Mike Kueber's Blog

February 24, 2014

Sunday Book Review #126 – Compelling People by John Neffinger and Matthew Kohut

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 3:32 am
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This book reads like a written version of a company seminar designed to effect some change the company’s corporate culture or to enhance the personal skills of its employees.  And then when I read about the authors, I learned that is precisely what they do for a living.  According to the book’s jacket, Neffinger and Kohut specialize in “preparing speakers for high-stakes audiences.”

The book’s subtitle is “The Hidden Qualities That Make Us Influential.”  At a high level, according to the authors, individuals maximize their potential influence by displaying strength and warmth:

  • Strength is a person’s capacity to make things happen with abilities and force of will.
  • Warmth is the sense that a person shares our feelings, interests, and view of the world.

The book describes a variety of factors that affect how people perceive your strength and warmth.  Unfortunately, some factors are not in your control, and the authors characterizes them as “the hand you were dealt.”  These factors include gender, ethnicity, age, looks, body type, and disability.  Even though these factors are not in your control, the first part of the book suggests ways to better manage them.

The second part of book is characterized as “playing the hand.”  In this section, the book describes a wide assortment of psychological insights that affect a person’s reaction to you.  Among them:

  • “Warmth operates under something we call the tomato rule: Just as one freezing night can ruin a garden full of tomatoes, one cold incident – in which you show clearly that you do not share another person’s interests or care how they feel – can make it very difficult to reestablish warmth between you later.”
  • “The circle” is a speech-making concept that requires the speaker to first establish an emotional connection with the audience before trying to persuade it.  “There is a hard-won pearl of wisdom about seeking support for a project: ‘Ask for money, get advice.  Ask for advice, get money.’  This seems counterintuitive, but circle logic explains why it makes perfect sense.  When you ask someone for their money, you divide your interests from theirs….  By contrast, when you ask for advice on achieving your goals, you get in your audience’s circle by validating their view of themselves as wise and worth listening to, and they reciprocate by looking at your interests as their own.”

Dilbert creator Scott Adams in his new book recommended that people are more likely to achieve success if they acquire a working knowledge of 13 subjects.  One of those subjects is psychology, and Compelling People is exactly what Adams had in mind.


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