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Review: YES! 50 secrets from the science of persuasion


Title: 'YES! 50 secrets from the science of persuasion'
Author: Noah Goldstein, Steve Martin and Robert Cialdini
Publisher: Profile Books
Price: £8.99

The YES! Project a DVD and online learning programme is also available from Video Arts, priced at £999.
For more information go to

Are you good at persuading, or easily persuaded?

I've long been a fan of Robert Cialdini and his in-depth knowledge of persuasion and influence – and this latest offering (written in collaboration with Noah Goldstein and Steve Martin) certainly doesn't disappoint.

Written in the same genre as Malcolm Gladwell's 'Blink', Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt's 'Freakonomics' and Chris Anderson's 'The Long Tail', this new kid on the block similarly applies some in-depth research and observation into situations which are easy for all of us to relate to.

Apart from anything else, it's a great read. If you're already pretty successful when it comes to influencing and persuading others, then you'll be interested in knowing how you do what you do, and how you can get even better at it.

But if you feel that you were at the back of the queue when these particular skills were handed out, then you'll find absolutely everything you need to know within these pages – and then some.

And the great news is that there are 50 well researched, bite-sized lessons contained within the book – and it's pretty difficult to choose a favourite.

For trainers who write proposals, there's some great stuff about how to use the rule of compromise to make the sale. And if you're involved in the fundraising industry, you'll definitely want to find out how you can raise more money by asking for less. And if you simply want to find a way to become better at jumping the photocopying queue, you'll be amazed at just how easily one word will enable you to reach your objective.

Because the book is written in such an engaging way, its lessons are easily retained. How do I know? Well, reviewing the accompanying training tools (produced by industry leader Video Arts) some six weeks later, I decided to complete The YES! Project’s computer-based questionnaire first, (which gives you some scenarios and asks you to pick the most effective solution) before investigating the accompanying video lessons – and was delighted to find that I achieved a massive 92%. I’m sure my mother wished I’d done as well on school tests – but then that simply shows the power of teaching in a way that’s interesting and memorable versus the “learn-by-rote” methods that used to be pretty standard fare in the “olden days”!

And you can get even more from the accompanying CD-ROM…
However, in the interests of doing a proper review, I did investigate most of the lessons anyway and found that, as you’d expect, they’re pretty snappy and to the point – and a great asset in any trainer’s toolbox. One of the good things with this kind of interactive training is that you can do it at a time that suits you and for as long as suits you (providing your manager isn’t scowling at you for not getting on with any “real” work.)

Of course for most of us, just “getting it” at an intellectual level isn’t enough, which is why it’s really helpful to find lots of additional, useful, thought-provoking material on the CD ROM. Apart from the pleasure of seeing Cialdini in action as he explains – in short sound bites – the different “laws” of persuasion – there are lots of “real life work scenario” videos in which the laws are tested.

And this last point is perhaps the most important. Watching actors role play in the kind of scenes in which we all find ourselves from time to time gives you a fly on the wall opportunity to try out a different modus operandi without actually having to put your own head on the block. Apart from anything else, seeing how different approaches pan out from the comfort of your office chair is both faster and less scary than the real life alternative. Knowledge is power, they say. Well, actually, it isn’t: Knowledge applied is power.

From a practical point of view, the CD ROM is very easy to use. Sign up with a login name and password and you’re off. And the clever thing is that it’s intuitive – which means that it’ll remember things like where you left off and your ongoing score results. The software also enables you to move around really easy. Apart from always being able to hit the button that takes you back to the main menu, it’s also been designed so that you can easily skip elements - or go back and refresh your memory again and again - without any hassle.

One of the dangers is that it’s really easy to undervalue the CD ROM because it’s so deceptively easy to use. To fall into that trap is to waste a great opportunity. After all, it takes great expertise – whether you’re a Michelin-starred chef or a Formula 1 racing driver – to make what is actually quite complicated look really simple.

For my money, the real interest lies in the highly-digestible research and the widely varied circumstances in which the laws have played – and continue to play – out. These fly-on-the-wall observations lend much colour to what could otherwise be pretty weighty theories.

Do I recommend the book? Well, put it this way, it’s not one that I’ll be giving away. As well as being a really fascinating read – and really useful - it’s also cool to have it to hand for quick reminders. It’s a must.

Do I recommend the CD-ROM? Well, perhaps it’s not for everyone (the price tag of £999 ensures that) but for companies who are keen to make sure that their staff have the edge over their competition, it’s an absolute no-brainer.

PS. I’d like you to know that I’ve done you a great favour in reviewing this book and its accompanying learning tools. And as the book points out, now I’ve done you a favour – you’ll want to do me a favour too, so why don’t you satisfy that urge by leaving a comment on this review?

(OK, just kidding, but it does prove the point that the lessons learned are actually applicable to everyday life.)

Olivia Stefanino is the author of 'Be Your Own Guru' and has run leadership and coaching programmes within both blue chip organisations and SME's over the last 10 years. To download her free tips booklet '127 ways to harness your personal power' visit


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