Real Influence – Persuade Without Pushing and Gain Without Giving In

by Mark Goulston and John Ullmen

This book is about the “connected influence model.”  Disconnected influence is about “getting what I want.”  It’s adversarial and focused on the short-term.  Connected influence is oriented around understanding the other party’s situation and “viewing your current actions as a springboard for future relationships, reputation, and results… In the real world, interactions are never isolated. Anything you do might affect your relationships, as well as your reputation, for a long time to come.”

Throughout the book the authors talk about a “their there” mindset. “You’re dangerous when you’re blinded by your own point of view. When you practice disconnected influence, you’re stuck in what we call your here… But to connect with the people you’re trying to influence, you need to communicate from a perspective we call their there.”

An important section of the book is about effective listening. “In the sort of listening we’re talking about—we call it listen to learn—there is an energetic, determined humility. Listening to learn implies we don’t know already. It implies there is work to do in order to connect with people on their own terms, with as little distortion as possible from our own biases. It involves not surrendering our judgment, but suspending it. When we master this type of listening, we draw others in and invite genuine buy-in… Listen not just for the words being said, but for how the words are said, and (very important) for what’s not being said.”

The authors write, “To influence, be influenceable… Being influenceable isn’t about giving in… What being influenceable does mean is that you go into every conversation being willing to believe that you may be partially or totally wrong; that the other person may be partially or completely right; and that even if the other person isn’t right, you will learn something valuable from your interaction… If you aren’t seen as influenceable when different points of view arise, you lose credibility and connection.”

When I was reading this book, an analogy came to mind. Disconnected influence is like the political talk shows where rivals shout their talking points, but the conversation never advances. In contrast, the connected influence model is about genuine listening, and working toward an agreeable, productive outcome.

Goulston, Mark, and John B. Ullmen. Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing and Gain without Giving in. New York: AMACOM, 2013. Buy from