The best books on influencing people ethically

Terry R. Bacon Author Of Elements of Influence: The Art of Getting Others to Follow Your Lead
By Terry R. Bacon

The Books I Picked & Why

How to Win Friends and Influence People

By Dale Carnegie

Book cover of How to Win Friends and Influence People

Why this book?

Carnegie’s book, first published in 1936, was the first to elaborate on how to use interpersonal skills to influence people. His time-tested advice includes how to handle people (give honest appreciation), how to make people like you (be genuinely interested in others), how to win them to your way of thinking (if you’re wrong, admit it quickly), and how to lead without giving offense or arousing resentment (ask questions instead of giving orders). This book does not cover all the techniques of ethical influence, but its fundamental principles are sound, even if many examples are dated. How to Win Friends and Influence People was a best seller in its time and remains a popular book today.


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Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

By Daniel Goleman

Book cover of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

Why this book?

People frequently make decisions emotionally and then justify those decisions with logic. That’s why emotional intelligence is so important in understanding how to influence others. Goleman’s book popularized the concept of emotional intelligence and made it more accessible. In it, he discusses the importance of knowing yourself and your feelings and being able to regulate your emotions productively. The core of the book addresses social skills, empathy, and understanding what motivates others when they make decisions—and these are crucial skills in influencing others. While Goleman’s book does not directly address influencing skills, he lays the foundations for the social and emotional approaches to influence very effectively.


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Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

By Robert B. Cialdini

Book cover of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Why this book?

Cialdini’s landmark book was among the first to explore the psychological factors that affect how people make decisions. Rather than using a rational process, people most often decide what to do, how to act, or what to believe based on rules of thumb and decision-making shortcuts including reciprocity, scarcity, authority, commitment and consistency, liking, and consensus or social proof. Although these factors can lead to unethical forms of influence, such as manipulation, it is important to understand the psychological bases of decision making, whether you are trying to influence others ethically or trying to resist unsavory attempts by others to influence you.


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Thinking, Fast and Slow

By Daniel Kahneman

Book cover of Thinking, Fast and Slow

Why this book?

Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow is the most comprehensive book I have ever read on human cognitive processes and the assumptions, biases, intuitions, misconceptions, fears, frameworks, psychological influences (many unconscious) that drive how we perceive the world and how we reach conclusions. No one paints a better picture of the mental landscape we traverse as we make choices. So if you want to understand the rational side of influence, replete with all its challenges, barriers, and pitfalls, then this is the book to read. Thinking, Fast and Slow is virtually an encyclopedia of the rational and irrational elements of influence.


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Stories That Stick: How Storytelling Can Captivate Customers, Influence Audiences, and Transform Your Business

By Kindra Hall

Book cover of Stories That Stick: How Storytelling Can Captivate Customers, Influence Audiences, and Transform Your Business

Why this book?

Whether you are selling yourself or a product, communicating your message effectively is a key to success, and it doesn’t matter if you are trying to influence people through logical persuasion or appealing to their values. Storytelling is as old as humanity and has been a moving and lasting way to communicate. Kindra Hall’s bestselling book on storytelling is a fascinating textbook on the art and science of creating and delivering stories that resonate with audiences and influence people’s decisions. This is one of the best books I’ve read on how to craft compelling messages.


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