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Reader's Review, August 2013

By John D. Baker

Maximum Influence: The 12 Universal Laws of Power Persuasion

By Kurt W. Mortensen
247pp. New York: AMACOM, 2013
Soft cover (USA) $17.95

Kurt Mortensen has spent almost twenty years as a consultant, trainer and student of the performance skills of outstanding leaders. During that time, Mr. Mortensen has published several books on the qualities which create extraordinary leadership performance: Persuasion IQ, Laws of Charisma, and Maximum Influence. In 2004, the year of its publication, Maximum Influence was recognized by the Library Journal as Business Book of the Year. This review marks a recognition of another milestone for Maximum Influence: the publication of its Second Edition.

Kurt Mortensen holds a B.A. degree in Communications/Advertising from Brigham Young University. In 1993, he received an MBA degree in Marketing and Consumer Behavior from the University of Pittsburgh.

Mr. Mortensen's work has long centered on understanding and presenting techniques based in the art of persuasion as the principal fundamental attribute required for leadership success. He is an expert in influencing others in order to affect their behavior.

This book is about the methods of persuasion that leaders can use to maximize their influence on the behaviors of others. It is a work of interest to negotiators, of course, for they are engaged often in convincing others to change their positions in many endeavors.

Mortensen begins his book by citing a most impressive finding by the Carnegie Foundation which, he tells us, attributes eighty-five percent of business success to skill in persuasion (p.1). Alas, I could not find any detail in the citation that permitted this reviewer to identify and research this extraordinary claim. I found this source omission most unfortunate for such a major assertion on the main theme of the book itself.

Whether this claim is correct, of course, has to remain a subject for debate between such common variables such as inherited wealth, luck, planning, invention, etc. Whatever the magnitude of the contribution of persuasion skill may be leadership success, there is no doubt that it is an important component of successful business leadership. This book, the author promises his readers, "supplies a complete toolbox of effective persuasion techniques" (p. 10). What, then, will we learn?

Kurt Mortensen has organized his work into a clear and helpful form that permits readers to easily access and understand a vast array of material. The author presents his reader with 12 Laws of Persuasion, each combining dozens of elements into their definition, operative truths, and working techniques. These topics or "laws" include such areas as: The Law of Connectivity; The Law of Obligation; The Law of Scarcity and nine more special areas.

By way of illustration, let us focus briefly on one of his topical areas: The Law of Connectivity. Its format is representative of the author's overall method of presentation. Mortensen begins with a definition of the law, moves to the principal components that comprise it, and then moves deeper into each element's sub-topics. This is Mortensen's template for each of his laws. It works. Along the way, you will learn a wide range of skills, discover how to use them and strengthen your own negotiating knowledge.

Many of the topics will be familiar ones, others will be new, but their strategic values and their applications as techniques are well-considered. For example, The Law of Connectivity tells us a lot about ourselves and about those with whom we deal. We learn, for example, that physically attractive people are often more successful in persuading others in large part due to their possession of a "Halo effect" that makes others imagine their physical beauty that also encompasses other admirable traits ranging from kindness through trustworthiness to superior intelligence. We learn also that this same law of connectivity causes us to endow individuals who act and look like ourselves with increased perceived likability that may totally undeserved. In essence we admire and trust ourselves and those we deem most like us more than those who seem more foreign to us.

This is a book all negotiators need to know and understand. It provides a portrait and a how-to-manual about persuasion and influence. Persons we encounter may or may not be quite what they seem at all. Even we may be perceived differently than we wish or even realize. We need to understand that dimension.

We also need to determine whether we should develop such techniques ourselves. Should we feign similarity to achieve advantage? Why? Because it works. Should we do such things? This work suggests we can and why it works. Should we as individuals know these techniques? Of course, we need to defend against them if nothing more. Should we employ these techniques? This book leaves the ethical issues to the reader. It suggests only their existence, their power and their possibilities. You, in this reviewer's opinion, need to know them also. This is a book that will allow you to do just that.

Highly Recommended.

John D. Baker, Ph.D.

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The Negotiator Magazine  August 2013 Copyright © 2013 The Negotiator Magazine