Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.
—George Bernard Shaw, 1903
If you will work on any man, you must either know his nature and fashions, and so lead him; or his ends, and so persuade him; or his weaknesses and disadvantages, and so awe him; or those that have interest in him, and so govern him.
—Francis Bacon, 1561–1626
You have influence in getting work done and building relationships when you can give people what they need. But how do you know what they need? Knowing the concerns, objectives, and styles of the people you want to influence—all your important stakeholders—is fundamental for determining what to offer to gain cooperation. The more you know, the better you can determine valued currencies, the language they speak, and their preferred style for interactions.
For those you work with frequently, it is likely that you know their preferences and can proceed effectively. But if you're unclear about what matters to an important person or group, puzzled by resistance, stymied when “reasonable” approaches aren't working, or angry and assuming the worst about their motives, you may need to analyze their world(s) carefully.
The more stakeholders you must influence for a given objective or the greater your anticipated ...