Book: Influence, Science and Practice

15 12 2008

I don’t often talk about the books I read… likely due to the fact that they are often pure fluffy drivel. I’m going to state here and now… I love my fluffy garbage books Science and influenceand I won’t apologize for it. Personally I great dislike all those ‘great classics’, war and peace , a tale of two cities BLEH! But many people enjoy them and find them to be extremely educational and stimulating, I like dragons, each to their own. {shrug}

Recently I have been reading this book I got while I was in the states, called Influence, Science and Practice [Amazon link and review], the title kinda sums it up really. It basically goes into what influences us to make the decisions we make, why we fall for it every time, how to use it on others and how to avoid being influenced yourself. Most of it is just natural response, as he explains at the beginning of the book all species of animals have things that they respond to automatically and humans are not immune. You might think, but people are rational thinking creatures.. surely influencing us with out our knowledge could only be achieved by trickery.

It’s just not the case. True there are some wily folks out there that have observed techniques that gain them better responses or results and then use those techniques to exploit those around them. But for the most part, it is just little stuff that goes on around us everyday, often unintentional. For example, when asking someone to do something, say let you cut in front of them in a line providing a reason for the request is far more likely to gain compliance than merely asking. “May I use the copy machine” when you are waiting to use it is very unlikely to have you agreeing. Whereas “May I use the copy machine. I need to be quick because I’m in a hurry” for some magical reason is so much more likely to have someone agree.

Think about it, how often at work are you asked to do something, and you insist on knowing why before you begin the task. It doesn’t have to be a good reason, it may even be a moronic, irrelevant and useless reason why we must do ‘xyz’ but knowing why no matter how ridiculous usually leads to immediate compliance. And refusal to provide a reason, even if the possible reasons for it might be quite obvious and logical can often lead to conflict and even refusal to do the task. I see it all the time in Taiwan, Taiwanese boss tells the Teacher to do something, teacher asks why, boss freaks out.. “always why why why… just do it” Teacher screws up face in annoyance and frustration and either refuses, or does it but is angry.

On of my bosses a few years back wised up to this and even commented on it to me. One day she came up to me and she said, ” Mag, every time I ask you to do something, you meet it with questions and it’s some huge debate” I’m thinking, yeah well you’re always asking me to do mental things, kept that to myself and just said.. ok. Then she says, “But if I tell you why, or when you ask why and I answer you right away instead of arguing with you, you just do it with out any complaints”. I smiled and said, “guess you should stop arguing and just tell me why then hu?” Funny thing was, that she did and it ended most of the conflict we had, then she tried it with the other employees and it worked with them too. The office became a much more peaceful place from then on. It’s funny, but before reading this book, I never would have though of this as a powerful example of influence at work.

It’s a pretty interesting book, especially if you find behavior and psychology to be intriguing. Plus a lot of it is really interesting to think about, the things that have been used on you in the past and the thing you may have unwittingly used yourself. Added bonus, by becoming more aware, you are likely to be less susceptible to the powers of influence (I suspect, anyway).

Feel free to ask me any questions you might have, I haven’t finished the book but I’ll share whatever I can 🙂 Oh and I want to thank Casey for recommending this book, and letting me look at his copy before I committed to buying mine ;).



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