Life is unfair, you often witness it on your own skin. Books about manipulation and persuasion will help you learn how to protect yourself from manipulation and tip the scale in your favor.
Manipulation in and of itself is neither good nor bad, but a skill that can be used to do good and bad.
In fact, it’s one of the first skills we learn in life. Toddlers do it all the time, and parents more often than not fall for it. Dealing with manipulation is a part of everyone’s life. We are all constantly, intentionally or not, playing a manipulation game with one another.
The word manipulation has a negative connotation, but manipulation doesn’t necessarily have to be negative. Parents and teachers often have to resort to manipulation to get children to do what’s good for them. Psychologists use it to draw information from their patients and to help them. Managers and supervisors sometimes use manipulation to motivate workers to give their best.
Then we have the other kind of manipulation, the kind that we wish to know how to defend ourselves from. Like sales and advertising manipulation, politicians and mass media both use manipulation to achieve their agenda, which doesn’t always align with our personal values. Or the worst kind, emotional manipulation performed by people close to you,
Understanding how manipulation works and knowing the tricks of the trade will help you protect yourself from manipulators.
Best books about manipulation
There are different kinds of manipulation depending on who is the target. Although principals are the same, execution differs. For easier navigation, I divided this post into three categories: manipulation of individuals, masses, and cyber manipulation. If you want to become manipulation resistant, then I suggest reading books from all three categories.
Books about manipulating individuals
The more you know, the harder it will be for the manipulator to manipulate you.
In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People – George K. Simon Jr.
This is the handbook of interpersonal manipulation. You’ll get to learn the nature of manipulative characters and the different ways manipulative people operate. The exact tactics that manipulative people use to deceive, control and manipulate their victims. And lastly, you’ll learn the exact steps you can take to deal with a manipulative person and take back control. The book is easy to read and the subject is well covered with plenty of examples and vivid descriptions. The author concentrates on one particular type of manipulator called “covertly aggressive”. It’s someone that uses subtle manipulative techniques while keeping the appearance of a good person, loving partner, parent, or friend. This appearance is what makes their victims particularly susceptible to their tactics.
How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
How to Win Friends and Influence People is not strictly a book on manipulation. It’s rather a manual for more effective and productive social interactions. But it has a tremendous value to learn how to communicate with people every day so that you form good relationships and also benefit from them in terms of connections, promotion, and favors. You’ll not fall off your chair from reading this book, yet you’ll get clarity, insight, and direction to communicate in a way that will help you achieve your plans and desires. It’s more common sense and less spectacular and shocking. This is one of those books that you can read over and over again, and learn something new every time.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – Robert Cialdini
In the book Influence, Cialdini breaks down the psychology of why people say yes and how you can utilize human nature to get people to say yes to your ideas. The book is primarily written for an American audience, so if you are not born and raised in America some of the examples in the book might not be relatable and sometimes maybe even understandable. Nonetheless, you will still gain a lot of insight into how persuasion works. Particularly the 6 basic principles of persuasion. Those are reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity. Not only will you learn how to use the 6 principles of persuasion, but you will learn how to detect them and how to not get persuaded into doing something you don’t really want.
The 48 Laws of Power – Robert Greene
This is a dangerous book that should not be used as a guide on how to behave. If you even try you might find yourself alone and miserable, if you’re lucky. That being said the book is powerful and will give you insight into the power and open your eyes to why some things happen. You’ll begin to see things you’ve never noticed before and you’ll start seeing people with different, more critical eyes. If you want to become manipulation resistant then this is a must-read. For any decent human being, this is a difficult read, but the insight you’ll gain will give you the upper hand in many social interactions not just with manipulators but also with other difficult personalities. It’s long, it’s detailed, and you’ll definitely fall off your chair several times.
Art Of Manipulation: How To Get What You Want Out Of People In Business, In Your Personal Life, And In Your Love Life – R.B. Sparkman
Art of Manipulation is packed full of advice, techniques, and knowledge on how to manipulate people to get what you want. From just this one book you’ll get all the info you could possibly need on this topic. The Author’s hope is for people to use the information they learn from his book to protect themselves from manipulation and for them to use it ethically and unselfishly to achieve their goals while not harming others. But he was also aware that some readers might want to use it for selfish reasons or to do harm to others. For that reason, he wrote the last chapter, probably the most important chapter in the book, What You Get Out of Using People for Your Own Selfish Ends.
The physical copy of the book is hard to find, and those available on Amazon are ridiculously overpriced. But there is a possibility to find a digital version to download. Here you’ll find the list of legitimate websites that will let you download books for free.
Predictably Irrational – Dan Ariely
Manipulators have a deep knowledge of human psychology. Especially on topics like decision-making. Although this is not a book on manipulation, I included it on this list because it’s a book on how we make our decisions, and where are gaps and weaknesses in our thinking and reasoning. This is the information that manipulator will use against you. To be able to protect yourself from any form of manipulation you have to have a good understanding of yourself and the natural shortcomings every person had. Only by acknowledging them can you get past them and become more aware of your interactions with other people.
Books about manipulation in the digital world
A big part of our lives now happens online. To know how to protect yourself you need to know all the ways you can be attacked.
The Art of Deception – Kevin D. Mitnick
Kevin Mitnick is one of the most notorious hackers and after paying his dues he turned his life around and now is sharing with the world all his knowledge. Through many real-life stories, you’ll learn how attackers exploit human weaknesses and blindspots to extract information from them.
Social Engineering – Christopher Hadnagy
Social engineering is the term that describes the psychological manipulation of the victim into performing actions or revealing sensitive information. This book will reveal to you all the ins and outs of social engineering you need to know.
Books about manipulating the masses
Manipulation of the masses wears many hats to conceal itself, like marketing and public relations. If you truly want to become manipulation resistant then I suggest you read these two books.
Propaganda – Edward Bernays
Edward Bernays is the father of propaganda. In his book, he shares the technique he devised to manipulate and change the opinions of the masses. In short, it is a book that shows how to sell an unpopular idea to the masses so they not only accept it but cheer for it. The work he did was later the basis for modern marketing. Propaganda is the how-to manual for the manipulation of the masses.
Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy – Martin Lindstrom
Learn the tricks marketers and advertisers use to manipulate you into buying their product. How they use emotional and psychological manipulation to sell you products you don’t really need. Because the only way you can protect yourself and make an informed decision is by learning all the schemes they use.
Reading some of the books about manipulation and persuasion can often feel like you’re reading a guide on how to be a psychopath. But that’s not so. Knowledge and techniques shared in these books are neither good nor bad. But what is done with the knowledge is either good or bad. The reality is that we are all constantly being manipulated from different sources, and knowing the tools and techniques manipulators use will help you notice the red flags and protect yourself before it becomes too late.