If you want to close sales and negotiate successfully, you’ll need to be an expert on persuasion. The best way to learn how to influence people is by practicing it in real-life situations. The second best way is to read about how to persuade people.
To help get your persuasion studies launched, we’ve compiled this list of the ten best books on persuasion.
Dale Carnegie’s magnum opus is renowned for its simple prose and compelling content. In his book, you’ll learn the basics about carrying yourself such that other people are more apt to listen to what you say and do what you want them to do.
Lest you think that Carnegie is teaching the reader to be a sociopathic manipulator, keep in mind that one of his foundational principles is to be genuine in your emotional expression and honest in your words. Find it on Amazon.
Fisher and Ury’s legendary negotiation guide is a must-read for anyone interested in business. In the book, you’ll learn everything from the psychological elements of a negotiation to the rhetorical tools you’ll need to use to get what you want.
Rest assured, if you are ever in a business negotiation, the people on the other side of the table have probably read this book, so you should too. Find it on Amazon.
Robert Cialdini’s book is a deep dive into how to identify and leverage the emotions and motivations of the other people in your life. Perhaps the most valuable element of the book describes how to identify your own motivations such that you can take fruitful action to realize your goals.
Try not to rush your way through the book, as much of the material may seem light, but it requires a lot of pondering to fully internalize. Find it on Amazon.
Vance Packard’s breakout book describes the structural, sociological, and political forces that shape public life. As you read, you’ll learn about the power structures that underpin relationships between people in the workplace and at home.
After reading this book, you’ll be more attuned to the way that organizations frame issues to benefit themselves. Packard’s volume is a bit light on practical techniques for persuasion if you aren’t in a position of power already, however. Find it on Amazon.
Ernest Dichter’s 1960 investigation into the effectiveness of advertising and the fundamental drives that motivate people is a dense and nuanced book. For context, consider that Dichter is one of the originators of the focus group research method in advertising.
While some of the material is a bit outdated, the main message of the tome is that people have motivations that they are perfectly willing to share with you if you ask. After asking about their motivations, Dichter suggests that you use what you learned to influence other groups of people who have the same characteristics. Find it on Amazon.
Ryan Holiday’s confessional is an insightful and frequently disturbing account of how easy it is to persuade large groups of people by a combination of lying, obfuscating the truth, and baiting with outrage.
Expect to get mad at the author while you’re reading Holiday’s book. More importantly, you can expect that you will be significantly harder to influence yourself after reading the book as a result of Holiday’s exhaustive description of his dark arts. Find it on Amazon.
Walter Lipmann’s Public Opinion is one of the greatest works in persuasion literature and one of the best books on persuasion. In Lipmann’s book, you’ll learn about how individual people persuade each other about things they heard from the mass media.
You’ll also learn that a significant portion of persuading someone is framing your conversation with them in a way that naturally leads to the conclusion you want. Overall, Lipmann’s book should be the first one you read from this list, but it doesn’t have many practical techniques. Find it on Amazon.
Edward Bernays wrote Propaganda in the same period where he was working with the pork and dairy lobbies to promote the idea that Americans should eat bacon and eggs for breakfast.
In his book, Bernays describes how to build credibility with people by leaning on experts, coining slogans, and playing on people’s biases. It’s no secret that this book is a masterpiece, but its cynical approach to human nature and government will offend many people.
Try to hang in there through Bernays’ elitist presentation about how society works, and you’ll definitely understand how to influence people at scale more effectively as a result. Find it on Amazon.
Samira Mansour’s investigation of emotional intelligence is remarkable because it teaches you how to influence people by helping you to understand their needs and their inner emotional life in a non-manipulative way.
You’ll learn tricks for influencing people by empathizing with them, and you’ll also learn a bit more about how your behaviors influence other people even when you aren’t intending to do so.
This book is a must-read, but it doesn’t have much content about how you can protect yourself from the influence of others. Find it on Amazon.
Batko’s no-nonsense approach to everyday persuasion is packed with practical tricks you can use to get what you want. Despite the title, you won’t learn how to manipulate people so much as how to manipulate yourself into getting the response from people that will serve your needs.
For people in business or politics, this book is essential. The only downside is that Batko’s prose can be a bit manic at times, so you’ll need to follow along carefully to keep the thread of what he is trying to communicate. Find it on Amazon.
Now that you have a persuasion curriculum, it’s time to dive in. Our favorite book on this list is Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People simply because it’s a practical and timeless classic.
Remember, you’ll need to consistently practice your newly-learned persuasion techniques if you want to get the most out of these books, so start looking for opportunities to wield influence in your life.