The best books to understand human behavior

Susan M. Weinschenk Author Of How to Get People to Do Stuff: Master the art and science of persuasion and motivation
By Susan M. Weinschenk

Who am I?

I have a Ph.D. in Psychology and a lifelong fascination with people and why they do the things they do, including why I do the things I do. My life and career have been all about trying to learn as much as I can about psychology, brain science, how people think, how people learn, and how to use this body of knowledge and research to understand myself and others. My work is about applying behavioral science to the design of technology to better fit and serve people.


I wrote...

How to Get People to Do Stuff: Master the art and science of persuasion and motivation

By Susan M. Weinschenk,

Book cover of How to Get People to Do Stuff: Master the art and science of persuasion and motivation

What is my book about?

Whether you want your customers to buy from you, your employees to take more initiative, or your spouse to make dinner—a large amount of every day is about getting the people around you to do stuff. Instead of using your usual tactics that sometimes work and sometimes don't, what if you could harness the power of psychology and brain science to get people to want to do the stuff you want them to do.

In this book you’ll learn the 7 drivers that motivate people: The Desire For Mastery, The Need To Belong, The Power of Stories, Carrots and Sticks, Instincts,  Habits, and Tricks Of The Mind. You will learn the research behind each drive, what works when, and strategies for how to make them work.

The books I picked & why

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Redirect: Changing the Stories We Live by

By Timothy D. Wilson,

Book cover of Redirect: Changing the Stories We Live by

Why this book?

Redirect describes the research on how self-stories drive our behavior. “Self-stories” are the small stories we tell ourselves and others about why we do what we do. There are two reasons why this book is so amazing: First, it makes you see that these largely unconscious self-stories are really controlling our whole lives, and secondly, Dr. Wilson shares his research on how very easy it actually is to change the stories and therefore change our lives. I’ve used his techniques many times to make it through my own life challenges and it works. Changing your self-story is the only way to get your life to change. Luckily, if you follow Dr. Wilson’s research and techniques you will discover it is much easier than you think to change the stories.


Stumbling on Happiness

By Daniel Gilbert,

Book cover of Stumbling on Happiness

Why this book?

I used to spend a lot of time and energy trying to figure out why I wasn’t happier in my life and how I could change my life so I could be happier. Then I read this book and realized that in many ways happiness is an illusion, and that chasing after happiness was actually making me less happy, not more happy. It’s not that everyone around me had figured it out and I hadn’t. Instead what I learned from the research that Gilbert covers in the book, is that, like everyone else, I’m really bad at predicting what will actually make me happy. It’s a fun and enlightening book and it freed me from the fruitless pursuit of “happiness” so I could spend my time living my life instead.


Thinking, Fast and Slow

By Daniel Kahneman,

Book cover of Thinking, Fast and Slow

Why this book?

OK, I’ll admit that this is not necessarily a short or easy read. But if you really want to understand people, how they think, what makes them tick, then you have to read it. Kahneman describes a lot of research, but he is good at explaining it, so don’t let the research put you off. Whether you want to understand yourself better, or whether you want to be better at selling yourself or your products and services this is a must-read. I keep this on my bookshelf and I refer to it all the time when I am thinking, consulting, or putting together my workshops. It will take you a while to read, but it is definitely worth it. It’s the definitive source of how people think.


The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

By Charles Duhigg,

Book cover of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Why this book?

A lot of our behavior is behavior we have learned to do without even realizing we are doing it. A lot of our behavior is actually a series of habits. We think that habits are hard to change, but actually, they aren’t. Think about it. You have dozens of things you do every day that are habitual (the route you use to drive to work or school, where you put your keys when you leave your home…). Do you even remember creating that habit? Probably not. So it couldn’t be that hard to create a habit. Duhigg explains the science of habits. I’ve personally used this to improve my self-care and my own health and wellness habits all for the better.


Beyond Happiness: The Zen Way to True Contentment

By Ezra Bayda,

Book cover of Beyond Happiness: The Zen Way to True Contentment

Why this book?

It’s the 2nd book on my list that’s about happiness, but it’s more philosophical and personal than Dan Gilbert’s book. This book changed my life. It made me realize that I had an expectation that my life should be easy and comfortable. Before I read this book whenever something happened in my life that was not easy and comfortable – my plane was delayed, I got sick, a client was late paying an invoice – I would spin into unhappiness. Why was this happening to me? Everything was personal. Stuff happens all the time. What makes us miserable is how we react to it. I remember reading a passage from the book and feeling my frame of reference change. It permanently changed my view of myself and how I deal with life.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in happiness, decision making, and perception?

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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