Book Box: The Influence Game - Hindustan Times

Book Box: The Influence Game

Feb 18, 2023 09:35 AM IST

Read these five books to uncover the hidden power of influence, and attain power, prestige and leadership. Plus, hear from Rashesh Shah, chairman, Edelweiss, on his favourite books on influence.

Dear Reader,

Influence. PREMIUM

A hand shoots up from the back of the class.

‘Ma’am, all this work to build influence seems so excessive. Isn’t it better to let our work speak for itself?’ a student asks.

We are on the seventh floor of the NMIMS building in Mumbai. It is Day 2 of Persuasive Communication. We have been studying Robert Cialdini’s 6 principles of influence, Jay Conger’s 4-step model of persuasion, rhetoric with logos (logic) pathos (emotion) and ethos (establishing credibility).

I look around the amphitheatre — 60 students, in their mid-20s, in the final semester of their MBA (Master of Business Administration) programme. Mostly engineers, they have certifications in everything from programming and python to finance and market research.

These students have done a good job of persuading employers to hire them — each one has a job waiting for them once they graduate.

But this is just the start.

‘You can’t leave it to work to speak for itself. If you do that, chances are you will find colleagues who work less on their Excel, and more on their influence, overtaking you — getting faster promotions, better postings and more money. Influence is powerful, and in today’s world, cultivating charisma is what will keep you relevant and in leadership positions,’ I tell them.

Backing me up, is a whole body of research, as well as compelling books that reveal the hidden power of influence. Start with these five books — for fascinating finds in psychology and neuroscience, along with hacks on how to acquire the elusive quality of influence.

Book 1 of 5:


Captivate takes you through the arc of influence — from making a killer first impression, sparking interest and intrigue in yourself, decoding other people, and engaging and charming them. What I love most about this book is how it pairs human psychology discussions with practical suggestions. Like this one — abandon standard social scripts like ‘How are you?’ and replace them with meaningful conversation prompts like ‘What was the highlight of your day?’.

There are a lot of fascinating ideas here, like Gary Chapman's 5 Love Languages. Also advice on where to stand at a networking event:

The best place: Standing on your own, just off the bar where people are relaxed and open to chit-chat.

The worst place: Near the food, where people are filling their plates, and are less inclined to talk when they are masticating a mouthful of mattar paneer!

Book 2 of 5:

The Laws of Human Nature.
The Laws of Human Nature.

Robert Greene is truly a modern-day Machiavelli. From his 48 Laws of Power to Mastery to The Laws of Human Nature every time I read this author, I come away astounded and full of admiration for his unabashed endorsement of whatever it takes.

Keep your mask on, and this is how you see through other people’s masks. Here’s how to successfully flatter people, and this is how you spot insecurities in the people around you and use these insecurities to increase your influence, he recommends.

‘Ask for their advice. People are dying to impart their wisdom and experience’ he says.

Start with The Laws of Human Nature, it's a fascinating read. Besides the strategies, there are many enthralling stories, drawn from art and literature, history and politics.

Book 3 of 5:

The Influential Mind.
The Influential Mind.

There is one question most people love to be asked, says Tali Sharot. The author of The Influential Mind uses neuroscience to examine different aspects of influence from the value of information to the burden of knowledge. Should you scare people into action, she explores. The question that most people love to be asked, she reveals is ‘How did you meet your spouse?’ asks Sharot. It’s a story that deals with connection and emotion, and that’s a large part of what influence is about.

Book 4 of 5:


If read just one book on influence and persuasion, this is the one! And if you’ve read it, it’s worth a re-read. Influence is a treasure trove of analysis and advice. Robert Cialdini illustrates his principles with stories from everywhere — moving from the world of insects to business, to secret cults and Pulitzer-winning true life tales. And if you want to move on to a second book on influence, go back even further in time to another classic — How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

Book 5 of 5:

Influence + Persuasion.
Influence + Persuasion.

A slim little volume, you can tuck this into your handbag or laptop bag and dive into it in pockets of waiting time. Influence and Persuasion, published by Harvard Business Review Press, has bite-sized advice from eight experts that include Cialdini himself and others such as Linda Hill and Kevin Hogan.


Finally meet Rashesh Shah. An alumnus of IIM (Indian Institute of Management), Ahmedabad, this founder-chairman and CEO of the Edelweiss Group reads fiction to fire his imagination as well as books on influence, leadership, finance and fitness. Here are edited excerpts of our conversation:

Rashesh Shah.
Rashesh Shah.

How has your reading evolved over the years?

In my twenties, I was into heavy books like Freud and Karl Marx – wanted to figure out the world. In my thirties, I moved to more fiction - with historical themes and authors like Nero Wolfe and Raymond Chandler.

In my forties, I read more business books like Jim Collins. Nowadays I read more about the macroeconomy and geopolitics.

I also enjoy reading low-brow stuff like murder mysteries and business thrillers! I love to read books about recent Indian history — like India after Gandhi, In spite of the Gods, Half Lion and so on.

What are some books that have helped you professionally?

A few books that helped me develop as a manager and leader and investor are The Wealth of Nations, The Alchemy of Finance, Good to Great, Build to Last, A Piece of the Action, The Outsiders and Emotional Intelligence.

Fooled by Randomness, Too Big to Fail, Liars Poker, Market Wizards and The Snowball are great books on finance. There is something to learn as the same themes and patterns repeat in different colours.

What are your favourite books on influence?

The best book I have read on this remains How to Win Friends and Influence People. Also, Influence by Robert Cialdini and Changing Minds by Gardner.

You are a fiction reader as well?

Fiction fires up imagination, satisfies curiosity and provides enjoyment of language. It transports your mind to new areas. I love fiction by Elisabeth George, Rex Stout, Somerset Maugham, and Keigo Higashino. It’s also deeply relaxing!

As a marathon runner, do read about running?

I have read most books on running and triathlons. Born to Run is an all-time classic. Also, Running with the Mind of Meditation and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running are my favourites.

I love to read about the human body – books like Body by Bill Bryson, Gut (Giulia Enders), The Circadian Code (Satchin Panda). I am fascinated by the power of the human body and our minds!

Are you a family of readers?

We all read but our tastes have evolved in different directions. Vidya (wife) loves history (she just finished a galaxy of books on Maratha history), my son Neel loves sci-fi and Avanti (daughter) loves Murakami and Sally Rooney.

Where do you find your books from?

I used to browse bookstores - Strand in Bombay and Strand in NYC! Both were favourites, as were Crossword and Barnes & Noble. But now I get my recommendations from Goodreads, and many online book clubs I am part of.

Do you re-read?

I re-read my favourite books. Like Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, my favourite books on finance and books like The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell) and travel books by Peter Mayle and Bill Bryson.

And finally, what books are you reading now?

I am currently reading Breath by James Nestor, Unscripted by James Stewart and A Promised Land by Barack Obama.


With this, it’s a wrap for this week. Next week, I follow up strategies for influence, with books that help you find the right words and have the toughest conversations.

Until then, Happy Reading.

Sonya Dutta Choudhury is a Mumbai-based journalist and the founder of Sonya’s Book Box, a bespoke book service. Each week, she brings you specially curated books to give you an immersive understanding of people and places. If you have any reading recommendations or suggestions, write to her at

The views expressed are personal

Catch every big hit, every wicket with Crick-it, a one stop destination for Live Scores, Match Stats, Quizzes, Polls & much moreExplore now!.

Continue reading with HT Premium Subscription

Daily E Paper I Premium Articles I Brunch E Magazine I Daily Infographics
Share this article
Story Saved
Live Score
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Thursday, May 30, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On