Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions
Portfolio/Penguin, coming March 2011, 211 pages, $26.95
As a rule, we don’t much care for books for business-types. They’re like a print version of a cable-channel documentary — five pages of useful information, padded out with a couple hundred pages of anecdotes, rehashing, jargon and foofaraw. Nevertheless, when the folks at Penguin asked us to review Guy Kawasaki’s latest, we kept an open mind.
We were pleasantly surprised. It’s still a book for business-types, but this one has about 150 pages of useful information, presented with simple on-point anecdotes and only a little jargon. Kawasaki has a fluid writing style that makes for fast reading and easy comprehension. And as we read through it, we couldn’t help thinking it could help out the occasional trial lawyer, as well.
That’s because the book is a manual of persuasion. Ignore the repetition of the word “enchantment” and absurd concepts like “delighting” customers. This is a how-to book for getting people to make the decision you want them to make. Although it’s written for marketing types, Kawasaki’s observations apply to pretty much any situation where person A is trying to get person B to see things his way. (At least for most of the book, anyway. The last third or so really is just for those in a corporate setting.)
He does a pretty good job of it. The lessons are concise, but not glib. The observations are clear and easy to accept. His pointers and techniques make sense.
The book starts off by laying the groundwork, stuff to take care of before you start trying to persuade people of anything. You want your audience to like you, so here’s a bunch of things you can do to be likable. You want to be trusted, so here are some ways to earn your audience’s trust. Your cause needs to be worthwhile, so here are ways to make sure it’s something that deserves to succeed in the first place.
Once you’ve got something worthy of persuasion, and you’ve done what you can to at least be listened to, Kawasaki gets into the persuading part of the book. Presenting the idea. Overcoming resistance. Preventing a later change of mind.
There is some good stuff in here, and it’s not just a rehashing of old oratorical tricks and debating techniques. To be sure, he does include favorites like tricolons (groups of three words or phrases), going from big to small, using concrete illustrations, etc. But like the rest of the book, this part is less about rhetoric and more about interacting with the other person.
And that’s where the book really succeeds for us. We’ve always held that the way to persuade someone is not to overcome their will, but to help them make the decision on their own. They’re not doing it because you told them to, or because you told them it was right. They reached the decision themselves, it’s theirs not yours. And rhetoric is a weak tool for changing minds, when compared to all the other things you can do as a human being. (He spends a fair amount of time on the importance of being a mensch.) Let people try your idea out without cost. Ask for favors. Pay it forward. Use social cues. Use things like peer pressure. Use psychology. Find common ground.
He spends a couple of chapters discussing ways to use online tools (social media, blogs, websites, email) as well as speeches, presentations, PowerPoint, etc. Refreshingly, there’s not as much of the cheerleading here as we’ve come to expect any time someone starts talking about Twitter or Facebook. He talks about what they can do to get the word out, but also what they can’t do. (He separates them into “push” media, where you shoot your message out to your audience, and “pull” media where the audience comes to you. Hence the need for two chapters. But we don’t agree with which one goes where. Facebook, for example, he includes with websites and blogs as “pull” media where the audience must come to you. But most people use Facebook to broadcast to people already in their friend list, like Twitter. They don’t surf it to visit pages the way they surf the net. Ditto for LinkedIn. And seminars/presentations belong in the “pull” category, as people have to actively seek them out and attend them.)
The book finishes up with chapters entitled “How to Enchant Your Employees,” “How to Enchant Your Boss,” and “How to Resist Enchantment.” The first two are more of a guide for getting along in a corporate environment, and the third is some gentle advice for avoiding those who would play mind games to get you to buy something. Many of which were previously suggested in the chapters on persuading people.
All in all, it’s a good resource. We’ve come across most of Kawasaki’s insights elsewhere, but we don’t recall ever seeing them put together so succinctly in one place. Whether you’re dealing with suits in the boardroom, a jury in the courtroom, or even trying to seduce someone into your bedroom, you might find it worthwhile.