Thursday, April 30, 2020

Book Report -- The Influential Mind by Tali Sharot

The Influential Mind by Tali Sharot is about how we can have an influence over other people’s decisions and can change their minds—and how to effectively do so. It explains influence from three different perspectives; why we usually fail to influence others, what we can do to do so, and how to notice when someone does it to us. The author explains that the way to influence someone effectively is through seven core elements that regulate a person's' thoughts and actions. These elements are prior beliefs, emotions, incentives, sense of agency, curiosity, state of mind, and the knowledge and acts of other people.

These different elements are basically split up into different chapters to be described, and I think one of the more interesting ones was chapter 6, “What Happens to Minds Under Threat (State)”. This chapter describes how mental state is a great factor in influencing a person. If they are stressed or under pressure, they are more likely to go with the “safer” option. It is better to try and change someone’s mind or opinion when they are clear headed and in a good mood, open to hearing what you have to say. If they are in a bad mood or clearly under a lot of stress, they obviously are not in a proper state of mind to be persuaded into what you want to try and convey to this person. Stress alters the way someone thinks and makes decisions, as well as how they are influenced. In an experiment that was explained in the book, it stated that those who were under stress verses those who are relaxed, and calm are more likely to take in negative information. The more stressed they were, the more likely it was for them to alter their views in response to unexpected bad news. Under threat, we automatically absorb cues about danger and influenced by the “bad news”, not so much by “good news”.

In chapter 4, “ (Agency) How You Obtain Power by Letting Go”, explains how we do not enjoy a lack of control in our lives and how it makes us uncomfortable. We are internally rewarded with satisfaction when we are in control and punished with anxiety when we are not. In a sense, controlling our environment helps us thrive and survive, but on the other hand this desire to have such control can hinder us when we find it too difficult to surrender it when we should do so. Tali Sharot explains how sometimes we should just “sit back and enjoy the ride”—and that if we were in control of the airplane and not the pilot, we would most likely be dead. But we cannot help but feel that uneasy feeling of giving control to another human being and taking it away from ourselves. Giving up control can actually be a powerful influence over someone and give them motivation—like an example given in the book was students given the opportunity to build their own syllabuses to increase their interests in what they’re studying and motivating them to do the work.

In chapter 5, "(Curiosity) What Do People Really Want to Know?", one of the main ideas was how people have a curiosity to seek out information that is hopeful and brings good news, in opposition to where they avoid information that is bleak and will bring them bad news. Information effects what people believe, and what they believe effects their overall well-being. To get people to listen is to somehow shift this information in a way that gets them to be motivated to listen to it and have it in a positive light (the author stresses to not sugar coat, however). The message should give people hope and not dread—this will incline them more to want to listen to it, rather than avoiding it. An example the author gives of this is maybe instead of making a cancer screening about avoiding death, it can be about living a long and healthy life. Giving hope, not dread.

In conclusion, I would recommend this book to someone—it is informative, entertaining and engaging, with practical points. It gives interesting insights to attempt to answer why it is difficult to change the attitudes and actions of others and emphasized positive emotions. In using a positive approach, we can influence others, since we are biased to move toward rewards and away from pain or punishment. With this interesting and insightful advice, anyone can learn and take these pointers into consideration and better their approach in persuasion. It is an easy read and quite engaging with her different uses of stories, examples and research as Tali Sharot explains herself in this novel.

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