Book Reviews

Persuasion or Manipulation?

Psychology of Persuasion: How to Persuade Others to Your Way of Thinking
by Kevin Hogan
Pelican Publishing Co.

Salesperson, lover, consumer or therapist, this book promises to tell you "how to persuade others to your way of thinking." The author, a sales expert and hypnotherapist, opts for high ethics and frequently encourages the reader to do the same. Why? Because the techniques herein described in loving detail can be used for evil or good.

The structure and clarity of this book are excellent. This amalgam of Motivational dogma, get-rich-quick schemes, NLP and hypnosis, is presented in a straight-forward manner.

The emphasis is on achieving a Win/Win result in all aspects of life, including work and marriage. Most chapters are preceded by a diagram which illustrates the points being made throughout the book. The phallic-shaped diagram has its foundation in the "Win/Win Philosophy", proceeds upward through details of "Fundamentals, Preparation, Presentation" to culminate in an eruption of mutually successful results.

Let's look at one of the chapters in the second category, "Fundamentals." Here Hogan lists the "Laws of Persuasion" and provides copious fascinating examples for each.

1. Law of Reciprocity

When someone gives you something of perceived value, you immediately respond with the desire to give something back.

This is so true. Kevin Hogan wrote some enthusiastic words on the Internet about my book, Health and Happiness with Hypnosis. As a result, I certainly felt a desire to be less harsh than I might have been in this review!

2. Law of Contrast

When two items are relatively different from each other, we will see them as more different if placed close together in time or space.

I have difficulty understanding this definition. Hogan gives several excellent examples of salespersons "adding on" items to your purchase. For example, the $60 worth of socks and sweaters right after you've bought a $400 suit, and the $300 worth of rust proofing as an add-on to your $10,000 car purchase. The contrast aspect is clear but how this illustrates the definition escapes me.

3. Law of Friends

When someone asks you to do something and you perceive that person to have your best interests in mind, and/or you would like him to have your best interests in mind, you are strongly motivated to fulfill that request.

4. Law of Expectancy

When someone whom you believe in or respect expects you to perform a task or produce a certain result, you will tend to fulfill his expectation whether positive or negative.

A salutary reminder to parents and teachers

5. Law of Association

We tend to like products, services, or ideas that are endorsed by other people we like or respect.

6. Law of Consistency

When an individual announces in writing or verbally that he is taking a position on any issue or point of view, he will strongly tend to defend that belief regardless of its accuracy even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

This is something that the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal constantly comes across. As you can read in its publication, Skeptical Inquirer, no amount of scientific explanations can deter True Believers in past-lives, astrology, alien abductions, psychic Readings, etc.

7. Law of Scarcity

When a person perceives that something he might want is limited in quantity, he believes that the value of what he might want is greater than if it were available in abundance.

8. Law of Conformity

Most people tend to agree to proposals, products, or services that will be perceived as acceptable by the majority of other people or a majority of an individual's peer group.

9. Law of Power

People have power over other people to the degree that they are perceived as having greater authority, strength or expertise.

Author Kevin Hogan says that sincerity cannot be faked, that the other person can sense when you are not truly interested in his or her welfare. Yet, by definition, confidence tricksters and unscrupulous salespersons succeed precisely because they can fake sincerity. And Hogan spells out how they do this -- by using the same techniques as an honest, ethical and sincere person such as himself.

What kind of relationship develops from such "sincerity"? The author talks about the NLP techniques of "mirroring" or "pacing" by which a therapist, for example, matches the breathing pattern and posture of the client. This supposedly builds rapport which makes it easier for the client to trust the therapist.

Is this cynical manipulation or empathic communication? The answer seems to depend on your values which, as Hogan explains, are key elements in your success or failure. But, I ask, if you are truly concerned about the other person, why do you need to employ such techniques?

I think the question is one of integrity. In conducting therapy, the genuineness of the therapist is essential to true improvement in the client. It's the reality of the caring relationship which enables the client to face disturbing thoughts and emotions, and to go beyond them.

For the predators and charlatans among us, Kevin Hogan has written a clear road map to the manipulation and exploitation of unsuspecting victims. A telemarketer's bible. These persuasive commandments seem to be precisely those used by the most despised elements of society: politicians, lawyers and used-car salesmen.

But, as the author points out, these same guideposts can profit the vigilant consumer. You can read this book and become alert to the tricks of manipulation as practiced by what Hogan admiringly calls "The Master Persuaders."

Hogan ends the book with some fascinating and provocative insights into religion and brainwashing.

An intriguing, well-written work which ultimately left me feeling uneasy -- and convinced that this book reveals the psychology, not of persuasion, but of manipulation.