Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini – review

Influence: The Psychology of PersuasionInfluence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

“Compare and contrast…” Dreaded words of professors and teachers… Well, serendipitous, I suppose, that this showed up on a list as I had just started an advance read of Tali Sharot’s The Influential Mind. I might just compare and contrast at some point in the future, but for this one…

The list was “…[t]he top 5 books you must read to be successful.” I’d already read Daniel Pink’s Drive and Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit so thought I’d check out the other three. This was the first on the list.

How to summarize? I’ll try in two steps. First, this is a lot older than I expected. Revised and republished a number of times (first copyrighted in 1984), the basic text is quite dated (30+ years old), which means the cultural references might be obscure to modern readers. And Cialdini is all over the place. Repetitious. Lots of repetition. Also, it smacks as if he has been burnt more than once by salespeople. As with so many books of this type, it could have conveyed the same message with far fewer pages. I won’t speculate as to whether that would have driven a lower price. The problems are numerous and the time spent recounting them worth less than the time spent reading them. Every example, minor or not, is a paramount crisis seemingly requiring extensive pontification. Extensive. This is a tedious read.

Second, it’s a rare book that have less than no value. Of course, this one has value…but it takes a discerning filter to glean it. Giving back (reciprocity) gets returns, being consistent…as well, peer approval/concurrence seems to mean something to many people, as does being liked. Appeals to authority chart great influence, and FOMO (fear of missing out) has great influence.

Critical, skeptical, minds can resist, but even then, can obviously be influenced. We must be on our guard. Human nature, by evolution, is to herd. And the susceptibility to influence enhances that genetic imprint.

I don’t recommend this book, though it does, as noted, have some value. Pick the points carefully and store them in your toolbox.

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One response to “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini – review

  1. I typically feel trepidation toward reading books that market themselves as teaching you how to influence other people or similar concepts; it just sounds like someone had an idea and thought, “Hmm, there is anecdotal evidence of this, let’s write it down and sell it!” I don’t know if Cialdini gives any references to studies or data but, as ironic as it may be for something that must be qualified by an individual, I feel like that would help any case he makes for his methods. I also dislike when people repeat themselves too much in their writing; it smacks of trying to hit a specific word count and lacking sufficient content to be beneficial to the reader. Great review and thanks for the warning!

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