The best books on influence and persuasion

Read these books if you want to influence and persuade.

Influence and persuasion. Two different modes of communication that are often confused for one another.

Influence is a trait you have whereas persuasion is an action you take.

Regardless of their differences, they both ultimately aim for the same outcome.

Understanding not only how you can influence and persuade other people, but know when it’s happening to you will help you make more informed choices.

Especially in the digital era as people’s emotional triggers are a moment away from being fired up.

The psychological component of influence and persuasion is a fascinating one. Time and again it’s proven that we humans aren’t rational creatures.

We often make decisions that go against our personal interests and sometimes prefer to believe something else even when the facts say otherwise.

Whether you’re looking to influence friends and colleagues or you want to become an influencer in social media, below is a list of some of the best books on influence and persuasion.

All of which listed below can help you know and apply influence and persuasion in both your professional and personal life.

Learn the fundamentals of influence and persuasion covered in these books and you might see situations and people in a whole new light.

Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion

Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini (Amazon) is a New York Times bestseller and is recognised as one of the top business books of all time.

First published in 1984, it’s been printed in 30 languages and is studied by people by people in the influence and persuasion business from marketers to sales to customer services to everything else.

Cialdini identifies six scientific principles that allow you to be more persuasive:

  1. Reciprocal altruism
  2. Commitment and consistency
  3. Social proof
  4. Like principle
  5. Authority
  6. Scarcity


Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade Hardcover (Amazon) is another book by Robert Cialdini and is based on the art of priming someone to do something by executing certain directive actions or uttering certain directive sentences before the actual moment that person has to make a decision.

In the book, Cialdini identifies the different strategies to ‘pre-suade’ people into doing or saying what you want. The book says, by taking advantage of human tendencies, certain questions will elicit desired answers or decisions.

Language and word choice are the prominent tools pre-suaders use to exploit people and Cialdini shows you how to know when you’re being pre-suasded yourself.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

How to Win Friends and Influence People (Amazon) a classic which has sold millions since it was first published in 1936. The book started the self-development genre and has gone on to sell over 30 million copies making it one of the most popular books ever.

In it, author Dale Carnegie outlines how you can become more influential in your day-to-day life. It’s full of sound advice on how to behave to be successful with other people. Chances are, if you’re reading this article you’ve already read the book.

Age of Propaganda

Age of Propaganda by Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson (Amazon) teaches you how to spot propaganda when it’s happening to you.

The book says propaganda is all around us, convincing us to spend money on things we don’t want, vote for politicians who don’t care about us and is programming our kids to clammer for things they don’t need.

It says there are four stratagems of influence:

  1. Source credibility
  2. Message
  3. Emotions
  4. Decisions

The book was published in the early 90s so it’s pre-internet but is still very relevant today.

The Power of Glamour

If you think glamour is not a persuasive strategy, think again. The Power of Glamour by Virginia Postrel (Amazon) outlines how glamour is used as a persuasion tool in society from entertainment to war to advertising.

Glamour, Postrel says, is not real but something that people long for and desire. Her own definition of glamour is thus:

“Glamour is a form of nonverbal rhetoric, which moves and persuades not through words but through images, concepts, and totems.

“By binding image and desire, glamour gives us pleasure, even as it heightens our yearning. It leads us to feel that the life we dream of exists, and to desire it even more.”

Advertising uses glamour to sell all the time. And now with social networks like Instagram, anyone can create their own glamour.

Read my review of The Power of Glamour here.

Win Bigly

Founder of the cartoon strip, Dilbert, and trained hypnotist, Scott Adams, saw what few people saw in the early days of the 2016 US presidential elections.

He was one of the first to predict Trump would become President. Adams recognized early on that Trump was using a number of persuasion techniques in his speeches and on social media.

In Win Bigly (Amazon) Adams outlines why facts aren’t as important in a debate as we think and details how to be more persuasive using psychology, linguistics and visual techniques.

Impossible to Ignore

Impossible to Ignore (Amazon) by cognitive neuroscientist, Carmen Simon, is a book about how to create content that people remember.

According to Simon, audiences forget 90 percent of what you tell them and while you can never get them to remember more, you can create certain cues that help them remember the most important parts.

Simon says there are 15 different types of influences for people’s memory: Context, cues, distinctiveness, emotion, relevance, motivation, repetition, social aspects, surprise, facts, familiarity, novelty, quality of information and sensory intensity.

Invisible Influence

Invisible Influence by Jonah Berger (Amazon) aims to dispel the myth that we all have our own personal choices and tastes. When in fact we are being influenced each and every day from outside forces we are unaware of.

The book is mostly about ‘social influence’ and how people are influenced by other people. Conformity, groupthink, peer pressure and so on are all covered. And as the book says, “By understanding how social influence works, we can decide when to resist and when to embrace it: we can affect others behavior and use others to help us make better-informed decisions.”

The Power of Moments

When you look back on events in life, work and everywhere else, all you remember are certain moments.

These are moments of elevation, insight, pride and connection. They are what authors, Chip and Dan Heath, call ‘peak’ moments – they are memorable and last with us forever. This is The Power of Moments (Amazon).

Being the architect of peak moments is essentially what the books is about. Creating memorable moments for yourself and other people is one of the most persuasive strategies you can do.

The Heath brothers capture how powerful moments can be in this excellent book and show you how to create them too. You can read The Power of Moments review I did here.

Methods of Persuasion

Methods of Influence (Amazon) on academic research and cognitive psychology to outline how you can be more persuasive in your day-to-day life.

The book is broken down into seven sections and is rich in information on how to be more persuasive but also how to identify persuasion techniques being used by others too.

It takes a practical approach to understanding the psychology of persuasion and references real-world examples throughout.

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