When it comes to influencing others and making a bigger impact, most people are truly skeptical. They don’t think they have it in themselves to persuade others. They are also in awe of others who seem to be naturally persuasive. Well, I won’t argue that some people are born persuasive, but it is also possible to learn the art and science of influence. You too can become a master of getting people to sit up and take notice of you and your ideas. All you need is a nudge in the right direction.
And this is precisely why I have compiled my list of all-time favorite books that do just that. But before you dive in, let’s consider what persuasion actually is.
What is persuasion?
Persuasion is often described as the conscious attempt to change an individual or group’s attitude, belief, or behavior, which can be achieved through the use of written or spoken words.
On the one hand, it can be used as a tool for personal gain, e.g. in politics or sales, for which it’s become infamous. On the other hand, persuasion can also be used to improve your life and the lives of those around you. A positive attitude and motivation to achieve great things can be facilitated if you understand how people think and come to their decisions.
Before you dig in, if you’re interested in the topic of persuasion and how it can be used to improve your business performance, you might also like these two other articles:
Top 10 must read Persuasion books for Solopreneur:
- Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath
- Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions by Guy Kawasaki
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
- Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation by Sally Hogshead
- Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely
- To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink
- Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar
- The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwatrz
#1 Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath
If you want to (and who doesn’t, really?) get people to take a specific action, then you need to grab their attention first.
“The first problem of communication is getting people’s attention.” Heath brothers say. Not only that, you must “work to make the core message itself more interesting.”
So how do we do that?
“To make our communications more effective, we need to shift our thinking from “what information do I need to convey?” to “what questions do I want my audience to ask?”
And sprinkle some emotion:
“People tend to overuse any idea or concept that delivers an emotional kick.”
#2 Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions by Guy Kawasaki
This one is another winner. The book is full of nuggets of wisdom like this:
“If you don’t toot your own horn, don’t complain that there’s no music.”
“While we’re living, we need to get over ourselves and accept others if we want to enchant people.”
Kawasaki gives you actionable advice:
“We were so enchanted by our own product that we could not understand why everyone else did not feel the same way. That’s when I learned that one must understand what people are thinking, feeling, and believing in order to enchant them.”
A lot of inspiration.
“Want to change the world? Upset the status quo? This takes more than run-of-the-mill relationships. You need to make people dream the same dream that you do.”
Finally, a favorite quote of mine from the book goes like this:
“Knowledge is great. Competence is great. But the combination of both encourages people to trust you and increases your powers of enchantment. And in this world, the combination is a breath of fresh air.”
#3 Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
If you want to truly understand why people behave the way they do, you can’t go past this book. In fact, this book should be made compulsory reading for anyone wanting to strike out on their own. Cialdini explains: “A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.”
“Often we don’t realize that our attitude toward something has been influenced by the number of times we have been exposed to it in the past.”
He explains why it is important to come across like someone who is just like your customer, and have them believe in your cause.
“All things being equal, you root for your own sex, your own culture, your own locality… and what you want to prove is that you are better than the other person. Whomever you root for represents you; and when he wins, you win.”
#4 Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation by Sally Hogshead
This book is extremely fascinating. And it better be, because this is what it aims to teach you – how to become fascinating. Hogshead says that people are all born fascinating, “but over time, people can lose their innate ability to fascinate. They acquire layers of boring.”
And the way to do that is to stop trying to be someone everybody likes.
“When you stop trying to be all things to all people, you can stop worrying about being liked and start building relationships that allow you to be loved. If you are not creating a negative response from somebody, you’re probably not very fascinating to anybody.”
It is fine to be yourself – it is fine to be different.
“Different is better than better. Different doesn’t try to turn you into something else. Different allows you to highlight the singular traits you already have within you. You aren’t necessarily better than your competition. But you are already different.”
“Your personality is your natural weapon against distraction, competition, and commoditization. The more value you add, the less you have to compete on price, and the less likely you are to become a commodity.”
Don’t forget to pick this one up or you’ll regret it for sure.
#5 Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely
Ariely is a master storyteller. And he explains why we make particular decisions.
“We usually think of ourselves as sitting in the driver’s seat, with ultimate control over the decisions we made and the direction our life takes; but, alas, this perception has more to do with our desires – with how we want to view ourselves – than with reality.”
He goes on to argue that we don’t always think before we arrive at a conclusion.
“Standard economics assumes that we are rational… But, as the results presented in this book (and others) show, we are far less rational in our decision making… Our irrational behaviors are neither random nor senseless- they are systematic and predictable. We all make the same types of mistakes over and over, because of the basic wiring of our brains.”
His take on immediate gratification?
“Giving up on our long-term goals for immediate gratification, my friends, is procrastination.”
And lastly he says, “There are many examples to show that people will work more for a cause than for cash.” So keep this in mind next time you are creating a promotional campaign.
Another gem of a book.
#6 To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink
Most people have a very negative view of selling. They use words like “slimy”, “sleazy”, and “spammy” to describe the selling process. Pink disagrees. “To sell well is to convince someone else to part with resources — not to deprive that person, but to leave him better off in the end.”
“In the new world of sales, being able to ask the right questions is more valuable than producing the right answers. Unfortunately, our schools often have the opposite emphasis. They teach us how to answer, but not how to ask.” he says.
He says to always ask two questions at every opportunity to move someone. “If the person you’re selling to agrees to buy, will his or her life improve? When your interaction is over, will the world be a better place than when you began? If the answer to either of these questions is no, you’re doing something wrong.”
And those of you who are against pitching, these words are sure to calm you.
“The purpose of a pitch isn’t necessarily to move others immediately to adopt your idea. The purpose is to offer something so compelling that it begins a conversation, brings the other person in as a participant, and eventually arrives at an outcome that appeals to both of you.”
#7 Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger
This is such a fun book that you are doing yourself a great disservice by not reading it. Sit back and enjoy the book, and be prepared to make note of tons of aha moments. Following are a few of the quotes I jotted in my diary:
“People don’t think in terms of information. They think in terms of narratives. But while people focus on the story itself, information comes along for the ride.”
“Word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20 percent to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions.”
“Marketing is about spreading the love.”
“Contagious content is like that — so inherently viral that it spreads regardless of who is doing the talking.”
“How does it make people look to talk about a product or idea? Most people would rather look smart than dumb, rich than poor, and cool than geeky. Just like the clothes we wear and the cars we drive, what we talk about influences how others see us. It’s social currency. Knowing about cool things – like a blender that can tear through an iPhone – makes people seem sharp and in the know. So to get people talking we need to craft messages that help them achieve these desired impressions.”
#8 How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
So this one is a true classic and not a quick read at all. However, the lessons you gain totally make it worth reading.
“Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.”
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.”
“When we hate our enemies, we are giving them power over us: power over our sleep, our appetites, our blood pressure, our health, and our happiness.”
“If you are not in the process of becoming the person you want to be, you are automatically engaged in becoming the person you don’t want to be.”
And how about attracting your ideal customer or client? What better advice than this:
“Personally I am very fond of strawberries and cream, but I have found that for some strange reason, fish prefer worms. So when I went fishing, I didn’t think about what I wanted. I thought about what they wanted. I didn’t bait the hook with strawberries and cream. Rather, I dangled a worm or grasshopper in front of the fish and said: “Wouldn’t you like to have that?”
Why not use the same common sense when fishing for people?”
#9 The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar
A great read explaining how people make choices, so you can make better ones and also get a deeper understanding into your customer’s mind. It sheds light on what shapes your life choices and the journey you are on.
“What you see determines how you interpret the world, which in turn influences what you expect of the world and how you expect the story of your life to unfold.”
“Your choices of which clothes to wear or which soda to drink, where you live, which school to attend and what to study, and of course your profession all say something about you, and it’s your job to make sure that they are an accurate reflection of who you really are.”
It shows you why you need to offer fewer options to potential clients and customers.
“When people are given a moderate number of options (4 to 6) rather than a large number (20 to 30), they are more likely to make a choice, are more confident in their decisions, and are happier with what they choose.”
“Your enjoyment of the chosen options will be diminished by your regret over what you had to give up. In fact, the sum total of the regret over all the “lost” options may end up being greater than your joy over your chosen options, leaving you less satisfied than you would have been if you had had less choice to begin with.”
#10 The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwatrz
The last book on this list is an oldie but a goodie. The following quotes will have you inspired and ready to jump into action now – trust me.
“Focus on what makes you happy, and do what gives meaning to your life.”
“Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard.”
“The alternative to maximizing is to be a satisficer. To satisfice is to settle for something that is good enough, and not worry about the possibility that there might be something better.”
And I saved the best for last.
“When asked about what they regret most in the last six months, people tend to identify actions that didn’t meet expectations. But when asked about what they regret most when they look back on their lives as a whole, people tend to identify failures to act.”
There you have it. These are my top ten favorites. What would you add to this list? Share it with us in the comments below!