• David de Souza

The Forbidden Keys to Persuasion Summary

Updated: Apr 8


The knowledge from this book could be dangerous in the wrong hands. My favorite takeaway was: When we forgo judgment and instead entertain the idea that people’s actions make sense given their own sense of mortality and their own interpretation of reality, we are well on the way to understanding them. Want to dig deeper than the core principles? Check out:

Core Principles


I have taken the lessons from 'The Forbidden Keys to Persuasion' and distilled them into 14 core principles:


  1. Use incongruity theory to gain peoples attention

  2. Don't ask people what they want. For example, most people would say they want more positive news on TV. Men say that they want an intelligent woman but would rather have an attractive one.

  3. Groups are maintained and strengthened by focusing their member's attention on another rival group.

  4. Play games you can't lose by having multiple ways you can win. An ad that has the opportunity to include partners' products which will improve the relationship, even if the ad does not work.

  5. When we forgo judgment and instead entertain the idea that people’s actions make sense given their own sense of mortality and their own interpretation of reality, we are well on the way to understanding them.

  6. Even though we consider ourselves rational animals we are rationalizing animals. Experts say that over 99% of our behavior is simply the result of conditioned responses.

  7. People resist unwelcome attempts to persuade them. People can't resist what they do not notice.

  8. People sometimes doubt what they are told but they never doubt what they conclude.

  9. Physical needs are the foundation of Maslow's pyramid and can take priority over our safety. Mental engagement can override them. For Example, We can be starving hungry and then something distracts us and we don't notice the hunger.

  10. Lawyers use jargon that we don't understand. If we do not understand the problem we are at their mercy.

  11. It relieves discomfort when you can show people there is a pattern.

  12. People who set our minds at ease because we think the world can be understood are label makers. Example: The doctor who is able to describe what is going on in your body.

  13. Those who give us the greatest sense of power gain more loyalty than those who demand it.

  14. People all have similar psychological needs:

  • They need to feel needed

  • They need a sense of hope when dealing with a difficult situation

  • They need a scapegoat

  • They need to be noticed and understood

  • They need to know things others (and they) aren't supposed to know. Ask a favor, make people feel important. Share a secret. Make a confession

  • They need to be right. The instance someone feels like they are trying to be changed they feel they are "wrong" and resist.

  • They need a sense of power. Give people a limited set of options that you decide


Let me know how these summaries can be improved? Contact me via Email (david@thisdomain.co) or on Twitter



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