What was possibly the most over-the-top, and gruesome, demonstrations of influencing skills happened in the 1972 Mafia film, The Godfather. Hollywood studio magnate Jack Woltz refuses point-blank to offer the lead role in his next movie to flagging singer, Johnny Fontane, who is the godson of the Godfather. In an effort to influence his opinion, those nice Corleones plant the severed head of his prized $600 000 racehorse in his bed while he sleeps. Soon after this, Fontane is offered the part.

Of course this is way beyond the remit of day-to-day influencing skills, but does show, rather graphically, that there is a boundary where influencing ends and brow beating, or worse, bullying, begins. It is a known fact that the application of influence will stand a far greater chance of success if your opposite number feels comfortable in your presence. Applying over forceful influence can turn the other party against you or even scare them off.

First of all if you are to stand any chance at all of using your powers of persuasion to influence someone, then you need to have a confident demeanour and a positive outlook. Your opposite number will not be open to persuasion if you become flustered. You are trying to win them over and so you must present yourself as someone they can rely on. Becoming embarrassed and tripping over your words will do nothing to change their opinion in favour of you.

But there are many different ways that influence can be applied, and it is a far more complex subject than the blunt "Ah, go on, go on, go on" influencing techniques of Mrs Doyle in Father Ted. Influence can be achieved by support, inspiration, persuasion, engagement and a host of other interpersonal skills. In applying these skills it is important to distinguish between influence and manipulation. The latter technique may achieve the objective, but begrudgingly and in a way that can cause resentment. The aim of influencing is to get your opposite number on your side, aiming for the same goals as you, and to do it in a non-forceful way.

The ability to influence others is probably the most succinct of business skills, as its application often goes undetected. One technique used in seeking this goal is to make your opposite number feel valued. You may be surprised at how much a person's attitude can soften if they are given a nod of appreciation. Engagement is a key part this process and if your opposite number feels that his presence on the project is both desired and valued, then he or she will be more likely to come on board willingly and without the possible resentment that more manipulative techniques may arouse.

By engaging your opposite number in proceedings you are aiming to create a good working relationship in which they feel that they play a useful part. If they perform well, be sure to let them know as this sense of worth will make them far more likely to come on board for other projects. This desire to be a part of things is an indication that you have used your influence well and you have a worker who is content, rather than resentful at being manipulated.

The ability to influence others is a very useful skill to develop, and one that can have rewarding results in the workplace. Learning where the border lies between influence and manipulation is an important part of this process as one leads to a satisfied worker, and the other to a disgruntled one.