence invites others to contribute ideas, information, and commitment to action. Since most people tend to overuse expressive behaviors when they wish to influence, they also tend to underuse receptive behaviors—behaviors that they may use very effectively and unself-consciously as part of everyday conversations with friends and family, in coaching or counseling sessions, or in intellectual discussions. It's not obvious to everyone that receptive behaviors offer an effective way to influence others directly.

Receptive behaviors, used skillfully, can guide you and others toward an agreement, solution, or choice that satisfies each of you. You can't really influence a person to do something that he or she knows to be against his or her best interests, because influence implies choice, unless you are appealing to a negative and vulnerable aspect of that person. (This is discussed in Chapter 16 on the ethics of influence.)

Receptive influence indicates respect for the ideas and concerns of the other person and acknowledges his or her authority and accountabilities. At the same time, it creates a channel for the conversation that is flexible, yet goal-directed. This is how it differs from using similar ...

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