The Best Books on Influence, Persuasion and Negotiation

influence, persuasion, negotiation

Books to help you influence people, understand the psychology of persuasion, and improve your negotiating skills

How do you influence others? What make makes someone persuasive? Which skills do you need for effective negotiation?

You may not think that these questions are that important to you but consider: how many times today have you had to communicate with someone? Chances are in each of these interactions you have had to put a point across, ask someone to do something or come to an agreement on something. Simply put, this is influence, persuasion and negotiation. All three are key building blocks of effective communication.

Influencing, persuading and negotiating are therefore essential skills for everyone — not just for those in the sales, marketing or business development teams. By the way, if you are a job seeker, business owner, freelancer or self-employed you are the sales, marketing and business development team, whether you know it or not!

And this is certainly not just about the corporate sector. Whether you are an writer, actor, teacher, parent, scientist, coder, law-enforcement officer or working in the charitable sector, knowing more about influence and persuasion will make you more effective at what you do.

If you are a leader then you definitely need to hone your skills in this area. As the leadership expert John C Maxwell said:

“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.”

I have picked the resources that I have found most helpful, particular in my capacities as a leader and coach. Most of these titles are already very popular and you maybe familiar with some but I hope there is at least one new title or perspective you can find in the list below. Enjoy!

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B Cialdini

Want to read one book on influencing and persuading people? Start here. This is the classic work on influence by Robert Cialdini. Pretty much every other book or expert on the subject of psychology, sales and communication makes reference to Cialdini. Make yourself an expert too!

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William Ury

Do you want to improve your negotiation skills? Another seminal work, ‘Getting to Yes’ is all about the art of negotiation. What sets this book aside is the concept of using empathy as a start point and aiming for ‘win-win’ rather than ‘win-lose’ outcomes. In other words, reaching an agreement that is to the benefit to all parties, rather than the traditional dynamic (particularly in sales) where one side of the negotiations is left worse off.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey

Has anyone not heard of this book? If you haven’t then you are missing a treat. For starters, it was Stephen Covey who took the concept of ‘win-win’ and moved it into modern management parlance by applying it beyond just negotiations and adopting it as a habit (the fourth habit: think ‘win-win’) for all our interactions with people. The 7 Habits is probably the most popular business and self-help book of all time and — even after 30 years since first being published- it remains as relevant as ever. I keep going back to this book, it is a fantastic resource, so get one if you don’t have it already.

Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human Mind by Nancy Kline

Do you think you are good at listening? Don’t assume so until you have read this. Active or empathetic listening is a critical skill and vital if you want to be effective in influencing a persuading people. In ‘Time to Think’ Nancy Kline develops the concept of creating a ‘Thinking Environment’ and gives practical approaches and tips on truly effective listening. Her work and research has shown how this is foundational to quality thought, creativity and communication.

The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist’s Guide to Success in Business and Life by Avinash K Dixit and Barry J Nalebuff

Scared by the concept of mathematical models? Don’t be! This is an accessible introduction to Game Theory, the mathematical models and strategic psychology behind decision-making. The popular terms ‘win-win’ and ‘win-lose’ (already mentioned above) are from Game Theory and this book explores many of the common terms, aspects and models of the field (such as The Prisoners’ Dilemma) that you are probably aware of but have not considered how you could apply. The Art of Strategy gives just enough theory, layered with examples, to allow a common sense application of this fascinating science of decision making.

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wellness and Happiness by Richard H Thaler and Cass R Sunstein

Want to help people make better choices? Nudge is all about just that. Thaler and Sunstein take the art of influence onto the grand scale and explore what it takes to persuade and move large masses of people towards healthier and more productive lifestyles. Behavioral science has never been more interesting or accessible than in Nudge. Nudge has been hugely influential and is another must-read, particularly for policy makers and anyone involved in mass communications.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Why do some ideas take hold more than others? To answer this question, Chip and Dan Heath have studied information hooks and the essence of what makes messages persistent. This book is fascinating and will change the way you pitch your next idea or even draft your next email. It is an invaluable resource for learning how to be concise, effective and ‘sticky’ with your communications.

Rapport: The Four Ways to Read People by Emily Alison and Laurence Alison

Want to know how to deal with difficult people? Wondering how to quickly build trust and effective communication? Then read Rapport by Emily and Laurence Alison. Emily and Laurence are experts in forensic psychology who have spent more than 30 years studying rapport building under the most challenging circumstances; namely through investigating the interrogation of terrorists and how (without torture) interrogators were able to establish trust with and gain information from their subjects. A fascinating read with lots of practical application to everyday communications and building relationships.

To Sell is Human by Daniel H Pink

What do you think when you hear the term ‘sales person’? Do you picture yourself? Probably not but this book may well challenge your thinking. Dan Pink writes accessibly and this short tome brings together much of the subject matter in the field of persuasion, influence and negotiation (including many of the books above) and is therefore a good way into the subject area. Dan Pink also helps to de-bunk the popular negative stereotype of sales and sales people and challenges more traditional sales practices. Therefore this is the sales book for all those (such as me) who hate the idea of the hard-sell!


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