Book Review: Influence–The Psychology of Persuasion.

I recently read Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, PhD.

Highly recommend:  I thought this was an entertaining read, and essential for anyone who interacts with others in making decisions (that is, everyone).


In the book, Dr. Cialdini explains a set of compliance triggers.  These include:

  • Social Proof–the idea that we look to others to know what to do
  • Consistency–that we all want to be consistent to the view we have of ourselves
  • Comparison–we tend to judge our options by what they’re compared with, rather than to an objective baseline, and that comparison changes our willingness to comply.

For each trigger, Dr. Cialdini provides a detailed explanation, a humorous example of how it works in the real world, and ideas for mitigating its impact.  While the book is focused on the interaction between people, many of these ideas can also be helpful for supporting personal change.

I felt like the book was filled with interesting stories and examples.  However, I thought the most important insight was at the beginning.  The author points out that in a world of increasing complexity, we will all use these compliance triggers more and more in making our decisions.  Here’s the quote:

“…each principle is examined as to it’s ability to produce a distinct kind of automatic, mindless compliance from people, that is, a willingness to say ‘yes’ without thinking first.  The evidence suggests that the ever-accelerating pace of informational crush of modern life will make this particular form of unthinking compliance more and more prevalent in the future.  It will be increasingly important for the society, therefore, to understand the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of automatic influence.”

Since reading the book, I can’t stop seeing these influence techniques in media, advertising, and interactions at work.  Because of this, I highly recommend this book.

Happy reading, and stay encouraged!

Book Review: The Culture Code–Secrets of Highly Successful Groups

I recently read The Culture Code: Secrets of Highly Successful Groupsby Dan Coyle.


Highly recommend:  Actionable tips for leaders on building a successful culture.

I felt like this book was great for a few reasons.

First – Dan organizes around three key skills: building safety, sharing vulnerability, and establishing purpose.  For each of these, the author gives concrete, tactical recommendations on things leaders can do to carry these out in their organizations.

Second, Dan gives examples from an incredibly diverse group of organizations.  He talks about top-rated restaurants, comedy groups, military units, elementary schools.   It felt like anyone reading would learn a little about a new industry or team.

Third, he finishes with a story of how he put these principles into practice in coaching a group of students in a writing competition.   He used this story to give incredibly detailed, tangible examples of how to put these actions into practice.

I also felt like he highlighted a few key behaviors that are underappreciated, but crucial:

  • Accompanying feedback with a simple reminder: “I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.”
  • Be vulnerable:  it’s often enough to say, as the person in charge, that you don’t have all the answers and you need help.
  • Shape the environment: high performing teams have constant reminders in their environment of where they want to go, the kind of organization they want to be.
  • Use catchy phrases to connect behaviors and priorities.  He gives examples like “Pressure is a privilege” or “The road to success is paved with mistakes well handled.”  Leaders of great teams found ways to make reminders of key behaviors easy to remember and repeat.
  • Repeating yourself as a leader:  many signals of purpose can be viewed as redundant or unnecessary.  But “the value of those signals is not in their information but in the fact that they orient the team to the task and to one another.  What seems like repetition is, in fact, navigation.”

Recommended for anyone leading a team or working to build a culture.



Book Review: Crucial Conversations

I recently finished Crucial Conversations, a book about creating dialogue when the stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong.

Strongly Recommend: I thought this book gave incredibly helpful, practical tools for having productive conversations.


Here are a few of my lessons from the book:

  • The Definition of Dialogue.  The authors define dialogue as the free flow of information between two people–where both individuals in the conversation are adding their insights to the pool of shared knowledge.  The greater the shared meaning between two people, the better the decisions, the stronger the conviction, and the deeper the unity that will result.  Only by building better dialogues can we learn from each other and grow from the experience.
  • Learn to step out of the conversation to create safety.  The authors continually reinforce the idea of safety as a the condition for meaningful conversation.  When people feel threatened or unsafe, they respond by shutting down, or forcing their opinion on the rest of the group.  When you’re in a dialogue and sense that others feel unsafe, you need to pause and create a safe environment by establishing your shared purpose and conveying your respect before continuing the conversation is possible.
  • Choose to tell the right stories.  The authors point out that any set of facts can be used to tell an infinite number of stories–and we have control over the stories we choose to tell.  When we feel helpless, or victimized, or that we’re dealing with a villain, we’re often telling only part of the story.  In those moments, the authors encourage asking the humanizing question in order to temper a one-sided perspective–“Why would a reasonable, rational, decent person do what this person is doing?”–and they provide a framework for sharing your story and asking for the stories of others.  I thought the insight that we have the choice over the story we tell from a given set of facts was incredibly powerful.


Again, I highly recommend the book.  It’s already changed the way I approach conversations.