In this book review:
- Compelling People, by John Neffinger and Matthew Kohut.
- Influence, by Robert Cialdini.
What the book is about
This book is (apparently) required reading at the respective business schools of Harvard and Columbia. The topic of the book (how to become more influential on people around you) is very much central to success in any field: we don't operate in a vacuum no matter what our profession is.
The central premise of this book is that success in influencing people stems from projecting both Strength and Warmth.
The authors are well seasoned professionals and have coached many high profile civilian and military leaders as well as numerous politicians. Their findings are drawn from psychology and neuroscience, and that lends credibility to their book.
Let me put it this way: everything you need to learn from this book can be summarized in the first chapter. The rest of the book is a series of (in my view) disjointed examples and arguments supporting the central thesis, which is that you need to project BOTH Strength AND Warmth to gain popularity and get people to "listen" and "follow your guidance".
The best examples tend to be in politics, where a combination of strength and warmth (e.g. Bill Clinton) creates more loyalty and wide-spread support vs. strength alone (e.g. Margaret Thatcher) or Warmth alone (can't think of any politicians!!!).
To put it in today's context: Hillary Clinton as well as Donald Trump both project "Strength", but neither particularly projects "Warmth", and the poll results do support the book's argument in this context: the popularity of both candidates is terrible (the most disliked presidential candidates in decades).
Furthermore, the book falls short on the "how". I'm never a fan of books which just state facts and draw conclusions without really giving the reader practical tools and "how to" guides to implementing advice portrayed throughout the pages.
I wouldn't tell you NOT to read this book if you want to, but now that you are aware of the central message, you don't really need to unless you need further convincing.
And since the book falls short on practical "how to" tips and tools, I would rather point you towards the other book I'm reviewing in this post (Influence).
What the book is about
This book is arguably "the" reference book on "how to get people to say yes".
First published almost 20 years ago, it remains in high demand (I have no idea why it didn't make my list earlier, and I'm grateful to my friend who recommended it).
The book starts with demonstrating how many of our decisions are done on "auto-pilot" with little to no awareness on our part. This alone is a powerful concept, because the mere fact of becoming "aware" of something completely changes its impact on us. For example: objects displayed in a certain way on a supermarket shelf can trigger a "buy impulse" in you, which prompts you to happily grab it and carry it to the cash counter. However, if you look at it and clearly become "aware" that the display has been especially designed to "take advantage" of your "buy impulse", you would be much more likely to "resist" the temptation to buy.
The book then goes on by delving into the six principles of ethical persuasion: reciprocity, scarcity, liking, authority, social proof, and commitment/consistency.
For each, the author analyses the science, impact, and "how to", which is tremendously helpful.
Unlike the previous book I reviewed on the same topic (Compelling People), this book delves deep into the science to not just explain what "influences you to say yes or no", but also breaks down the process into specific factors which impact influence and then goes on to provide the reader with specific techniques to be employed.
The first key benefit is to us as "consumers": this book makes us clearly aware of the psychological tools used by advertisers to compel us to buy a certain products. Since reading this book a few weeks ago, I've found myself "recognizing" such tactics when looking at billboard or TV ads, as well as how products are displayed in supermarkets. No more "impulse buying" for me!
The second key benefit is that the author breaks down the process in a series of steps you can develop and implement yourself to exert more influence on people around you.
As I often say: we don't operate in a vacuum. No matter how smart, strong and driven we are: we cannot succeed without people, whether those people are our clients, voters, colleagues, family or friends.
Suffice it to say that this book has been added to my list of "reference books", which I keep on hand to consult from time to time on a regular basis.