Most helpful positive review
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warmth is top
on 18 August 2014
An easy-to-read and thorough book on a fascinating subject: influence.
Strength and quality are universal dimensions that shape our judgements of others. While strength and warmth (affection) are top qualities, also involved are empathy, familiarity and love (as three different things: romantic love, sexual attraction, general feelings of attachment). The book mostly focuses on warmth and strength.
Strength and warmth are complementary, with much interplay between them (the ratios of each vary with each person). If you can only offer one, warmth is most people's most important criterion but one cold incident can downgrade their assessment. Strength worse inversely: just one demonstration goes a long way. It's usually assumed that strength/power is an opposer of love but the authors quote Martin Luther King Jr: power without love is reckless and abusive while love without power is sentimental and anemic.
The five main traits of personality determined by psychology are relevant too. Conscientiousness is a form of strength; absence of neuroticism allows self-confidence, which projects strength; agreeableness is a kind of warmth; extraversion has aspects of both warmth and strength - as does openness. Because of cultural expectations (worldwide) men need to show somewhat more strength than warmth and vice versa for women.
As well as gender, age, colour and looks all play a part in assessments of warmth and of strength. Age matters when we perceive noticeable changes in someone's level of energy, alertness and engagement with the world. The darker your colour, the cooler the perception of you (strong but cold). The baby-faced are perceived as warmer but beauty trumps all (and good looks have been found to correlate with actual strengths). Beauty is considered both warm and strong but that does not mean we admire everyone we find attractive (this is not just about looks) and in the real world beauty can be a mixed blessing.
The signals you send with your gender, ethnicity, looks and age are more or less fixed but behaviour can change. Nonverbal communication is a shortcut: when all the signals - facial expressions, posture, gestures, vocal tone, the actual words and your use of space - line up to tell a consistent story, we are convincing. (standing close is warm, keeping your distance is cold but more powerful, taking up lots of space by sprawling is powerful, head tilt is warm but not powerful, being touch averse is more powerful but less warm). Eye contact, mirroring, handshakes, hugs, gait, various parts of the body, control of the conversation, clothing and style choices, hair, are all briefly covered. Verbal strength, especially the importance of emotional validation of others, is described in some detail.
Whether to stress strength or warmth depends on your role: salesperson? manager? and on the group ("hard/hierarchical" or "soft/collaborative"? what women want, what men want and sexuality, long-term relationship goals, relationship problems, parenting, leadership, public speaking, politics, online representation are all discussed as well as how to act in a crisis:
- to project warmth: validate, express appropriate remorse and release timely, accurate information
- to project strength: express determination to fix things, express clear and thorough understanding of the problem, and explain the concrete actions you are taking to fix things