Book Review – Persuading People by Harry Mills

Persuading peoplePersuading People by Harry Mills is another of the books from the Harvard Business Press Pocket Mentor series. These are bite-sized books which focus on management topics. This particular is about persuading people and it aims to help us learn how to adapt our message to the audience, build credibility and appeal to listeners minds and hearts.

As is the custom with this series, the book is divided into two parts. The first part titled. Persuading People: The Basics contains the main content of the book and it has seven sections. The second part is titled, Tips and Tools, and it has some extra information around persuading people.

Follwoing is a brief review of each part of the book.



There are four key lessons in this section:

  • What is persuasion?
  • Why is persuasion important?
  • Key elements of persuasion?
  • Ethical considerations (about persiasion)

Persuasion is described as:

…a process that enables you to change or reinforce other’s attitudes, opinions, or behaviours.

Harry implies that persuasion is important because nowadays, more and more we need to get work done through others and the days of command and control are behind us. In other words, having formal authority is not enough to influence people to get things done.

Key elements of persuasion are said to be:

  • Credibility
  • Common ground
  • Supporting information
  • Deep understanding of emotion

Ethitical considerations point to the fact that persuasion must be mutually beneficial.


Since credibility is a key component of persuasion, it goes without saying that to persuade others effectively we need credibility. But what is credibility and how do we get it? Those questions are answered in this part of the book. Harry uses a formula to tell us what credibility is:

Credibility = Trust + Expertise.

Based on the definition of credibility, here you will read about how to win other’s trust through actions such as being sincere and putting other’s interests first and how to demonstrate your expertise.


If you are going to influence an audience, then you’ve got to know something about them. Regarding audiences, this section informs us about:

  • Distinguishing three types of audince members,
  • Analyzing listeners receptivity, and
  • Understanding audience members decision making styles


Information on how to influence an audience geared towards using a presentation is focused on here and in the previous section. Harry advices us to do four things if we want to achieve this aim:

  • Structure your presentation effectively
  • Provide complelling evidence
  • Answer the audience’s question s making sure to point out their benefits
  • Choosing the right words


While the previous section dealt with engaging an audience logically, this part is about engaging the audience at the feeling level, appealing to them emotionally. To do this we are adviced to:

  • Use vivid descriptions
  • Use powerful metaphors
  • Make analogies
  • Share compelling stories

Each of these points are described in a bit of detail.


Even if you’ve done what the author suggested in the previous two sections, you might still encounter resistance form the people you’re trying to persuade. How you deal with such resistance is the focus of this section.

Some actions suggested here to handle any resistance are:

  • First to identify interests of the people resisting
  • Also understand their emotions and listen to their concerns
  • Align your verbal and nonverbal messages
  • Acknowledge their viewpoints
  • Understand and use persuasion triggers

There’s a lot of information in this section which is useful beyond influencing group audiences. They can also be used in one-to-one interactions too.


Audience self-persuasion is the process of actively involving listeners in discovering the logic of your argument. Harry describes this as getting the audience to ersuade themselves. He prescribes three actions we can take to do this:

  • Using visualisation: helping the aiduence visualise the benefits of the proposal
  • Asking the right questions: using questions to engage the audience in a dialogue about the proposal
  • Listening actively: listening intently to what the audience says and responding appropriately.


The first tool is a collection of all the templates and checklists shown in different parts of the book. These templates and checklists include:

  • Persuation self-assessment questionnaire
  • Establishing your credibility worksheet
  • Understanding your audience template

The second tool is a short quiz that consists of 10-multiple choice questions to review some of what you read in the book. The quiz is followed by the answers. The last tool is a list of further references to learn more about the topic.

While this is a small book, you will certainly learn something from it. My favourite aspect of the book is the part that discusses how to build credibility.









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