Influence: Mastering Life's Most Powerful Skill

Course No. 5972
Professor Kenneth G. Brown, Ph.D.
The University of Iowa
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Course No. 5972
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Examine a model for successful influence - and the pitfalls that can result if influence is used incorrectly.
  • numbers Build effective negotiation skills for both work and home.
  • numbers Discover leadership qualities that will help you lead through both major transitions and everyday decisions.

Course Overview

Influence and persuasion aren’t just abstract concepts of interest exclusive to psychologists and sociologists. Rather, they’re a fundamental part of your everyday life. Whether you realize it or not, you’re constantly surrounded by people and groups trying to influence the way you think, act, and feel.

But you don’t have to let influence just happen to you. Instead of merely following the will of others, you can actively take charge of your decisions—and your life—by grasping the science behind how influence works and by strengthening your own skills at influence and persuasion. And whether you’re in the corporate boardroom or at the family dinner table, you’ll find yourself reaping a wealth of rewards when it comes to the myriad ways you interact with other people and groups on a daily basis.

To master the art and craft of influence, the most powerful skill a person in 21st-century society can have, is to

  • vastly increase your chances of achieving your particular goals, both at work and at home;
  • strengthen your ability to persuade supervisors, coworkers, family members, and others that your opinions are the right ones;
  • enhance the effectiveness with which you negotiate, shop, speak to groups, and engage in other activities; and
  • protect yourself from the machinations of con artists and others who would use the tools of influence to your detriment.

Now, in Influence: Mastering Life’s Most Powerful Skill, discover everything you need to tap into the hidden powers of influence and persuasion—and use them to enhance your personal and professional life in ways you never thought possible. Delivered by award-winning Professor Kenneth G. Brown of The University of Iowa, an expert in management and a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources, these 12 lectures will teach you in clear and accessible language how and why influence works. Packed with eye-opening scientific and sociological experiments, case studies from fields including business and politics, practical exercises to test your skills, and more, this course will show you how to harness the power of influence at home, at work, at the store, in your social life, and anywhere else you may need it.

Learn the Foundation of How to Influence

Your ability to successfully influence others—including your children, your spouse, or your boss—is rooted in how well you can grasp and use the four fundamental components of any influence attempt. To help you, Professor Brown introduces what he calls the ATTiC model, which represents these four elements.

  • Agents: These are the individuals or groups who are doing the influencing. What makes them so successful? What makes them fail? You’ll see how the seemingly magical ability to win people over involves specific characteristics such as physical appearance, charisma, trustworthiness, and membership in a shared group.
  • Targets: The individual or group you’re hoping to influence is called your target—and some people and groups are more likely to be persuaded (or tricked) than others. One characteristic that may surprise you: age. Studies show that targets who are young adults or older adults are more prone to being easily influenced than others.
  • Tactics: What methods and strategies of influence are more likely to increase your target’s chances of commitment? Professor Brown’s insights into influential tactics provide you with numerous tools, including rational persuasion, which involves putting forth specific ideas for why a particular course of action is the best way forward.
  • Context: Contextual clues—such as scarcity of goods and the power of authority—are shortcuts that our brain uses to make sense of our social world and to make what are generally quite good decisions. You’ll learn which of these psychological processes are under our control and which aren’t.

More than just a helpful acronym, the “ATTiC” model is the perfect metaphor for just how powerful (and often overlooked) these components are. “The four factors are much like the attic of a house,” Professor Brown notes. “It’s always there doing what it does, even when no one thinks about it. In the same way, the factors that make us susceptible to influence are built into our basic psychology.”

Discover Where—And How—Inluence Works

From there, you’ll explore some of the many scientific and real-world applications of influence in your everyday life. With the aid of eye-opening research on psychology and sociology, historical examples from politics and business, and several in-depth case studies, you’ll get solid guidelines and tips for how to become a more influential person—and how to resist influence attempts when it’s in your best interests to do so.

With his vivid teaching style, Professor Brown shows you how influence operates in several areas of life you may or may not have considered, such as these:

  • Impression management, which involves constructing and cultivating your own personal “brand” to strengthen your influential authority at work
  • Sales, where the best tactics to increase your chances of getting a sale (and a better tip) include being genuinely interested in others, remembering names, and, easiest of all, smiling
  • Negotiation, where it’s important to use influence not just to get what you want but to make sure you and your negotiating partner feel satisfied that the results are fair
  • Public speaking, where big business speeches or small family pep talks can benefit from a focus on the positives and a demonstration of good will toward your audience.

You’ll also get an expert’s insights into the ethics surrounding influence, and how you can use these extraordinary tools to responsibly further your goals without becoming Machiavellian.

Practical Applications for a Practical Skill

“Influence is a practical topic,” notes Professor Brown, adding that “you’ll find many opportunities to apply what I present in this course to your everyday routines and interactions.”

To do so, each lecture concludes with a couple of simple exercises and tasks that will help illuminate what you’ve learned about influence and will increase your confidence in using the tools of successful influencers.

  • Next time you’re at a restaurant, learn your server’s name and use it when addressing him or her. Also, make sure to smile. See if these efforts affect the quality of the service you receive.
  • When you enter a negotiation where you hope for mutual agreement, use words like “we” and “us” and see whether it creates a difference in the other party’s approach to the deal.
  • When someone you don’t know tries to gain your confidence, adopt the Russian proverb of “trust but verify” by double-checking his or her story against an additional source.

These and other exercises are just a small part of the overall learning experience you’ll get from Professor Brown, a management expert whose ability to teach to a range of audiences—from college students to corporate professionals to laypeople—has won him a wealth of awards and accolades, including The University of Iowa’s highest teaching honor: the President and Provost Award for Teaching Excellence.

His lectures will enlighten you, challenge you, inspire you, and possibly even transform you into a savvier participant in the often overlooked ways that everyday life influences us. With the insights, tools, and tips in Influence: Mastering Life’s Most Powerful Skill, you’ll be able to use influence on behalf of any professional or personal goal, or for any cause that is near and dear to your heart.

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12 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    A Model for Successful Influence
    To strengthen your influential powers, you first have to grasp what makes an influence attempt successful. Professor Brown introduces you to several concepts you’ll return to throughout the lectures, including the possible outcomes of persuasive efforts (conflict, compliance, commitment) and the factors that determine these outcomes (agent, target, tactics, context). x
  • 2
    Characteristics of Influential Agents
    What is it about someone that makes him or her so persuasive? Take a closer look at agents: those people doing the influencing. You’ll learn what characteristics an influential agent has (including beauty, trustworthiness, and charisma) and you’ll see how these characteristics play out in a range of real-world situations. x
  • 3
    The Dark Side of Influence
    Some people use the tools of influence to cheat others. Here, delve into what researchers call the “dark triad” of personality characteristics that lead influential people to exploit others: Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy. Not only will you understand their motivations—you’ll be able to recognize them before they exploit you. x
  • 4
    Characteristics of Suggestible Targets
    In this lecture, discover what makes some targets more susceptible to influence. Who among us is more likely to be tricked or convinced? What roles do suggestibility, motivation, and even age play in how good of a target we can be? And what can you do to be less susceptible? x
  • 5
    Influence Tactics—Hard and Soft
    Turn to two general tactical methods involved in influencing others, each with its own pros and cons. The first: soft tactics, such as persuading with emotion and offering something in exchange. The second (and more threatening): hard tactics such as making a reference to formal authority or building a coalition. x
  • 6
    How to Make the Most of Soft Tactics
    Soft tactics don’t always work. Find out why by looking at two factors that affect how tactics work: the agent’s power base and political skill. By the end of this illuminating lecture, you’ll also come away with several takeaways that can increase the success rate of your soft influence tactics. x
  • 7
    How Context Shapes Influence
    Explore how contextual cues can shape your attempts to influence others. You’ll focus on three: scarcity, authority, and social proof—all of which can occur naturally or as part of an agent’s tactic for success. You’ll also learn how to use this deeper awareness of context to your advantage. x
  • 8
    Practicing Impression Management
    Discover how to shape the perception others have of you and strengthen your chances of influencing them in the future. Professor Brown guides you through several impression management tactics involving self-promotion and ingratiation, and reveals the practical lessons to be learned from several individuals who’ve successfully managed their personal “brand.” x
  • 9
    Selling and Being Sold
    Sales and service situations are all too frequent in our lives. What characteristics make someone a fantastic salesperson? How can you apply the concepts of influence to get a better experience—and deals—in your sales encounters? For answers, your case study is a purchase many of us find stressful: buying a car. x
  • 10
    Delivering Effective Speeches
    Who doesn’t want to be less nervous and more persuasive when speaking in front of groups? Professor Brown shows you how to do this by drawing on insights from the ancient world (through the classical rhetoricians Aristotle and CIcero) and the modern world (with effective tips from author Dale Carnegie). x
  • 11
    Developing Negotiation Skills
    Head to the negotiating table and master the art of making a successful deal. Here, you’ll examine two core strategies helpful for maneuvering delicate negotiation settings: position-based strategies (which focus on a concrete position to obtain) and principle-based strategies (which seek mutually beneficial solutions through underlying interests). x
  • 12
    Becoming a Transformational Leader
    Conclude this lecture series with a fascinating discussion of leaders and effective leadership. By studying the leadership qualities of people such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Nelson Mandela, and Interface, Inc. CEO Ray Anderson, you’ll come away with much to inspire you the next time you assume a leadership role. x

Lecture Titles

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What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Download 12 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 12 lectures on 2 DVDs
  • 112-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 112-page course synopsis
  • Photographs
  • Influence activities
  • Real-world scenarios

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Your professor

Kenneth G.  Brown

About Your Professor

Kenneth G. Brown, Ph.D.
The University of Iowa
Dr. Kenneth G. Brown is Professor of Management and Organizations and Henry B. Tippie Research Fellow in the Henry B. Tippie College of Business at The University of Iowa. He also serves as Professor of Educational Policy and Leadership Studies in the College of Education and is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources. Professor Brown earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at...
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Influence: Mastering Life's Most Powerful Skill is rated 3.9 out of 5 by 80.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course. I really enjoyed the course. The professor did a great job of developing exercises to apply the principals outlined. I found the lectures to be interesting and helpful.
Date published: 2018-05-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Thought provoking I found this course very thought provoking in helping me to identify ways sales persons use to influence people. It is far easier to resist an unscrupulous salesman when you recognise the methods and reasons for the way they act as they do. I found it helpful also in dealing with persons I need to help me, such as waiters or telephone representatives who I need to fix a problem on my account. I have tried his listed methods and do see that using a persons name or having things in common can make a stranger try much harder to help you.
Date published: 2018-03-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Numerous accessible references/suggested reading Curious as to whether the power of influence can be reduced to words and theories, I bought. Am pleased that yes, the power of influence and the related characteristic we know as charisma can indeed be taught and recognized.
Date published: 2017-11-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from If Only I Took This Course Sooner! I wish I had taken a course on influence while I was in college over 20 years ago! There's no telling how different the first half of my career would have been if I had this information before entering the workforce. But better late than never, and this course is excellent! I learned so much valuable information that I know will make the second half of my career so much better than the first half. Great professor and an excellent course! It's really a "must have" if you want to succeed in business, or even in life!
Date published: 2017-06-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from what you should buy I was duly impressed with the content and the quality of the presentation. The course guide book is excellent to support the DVD.
Date published: 2017-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The added slides to the modules was a nice touch! I was pleased with the professionalism and the content of the course.
Date published: 2017-05-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent! Excellent presenter, clear, documented content. Wish I had known this when I started my career!
Date published: 2017-05-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good to Know Information I listened to this while driving in my car. It is easy to understand and kept my attention. Lots of workplace tips I can put into action immediately.
Date published: 2017-02-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from useful I was impressed by the presentation of clinical studies showing how we're so vulnerable to influence from a variety of unexpected sources. Good documentation by clinical studies, rather than just opinion. I was surprised how much I didn't know
Date published: 2017-02-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Easy to follow instructions. helped me review my math studies and learn equations.
Date published: 2017-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great advice I enjoy this series. Helps me with work related stress and other things.
Date published: 2017-01-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Influence: Mastering Life's Most Powerful Skill This is my first course from The Great Courses. I downloaded the audio and listened to lectures on my way to work each day. Expectations: I expected to hear 30 minute lectures from a college professor who was good and knowledgeable about the course topic. I had hoped to become more familiar with influence and persuasion, as well as be able to improve my ability to influence. I did not expect it to be geared towards either of business or school as other reviewers indicate. I did not expect to become an expert at negotiation (I believe there is another course on that topic). Presentation: I enjoyed Dr. Browns presentation style immensely. He usually starts with a story to visualize what his next point would be. He presented at a speed that allowed me to drive while I listened. His choice of wording was extremely well thought through. He also gives "action items" on how to practice each of the topics. Content: The content for me, was perfect. I am human and, like all of us, have had different experiences with influence. His examples worked well for me to identify when a particular type of influence was being used on me and the positives and negatives about each type. Results: I was very pleased with this lecture series. Influence has always been familiar to me but I did not understand it on a clinical level. Dr. Brown has explained the different types of influence in an organized, well described way. There are other resources I will use (based on his references) to fill in for personal skills like "negotiating" or "charisma". For me, this is a part of the whole to improving myself.
Date published: 2016-12-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Totally worthy I enjoyed the way the professor presents the information. He uses examples that are so clear and easy to understand. I also acknowledge the resources that support the explanations in the DVD, such as images, concepts and researchers whose names show on the screen when mentioned
Date published: 2016-12-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely a 'Great Course' Especially liked Charisma subject matter - very actionable My favorite - Leadership session... very inspiring thanks !
Date published: 2016-11-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Love the courses, downloads FAR too painful. OK, first, this is a good course. Good content and the presenter is engaging. HOWEVER, having to download each and every track, one at a time is becoming far too painful. It is keeping me from ordering the large courses with 90+ tracks. The Bach course I bought years ago was 30 CDs, how many tracks is that and whose has time to download 300 individual tracks? Come on Great Courses, get it together and give us a better way to download AND give you sincere feedback!
Date published: 2016-11-11
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Smooth presentation but thin content Professor Brown’s presentation is smooth but the pace of this course is slow and the material much too thin. The course might be appropriate for an introductory sales training seminar for inexperienced new hires or maybe a high school senior or college freshman course in psychology or business administration but for anyone with even a small amount of real life experience selling, buying, negotiating, etc. there is probably not much here that you don’t already know, at least intuitively (always have a firm handshake, smile a lot, look for a win/win in negotiations). I also thought the material suffered from some unfortunate omissions. For example, there was no mention of the insights that have emerged from recent studies in behavioral economics on how best to influence individuals and groups. Worse, the influence of pricing and price strategies on both buyers and sellers is completely ignored. Perceived monetary value is a driving force in a great many personal or business decisions. Anyone attempting to influence the behavior and decision-making of individuals or groups needs to be fully aware of the complex psychological reactions to cost, price and value most people have when making buying, selling or management decisions. I also have to comment on the video production. The camera cuts pretty much drove me crazy, especially in the first two lectures. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Things settled down a bit as the course went on and nobody wants to watch a speaker who is completely immobile but this production want way too far in the other direction. I solved the problem by listening to the soundtrack while doing other computer work. In retrospect I should have ordered the audio version instead of the video and I would recommend that to anyone considering this course.
Date published: 2016-10-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Influence: Mastering Life's Most Powerful Skill This course (if it can be called that) should be called '' A scholarly litany of influence related academic research experiments'' plus some side anecdotes. It's tiresome to sit through and lacking in practical day-to-day examples, useful to many professionals out there trying to sharpen up business/personal interactions. ''Mastery'' is a misnomer, though I'd agree it makes for a better selling title, misleading as it is. This course over promises and under delivers. I could give a long list of shortcomings but in short, it looks like The Great Courses don't understand their educated, critical thinking audience.
Date published: 2016-10-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very in-depth and detailed This course will teach you how to think not what to think. I will be applicable in any areas, and it is also a good value in making sure you are not being "moved and don't even know it". Highly valuable for every person, even more so in the business world, on both sides of the table.
Date published: 2016-09-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A fundamental understanding This course provides a fundamental understanding to what we take for granted every day. Many things we assume are beneficial to negotiation and this course lays it out to set our expectations. I have not fully completed the course but so far half of it I find very productive and useful for daily negotiation.
Date published: 2016-09-16
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Looking For More Very superficial look at influence. I was expecting to learn something tangible! Topics and key content are not expounded upon.
Date published: 2016-08-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best lecture series I purchased. Succinct and to the point, simple but extremely helpful.
Date published: 2016-08-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent! Very well presented and enjoyed having the information in the included booklet. Great for training too! Thanks!
Date published: 2016-08-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Nice methodical survey Catchy, lots of bites, but I thought more technical advice would be available. The move from Cicero to "How to win friends..." Was a bit of a stretch. That and the transformational leadership lecture. That said, I listened to it all, and the professor's preparation was evident.
Date published: 2016-02-15
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Too Cheesy for me I expected more science but I felt I was in a sales seminar. As of this writing, all of my previous experiences with the Great Course's content was just marvelous, so I guess the bar had been set pretty high. However, this course failed to deliver and after the first lecture or so, I began to feel like I wouldn't learn as much as I had hoped. The model adopted was just one way (of probably many) of characterizing influence, and it lacked the hard science and research which I was looking for. I would go so far as to explore whether it's possible to get a refund. The delivery and presentation by the lecturer was fine, so didn't have problems there. Just with the content.
Date published: 2016-02-01
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Lacked useful practial skills The course presented many facts about influence. Was very weak showing or demonstrating the use of powerful influence to enhance skills for both business and daily life.
Date published: 2016-01-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Influence: Mastering Life Most Powerful Skill I just finished watching the course online and found it to be very helpful. I definitely learned some new techniques for dealing with people.
Date published: 2016-01-30
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Influence course is too general I didn't feel this course taught very practical skills, just gave interesting facts. This is not the first Great Courses purchase I've made but it will likely be my last. Other courses I bought were too general but I thought I'd give this a chance since this is a very different topic than I've bought before. . I was expecting a course that would teach skills to improve my ability to persuade with hard and soft tactics. Instead it talked about why soft tactics are better to gain commitment. The psychology of why certain people are more or less easily persuaded to go along with an action was interesting but what I was hoping this course would teach me were skills to better influence a really tough negotiator or someone very difficult to influence.
Date published: 2016-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Influence: Mastering Life's Most Powerful Skill This course includes great tactics, beliefs and strategies for being more persuasive!
Date published: 2016-01-29
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Rather thin This course was a disappointment. Some of the real life examples used were not well chosen. The constant theme of relating studies done on college students became tiresome quickly. In the presentation of the course vocal emphasis placed on random words was distracting. The actual content seemed rather thin for a college course.
Date published: 2016-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Important skill to master Everyone needs a working knowledge of effective communications for enhancing your personal and business relationships. Just as important is creating an acute awareness of how the salesmen, the media and politicians use the tools discussed in these lectures to shape our opinions and viewpoints. A book written in the 1950s or early 1960s, titled A Nation of Sheep, made a huge impression on me when I young even though at the time I didn’t know anything about propaganda techniques. The theme of this book was how Americans are easily persuaded and manipulated without even realizing it by unscrupulous politicians. While propaganda is the dark-side of influence, it is more important today than ever to realize how it is being used and misused. This lecture series does a good job of covering the basics, emphasizing the moral issues of improperly using influence techniques and providing supporting results from recent behavioral studies. I would encourage anyone to watch this lecture series to increase awareness of how to use and avoid being abused by “influence”. I would also recommend looking up the Widipedia article on propaganda which discusses a considerably wider range of propaganda techniques. I would certainly be interested in a follow-on, in-depth course on propaganda and “messaging” techniques including a section on what is called “risk communications” (messaging in high-stress situations, such as media interviews and town hall meetings).
Date published: 2015-11-27
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