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No matter who you are or what you do, the ability to influence others is an essential life skill that will benefit you in every area of your life. Whether you’re leading a team, running a business, creating compelling content, or just getting others to see and accept your point of view in your personal life, you need the ability to persuade and motivate on a day-to-day basis.
But what exactly is influence? Influence is the ability to get others to change or take action. Ultimately, influence is all about trust. Influence often comes with the areas where you have established your credibility, but influence is also transferable and can transcend the areas you specialize in.
Some people may think influence is an innate talent—whether it’s due to charisma, or extraversion, or some special “it factor”—but it’s not. Influence is actually a skill set that can be developed.
And one of the best places to start learning the art of influence is by reading books (and applying the lessons inside!) from the experts on a variety of topics related to human psychology, decision-making, negotiating, communicating, and more.
As influence is my area of expertise, I’m always reading these books myself. And I know from my own experience that there are an overwhelming number of these books to choose from, which is why I’m sharing a roundup of the best books on influence that are most helpful, actionable, and informative (so you don’t waste time reading crap).
This list includes both classics and newer reads that are worth your time.
The 26 Best Books On Influence
If you’re interested in learning about influence, get this book immediately because it is a timeless must-read. Dr. Robert Cialdini is often referred to as the “Godfather of influence” for his work as the foundational expert in the science of influence and persuasion. This book has sold more than 5 Million copies and has topped every best business book list you can imagine. Even Warren Buffet recommends it as one of the best business books of all time.
While Influence is rooted in social psychology and behavioral science, this book was written with a popular audience in mind so it’s easy to read, understand, and apply.
Influence will walk you through Cialdini’s Universal Principles of Influence that you can ethically apply in your own business and life (and also help you defend against anyone applying them unethically). You’ll learn the psychology behind why people say yes and you’ll also start noticing these principles in day to day situations.
Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends And Influence People has to be the most famous book on this list. With more than 15 millions copies sold, this classic book is still topping book charts and reading lists today because of the truly timeless advice inside (it was originally published in 1936!).
Don’t be turned off by the title, this is not a book about making friends—it’s really about persuasion, effective communication, and leadership. Yes, you’ve likely heard many of the principles in this book before, but as the popular saying goes, “common sense is not so common.” Everyone can use a refresher on this material and this book is a great one to pull out again and again. Warren Buffet is a fan of this book as well.
Pre-Suasion is a great follow up read to Influence. Dr. Robert Cialdini dives into what separates effective communicators from truly successful persuaders: how to prepare people to be receptive to a message before it’s delivered. Like Influence, Pre-Suasion is very accessible and backed by solid research and examples. You’ll learn how to prime your target audience to say “yes!”
Nick Kolenda’s Methods of Persuasion is an easy and fast-paced read on how to influence people’s minds, thoughts, and behavior. The psychology research is broken down into simple, easy to understand concepts. And a 7-step persuasion process that you can start applying right away.
If you don’t have this bestselling book in your collection, it’s time to add it. World-famous psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, Daniel Kahneman is one of the most influential individuals in the fields of decision-making and behavior economics. Thinking, Fast and Slow explains the two systems that drive the way we think. And also how it impacts our judgment, intuition, and decisions. I can’t recommend this book enough.
Whether or not you’re interested in sales, we’re all selling on a daily basis, even if you don’t recognize it. Selling is all about mastering influence and persuasion. In this easy-to-read book, Daniel Pink explains why sales is important in our everyday lives, and the practical steps to becoming better at selling (no matter what you do!), including the six successors to the elevator pitch, the three rules for understanding another’s perspective, the five frames that can make your message clearer and more persuasive, and much more.
You Have More Influence Than You Think: How We Underestimate Our Power of Persuasion, and Why It Matters by Vanessa Bohns
If you’re looking to grow your influence, the best place to start is by recognizing how influential you already are (and it’s likely much more than you realize!).
In social psychologist Vanessa Bohns’ research-backed book, You Have More Influence Than You Think, she lays out why we often don’t see how influential we are, and how that can lead us to miss opportunities to use it wisely.
I love Bohns’ take on the influence space because it shows how even though we may often feel as if we are communicating ineffectively or not being heard, chances are that is not the case. This book highlights that people are seeing us, listening to us, and agreeing to do things for us much more than we realize—both for better, and worse.
Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping–Updated and Revised for the Internet, the Global Consumer, and Beyond by Paco Underhill
I first read Paco Underhill’s Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping when I was in high school, and it was one of my first introductions to marketing and the psychology behind it. And to this day, it’s still one of my go-to book recommendations whenever someone asks me for suggestions on how to learn about customer research.
Paco Underhill created the field of retail anthropology and the science of shopping—studying customers’ browsing and buying habits. And how people make decisions in order to learn the best way to lead them to make purchases.
This book has been in continuous print for over twenty years. Some of the case studies in the book may seem somewhat dated. But the principles behind them are still relevant and effective today.
And if you’re interested in hearing more about the science of shopping, I had the honor of interviewing Paco for Beyond Influential; you can check out the episode here.
The words you use are essential to influence. How you talk about yourself, your product, or really anything, determines the decisions and actions others take.
If you’re looking to influence customers and clients to buy from you, the power of stories cannot be underestimated. In Building a StoryBrand, Donald Miller teaches the seven universal elements of powerful stories, how to simplify a brand message so people understand it, and how to create the most effective messaging that improves your ability to connect with your end consumer.
Knowing how to assess body language and being able to “read” people is an invaluable skill set in business, love, and life. These are the people skills that are not taught in school. In Captivate, Vanessa Van Edwards shares her science-backed approach to building connections and captivating anyone, including how to work a room, how to read faces, and how to talk to anyone.
I love all of Robert Greene’s books and this one is no exception. Understanding human nature is necessary in being able to understand not only ourselves, but also to influence and persuade others. Our lives depend on relationships, and Greene is a master at drawing from historical examples to illustrate what drives and motivates people. This knowledge is one of the most important tools we can possess.
There are an infinite number of ideas out there—how can you get yours to cut through the noise? Unfortunately, even the best ideas aren’t necessarily the ones that get the most attention. Made to Stick is an entertaining and accessible read that dives into why some ideas thrive, why others die, and how to make your ideas stand out.
Well-told stories have the power to teach and inspire others in business and everyday life. Rob Biesenbach offers a practical guide that covers storytelling essentials, more advanced principles, and how to apply them to get the results you want.
You can’t have influence in a vacuum, you need people. Influence is not just a numbers game, it’s important to truly connect in a meaningful way with those who you are trying to reach. Pat Flynn outlines what “superfans” are, why they are essential to your success, and how to create them.
Expert Secrets: The Underground Playbook for Converting Your Online Visitors into Lifelong Customers by Russell Brunson
Russell Brunson, the founder of ClickFunnels, is a master at converting online visitors into customers. In Expert Secrets, Russell covers how to position yourself as an expert and how to tell your story in a way that gets people to take action. I have found this book to be incredibly valuable and it’s highly relevant to our online world today.
Organizational psychologist Adam Grant uses studies and entertaining stories to examine how people can champion new ideas, policies, and practices in a way that increases the chance of acceptance and decreases the risk of alienation. Originals explores how to recognize a good idea, speak up without getting silenced, build a coalition of allies, choose the right time to act, and manage fear and doubt, as well as how parents and teachers can nurture originality in children, how leaders can fight groupthink and build cultures that welcome dissent.
Way of the Wolf: Straight Line Selling: Master the Art of Persuasion, Influence, and Success by Jordan Belfort
“Sell me this pen” is now one of the most famous movie lines and sales prompts ever.
Jordan Belfort walks you through his step-by-step sales and persuasion system that he used to become the Wolf of Wall Street. This book walks you through everything. From how to prospect, to how to build trust and credibility to how to overcome objections. It also includes tips and techniques about voice tonality and body language. And Way of the Wolf isn’t just theory—he lays it all out for you with specific examples. If it’s related to making a sale, it’s in here.
Copywriting Secrets: How Everyone Can Use The Power Of Words To Get More Clicks, Sales and Profits . . . No Matter What You Sell Or Who You Sell It To! by Jim Edwards
Copywriting is an underrated skill set, but it’s one of the most valuable you can develop. Strong copy can be the difference between a yes and a no. Copywriting is the art of selling and influencing with words. In Copywriting Secrets, Jim Edwards gives practical copywriting tips that will help you get the results you want.
Jonah Berger is a marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and expert in social influence. In Contagious, he explains why certain products and ideas become popular, and why certain content goes viral, and it’s not always what you think. Berger covers six basic principles with specific, actionable techniques that will help your idea, message, or product spread and catch on.
Stories That Stick: How Storytelling Can Captivate Customers, Influence Audiences, and Transform Your Business by Kindra Hall
You’ve likely heard how important storytelling is to influence. But you might be wondering what stories you need to tell and how to tell them. Stories That Stick offers specific, actionable steps you can take to find, craft, and leverage the stories you already have in a way that effectively captivates and converts your audience.
Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher, William L. Ury, and Bruce Patton
I read this book in my law school class on negotiating, and it’s a classic for a reason. Since its original publication forty years ago, Getting to Yes has helped millions of people learn to negotiate more effectively. It’s based on the work of the Harvard Negotiation Project, a group that deals with all levels of negotiation and conflict resolution.
This book is easy to read and understand. And it offers a proven, step-by-step strategy for coming to mutually acceptable agreements in every sort of conflict, both personal and professional.
A former international hostage negotiator for the FBI, Chris Voss offers an indispensable, field-tested approach to high-stakes negotiations―whether in the boardroom or at home. His behind-the-scenes experience is fascinating. And I appreciate how he connects his knowledge to day-to-day situations, both professional and personal to help you gain a competitive edge. This is easily one of my favorite books on negotiation.
Influence is a leadership skill that is all about trust, and the SPEED of Trust covers the ins and outs of intentionally building and leveraging trust. This book is a practical must-read for anyone in a leadership position.
The Trusted Advisor is a business classic that focuses on the key to professional success: the ability to earn the trust and confidence of clients. If you are a coach, consultant or in any knowledge or service-based business, this book is mandatory reading. It covers the five steps you need to take to create trust in a relationship—engage, listen, frame, envision, and commit—in a way that’s in-depth while still being easy to understand.
The Articulate Advocate: Persuasive Skills for Lawyers in Trials, Appeals, Arbitrations, and Motions by Marsha Hunter
Yes, you should read this even if you’re not a lawyer, and especially if you’re not a lawyer.
If any group of people needs to learn how to influence and persuade, it’s attorneys whose jobs are to be effectively persuasive in all forms of communication. But you do not need to be a lawyer to get tons of value out of this book. The tips, techniques, and strategies presented here will also work for you no matter what you do.
Based on over 25 years of experience and research in a variety of fields (including linguistics, neuroscience, and sports psychology), The Articulate Advocate teaches effective presentation techniques from how to channel the initial adrenaline buzz, grab and hold audience attention, gesture while speaking, and speak in a persuasive style.