Compelling People – The Hidden Qualities That Make Us Influential by John Neffinger and Matthew Kohut

A book review by Daniel R. Murphy

Title and Author:  Compelling People – The Hidden Qualities That Make Us Influential by John Neffinger and Matthew Kohut

Originally published: Book of the Month: #18 August 2014.

Synopsis of Content:

This book is a study of how we influence others and how effective we can be in doing so. The authors cite large numbers of psychological studies to support their conclusions and add in their own experiences with people they’ve worked with.

The authors divide all of our abilities to influence others into two categories: strength and warmth. Ideally we should balance both and use both in generous amounts.

They discuss the “hand we are dealt” – the actual attributes we have in warmth and strength as well as general perceptions about those qualities in people with our given traits: gender, ethnicity, age, etc.

Despite the hand we have been dealt the authors make the case for our ability to change what we know and do and to enhance our ability to influence others by strengthening our warmth and our strength and by maintaining an ideal balance.

They then apply these concepts to specific areas of human conduct: leadership, public speaking, politics, and more.

What I found useful about this book:

While this is not a scientific book there is a significant reliance on social science to bolster the authors’ conclusions. There is no discussion of the validity of the studies they cite but they are not making this stuff up as they go. The social science provides a depth of insight and some credibility.

The book is full of insights, some expected and some surprising. Anyone who wants to have any influence over others (and all but a hermit likely fall in that category) can learn a lot about what enhances influence and what does not.

Readability/Writing Quality:  

While not a scientific tract this is an academic work and can be a bit plodding. It is well written however and is an enjoyable read over all.

Notes on Authors:

John Neffinger graduated from Harvard and Columbia law school and practiced law. He served as Director of Communications for the Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. As a consultant he has advised politicians and business leaders around the world.

Matthew Kohut is managing partner at KNP Communications. He has a Masters in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He advises and coaches leaders in business and government. He has been a speech writer.

Both Neffinger and Kohut write for the Huffington Post.

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

  1. Both strength and warmth as perceived by an audience govern how influential a person will be. Both qualities are essential to gain a listener’s confidence and trust. Confidence and trust are essential to influence.
  1. Ideally one must master a balance with a high level of both warmth and strength to be the most influential. The most influential people have learned to blend these traits.
  1. Both warmth and strength must be genuine. People generally have a strong sense to detect phoniness and will not connect with a person or be influenced unless those qualities are perceived as genuine.

Publication Information:  

Title and Author: Compelling People – The Hidden Qualities That Make Us Influential by John Neffinger and Matthew Kohut

Copyright holder: John Neffinger and Matthew Kohut 2013

Publisher: Hudson Street Press, Penguin Group, New York

Buy the book here:

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.