What Do the Powerful Care About?

The bigger the power gap between you and the other person, the less likely it is that you will be able to influence him or her. You need to figure out what you have to offer. If you aren’t in a position to know much about what the other party values, you won’t know how to appeal to what matters to that person. When trying to see what shapes the powerful person’s currencies, your best bet is to try to understand his or her context—even though that world may seem distant and unfamiliar to yours.

This chapter provides some analytic questions to ask to try to determine their world, as well as some generic information about the types of things that relatively powerful people—especially those near the top of their organizations—think about. Of course, you want to test out your assumptions before you act upon them and then fit them to the individual. But you might only get a brief moment with this person, so the better you connect with him or her—the better your odds for success will be.

Sometimes you can do homework beforehand—whether this includes researching on your own or finding information through other people. But it isn’t always possible to be so informed in advance. And if you don’t frame a situation as these people see it, it’s often impossible to engage in further conversation. That’s what makes it so hard to influence relatively powerful people; they know what they value, and do not want to deal with anyone who isn’t working from ...

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