Book Review

Invisible Influence: The Power to Persuade Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere by Kevin Hogan

How great would it be if we were always able to do something positive whenever we came across a person or situation that involved closed-mindedness by helping the person or situation transition towards open-mindedness and tolerance? I imagine that type of world would have an abundance of mobile health teams, where the “nurses” were there to treat the poisoning of the mind, where bad ideas were addressed in their early stages, and where our interconnectedness and interdependence on each other was leveraged as a strength.  The “nurses” in that world would be everyday individuals who were trained in “all things people” and who would have been required to read “Invisible Influence: The Power to Persuade Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere”, by Kevin Hogan, as a part of that training.  Well, that is the potential of this book.

After reading Hogan’s book, I became even more optimistic about the power of teaching in ways that captivates people to think about all that is possible.  Seriously, that is how good this book is and that is why I felt it was important to share some of Hogan’s gems.

Get acquainted to the concept of “identity convergence”

The most important aspect of life will always revolve around people and that is why it is important for us to understand why people are the way that they are, and a good starting point to learn about people is the concept of “identity convergence”.  The term “identity convergence” refers to the fact that we all have multiple elements to our identity, even different identities depending on the setting, and that it is important to understand how these elements and identities converge or intersect.

A person’s identity is one of the most important factors that determines and shapes the way that they act both individually and as a part of a collective.  Hogan introduces readers to the basics, starting with how a person’s identity begins with the group, with the immediate family unit, before expanding to other communities.  As an individual’s identity expands, they adopt their behaviors, attitudes, feelings, and thoughts, from their immediate family and then beyond.  As individuals continue to grow, they become part of even more groups and make greater personal investments that further contribute to their identities, but their behavior is susceptible to change as they move from group to group and from environment to environment.

At its most basic level, identity convergence tells us that if we spend time with people, that is the first step to ensuring that they will be more inclined to collaborate with us, and those odds increase even more when we have things in common with them.  Since we know that people are malleable in their thoughts, behaviors, and actions, we can focus on creating subtle threads of identification that most people would never even notice.  An example of what subtle threads of identification might look like is a few “heys” that give way to small talk conversations that eventually result in the “uncovering” of similarities between people, before manifesting into acquaintanceships and whatever more.

One of the most interesting pieces of information in Hogan’s book has to do with the individual’s belief system about themself, and how individuals who believe that they can change tend to exhibit flexible intelligence capabilities, but that they are also more prone to behaviors like procrastination.  On the contrary, individuals who believe that they can not change who they are and are never going to change, they tend to exhibit hardworking tendencies.  Furthermore, individuals who believe that they can not change are also more likely to be attracted and influenced by brands because of the desirable attributes that those brands signal.  Although individuals who believe that they can change may also purchase the same branded products, the magic of the brand will often do little to enhance their self-perception about those very same attributes.

These bits and pieces of information are important because they give us an idea of how people operate at a basic level, as well as the importance of how people feel about themselves, and how that influences the way we interact with others when trying to influence them towards a more positive outcome.

Hogan’s 52 Techniques

The second portion of Hogan’s book focuses on “52 techniques”, but some of those techniques are multifunctional and can even serve as life mottos.  What resonated with me most was a sentence that was squeezed in between a paragraph which read, “Never portray yourself in a way you are not going to behave for the rest of your life.” Quite a powerful sentence if you ask me, and something all of us should keep in mind, but it was also a great segue into the techniques.

The techniques that stuck out most were: “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.”, “Attention -> Here.”, “Mirror neuron on the wall.”, “Have them help you help them change.”, and “Give them meaning.”

The message behind “the first shall be last and the last shall be first” is that sequencing matters and that it is important to present ideas by starting with statements of benefit and results that can be expected with any proposal, then lead with discovery questions so that others start sharing their priorities.  Remember, “last” is always remembered first, but “first” is the next most remembered after “last”.

The message behind “attention -> here” is that a good “filter question” can direct another person’s thoughts in a very precisely predetermined direction.  One example of a “filter question” would be asking “What is good about the way things turned out?” The power of a “filter question” is that it allows to place attention on a specific place, time or event, and the framing of the question can have a mirroring effect, thus making a positive out of a negative situation.

The message behind “mirror neuron on the wall” is that neurons are at the heart of empathy and empathy is at the heart of influence.  When we look at other people, listen to other people, feel other people, these mirror neurons activate and translate what that person is experiencing to us.  The power behind empathy is that it can endear us to others, it can break down walls while also building bridges between us and others, and it is arguably the single most important factor in influencing others.

The message behind “have them help you help them change” is that for individuals to change, they need to be able to say what is wrong in their own words and not in ours.  They must also be able to realize the advantages of changing and have optimism for changing, and that starting point is as simple as acknowledging that the future has the potential to be better than the present.  However, in order for lasting change to occur, the drive behind the change needs to originate from within, and our power is that we can make others feel competent and a part of the solution.

The message behind “role-response-projection” is that if we want an individual to behave in a certain type of manner that is different from how they have behaved in the past, then we are better off assigning traits or characteristics to that individual, and they will feel more compelled to adopt a new behavior or avoid past behaviors altogether.  It is also possible to identify and label undesirable traits or characteristics to alter and direct the behavior of someone who wants to be perceived as desirable.  An example of assigning traits or characteristics can include statements like “You strike me as someone that is too intelligent and too honest to continue propagating misinformation and perpetuating these lies.” and “I’d never collaborate with someone who was a disingenuous or ignorant person.”

The message behind “give them meaning” is that meaning is identified as being the primary motivational force in man, and it is an integral part of our identity.  When we can connect with people by helping them realize that they matter, this type of connection is one that few are able to make, but the impossible suddenly becomes possible.  With a sense of meaning, it becomes possible to transition to a different frame of mind, where a transition from a “troubled now” to a future with endless possibilities becomes not only possible but also likely.

Empathy is at the root of influence.

At the end of the book, Hogan is quite blunt about the importance of having empathy by saying that without it we are unable to influence anyone, and in most cases the people Hogan persuades often become his friends.  Understanding a person’s desires, drives, want, and motivators, all of that matters.  By knowing things about people, it becomes possible to help someone who might be vulnerable to make a poor decision to make a better decision, but only if we are able to make a connection with them.

Eventually a time will come when every one of us will be faced with a situation where we are required to address someone that stands across from us and potentially on the wrong side of an issue, possibly on issues like reproductive rights, immigration, or substance use.  When that happens, the only way that we can help that someone overcome their intellectual error is by meeting them where they are at and providing them with the possibility to change and by helping them realize that some of their beliefs are not true to who they are and which they may have been identifying with.  Simply put, there are a lot of things at stake in the world that we live in and there will always be negative emotions and dynamics that need to get addressed to resolve matters.  There is no way around it, and it is only with the application of empathy that we can get through it.

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