Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities That Make Us Influential

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Overview

Required reading at Harvard Business School and Columbia Business School.
 
Everyone wants to be more appealing and effective, but few believe we can manage the personal magnetism of a Bill Clinton or an Oprah Winfrey. John Neffinger and Matthew Kohut trace the path to influence through a balance of strength (the root of respect) and warmth (the root of affection). Each seems simple, but only a few of us ...

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Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities That Make Us Influential

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Overview

Required reading at Harvard Business School and Columbia Business School.
 
Everyone wants to be more appealing and effective, but few believe we can manage the personal magnetism of a Bill Clinton or an Oprah Winfrey. John Neffinger and Matthew Kohut trace the path to influence through a balance of strength (the root of respect) and warmth (the root of affection). Each seems simple, but only a few of us figure out the tricky task of projecting both at once.
Drawing on cutting-edge social science research as well as their own work with Fortune 500 executives, members of Congress, TED speakers, and Nobel Prize winners, Neffinger and Kohut reveal how we size each other up—and how we can learn to  win the admiration, respect, and affection we desire.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When people look at us, what are they seeing? Most of us don’t realize what signals we’re sending, or how, and on what, people are judging us. Neffinger and Kohut, communications strategists and presentation coaches who met writing speeches and editing articles for Harvard faculty, posit that initial character judgments are based on two traits: strength and warmth. As they write, “We live most fully when we cultivate both in our lives, when we balance a high degree of individual capability with an unflagging regard for the needs and interests of others.” Strength is the Ayn Randian show of will and power, and warmth is the Beatles-esque emanation of love and charm. The trick is in figuring out when to project which, and in what balance. The authors address the elements that affect how we make judgments, including gender, age, race, sexual orientation, posture and body language, style, leadership qualities, and workplace behavior. While their points are arguably true, the meandering, storytelling tone (it’s notable that there’s an epilogue, rather than a conclusion) doesn’t do their theory any favors. They’ve stretched an article’s worth of material over a full book. Agent: Melissa Flashman, Trident Media. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews
The principals of a communications firm reveal the strategies they use to coach corporate and political clients. Neffinger and Kohut aim to help people become aware of the ways that they communicate nonverbally, through tone of voice and posture, and improve their ability to read the body language of others. There is no inherent contradiction in simultaneously projecting warmth and strength, they argue. Compelling individuals such as Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton and the Dalai Lama project an air of knowing what they are doing and having other peoples' best interests at heart; as a result, "we trust them and find them persuasive." Refreshingly, the authors recognize these as fundamental issues of character and emphatically reject any attempt to fake them. They do not advocate behavior modification and gimmicks to foster self-affirmation. Instead, they look to models such as Martin Luther King to reinforce their message, quoting his 1967 comment: "One of the great problems of history is that the concepts of love and power have usually been contrasted as opposites…power without love is reckless and abusive...love without power is sentimental and anemic." By consciously maintaining "a level brow, a focused gaze and a low vocal pitch," leaning in toward a person or maintaining distance, we give substance to the image we hope to project. That said, the authors warn that nonverbal cues cannot compensate for deceitful aims. On the other hand, adopting good posture and greeting the day with a smile can not only evoke a positive response in others, but also elevate the mood of the smiler. This contention, like others in this well-researched book, is backed up by citations from psychologists and other authorities. An attractive, nuanced addition to the self-help shelf.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142181027
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 5/27/2014
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 229,510
  • Product dimensions: 7.80 (w) x 5.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

John Neffinger and Matthew Kohut are partners in KNP Communications, a firm specializing in presentation coaching and communications strategy for corporate and political clients. They also lecture regularly at Harvard Business School, Columbia Business School, MIT, Bennington College, and the Naval War College.

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