5 books that taught me people skills, psychology, and the science of manipulation.
I won’t say I can analyze people around me all the time.
Or make wiser decisions than most.
Or even that I can communicate effortlessly to influence people and bend them to my will.
I’m a human, after all, not a medieval sorceress.
Don’t mind the Yennefer of Vengerberg reference. I’ve been bingeing too often on Netflix’s The Witcher.
Yes, I might not be an expert in human psychology, but I can say with confidence that I’m learning. And isn’t that better than what most people can claim?
Here are five books that inspired me and keep doing so today. Read them for a better understanding of human psychology, and build for yourself an unfair advantage in this world.
(Note: The links mentioned in this article are affiliate links. If you choose to purchase these books through these links, it will help me earn a small amount of money — at no extra cost to you. Thanks!)
1. Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
Successful people have two things in common.
- They’ve mastered the art of understanding people’s emotions.
- They can utilize their rational brains. This means they might not have higher IQs but high Emotional Quotient (EQ).
Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman explains how to master EQ to prosper in your career and relationships.
The book helped me understand two important aspects of human psychology: emotions and feelings.
Emotional Intelligence is a great resource to start learning about human psychology. It explains how the rational mind and emotional Intelligence together can make our lives better.
Goleman helped me work on my empathy, self-awareness, self-discipline, and self-esteem. If you want to change your life for good, this is the best place to start.
My favorite quotes from Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
“There is perhaps no psychological skill more fundamental than resisting impulse.”
“Leadership is not domination, but the art of persuading people to work toward a common goal.”
2. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
Your decision-making skills decide the kind of life you’ll live.
The biggest delusion most people live in is they think their thoughts are in control or they mostly make informed decisions. But is that really the case?
There are several illogical or invisible factors that shape our decision-making, along with emotions, expectations, and society. We make the same small mistakes and overvalue what we already own. But these irrational choices are predictable in a certain way.
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely helped me understand this mechanism of thoughts.
If we understand the hidden factors that influence the small decisions we make, it will be easier for us to break through these patterns and make wiser choices. Be it avoiding junk food or choosing a partner, Predictably Irrational will change the way you deal with the world and make everyday decisions.
My favorite quotes from Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
“Giving up on our long-term goals for immediate gratification, my friends, is procrastination.”
“When given the opportunity, many honest people will cheat.”
“That’s a lesson we can all learn: the more we have, the more we want. And the only cure is to break the cycle of relativity.”
3. Drive by Daniel Pink
My biggest gripe with life is the lack of motivation while working on a long-term goal. Life would have been so easy if we could see the immediate results of every effort we put in, wouldn’t it?
Drive is an eye-opening book on motivation that changed my perspective on the psychology of staying motivated.
The book critically evaluates the carrot-and-stick approach most people use to get the drive to work. If you’re driven by the results or rewards, it’s more likely that you’ll lose motivation in the long run. The extrinsic drive related to rewards and punishment sometimes destroys intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic drive comes from the satisfaction of performing a task rather than results.
Most people don’t realize the benefits of intrinsic motivation in the long run. Drive explores three main elements for staying motivated:
- mastery, and
Drive is a persuasive read on how to keep your spirits high while working on your goals. I learned with time that true motivation comes from the sense of direction and satisfaction you get while working on your task, not from achieving great results.
Once you understand that results are just the by-product that follows when you’re content with the work you’re doing, you’ll never lose track.
My favorite quotes from Drive by Daniel Pink
“When the reward is the activity itself — deepening learning, delighting customers, doing one’s best — there are no shortcuts.”
“We have three innate psychological needs — competence, autonomy, and relatedness. When those needs are satisfied, we’re motivated, productive, and happy.”
4. Personality Isn’t Permanent by Benjamin Hardy
Humans limit themselves by thinking that our personalities can never change. Personality Isn’t Permanent is backed by different practical and science-based advice for you to completely reinvent your life.
You can become what you dream of, you just have to be intentional and put in the work. What intrigued me in this book are the true stories of transformational journeys of people like Andre Norman who became a Harvard fellow after serving a prison sentence. Benjamin Hardy himself transformed his life coming from a broken childhood.
Personality Isn’t Permanent is one of my favorite books on the psychology of identity shift. I reread this book every time I feel stuck.
The key lesson from this book is that your past can never define what you are today, be it your success, failures, or traumas. The only thing that determines your personality is your ambition to upgrade yourself. Your personality is the result of your environment too, so it’s crucial to redesign your environment if you feel stuck.
Personality Isn’t Permanent is a great read to transform your self-belief.
My favorite quotes from Personality Isn’t Permanent by Benjamin Hardy
“Without a meaningful goal, attempting changes lacks meaning, requires unsustainable willpower, and ultimately leads to failure.”
“People use the past as the excuse to remain stuck in habits and attitudes that keep them from growing.”
“Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”
5. Influence by Robert Cialdini
Have you ever wondered how influential people make others say yes so effortlessly? It’s because they understand the human psychology of persuasion.
To become a master persuader, Influence states six principles behind human influence with some practical examples that will blow your mind. The first principle is the reciprocation bias, which means people tend to return small favors. Make people do small commitments to influence them to do something.
Another principle is social proof which means people will do things that they see most people are doing. It’s more likely that people will be influenced by an authority figure or by a person they like.
Anyone can use these principles in their favor to market themselves or protect themselves from evil influence.
You might feel the facts and examples mentioned in this book are somewhat dangerous, given how powerful they are. But you’ll surely enjoy reading this if you’re into human psychology.
My favorite quotes from Influence by Robert Cialdini
“A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.”
“Embarrassment is a villain to be crushed.”
“We all fool ourselves from time to time in order to keep our thoughts and beliefs consistent with what we have already done or decided.”
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