THE TURN-ON by Steven Goldstein


How the Powerful Make Us Like Them--From Washington to Wall Street to Hollywood
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An examination of likability in media, politics, and business.

In his debut book, Goldstein draws from his multifaceted careers as a TV producer, congressional attorney, political consultant, and LGBTQ civil rights leader to probe the dynamics of widespread appeal in the public eye. He opens his insightful analysis with a real-life example of reputation preservation when he was contacted by Osama bin Laden’s half brother seeking assistance in saving the family name. Goldstein defines likability as a collection of the qualities that “welcome us into a satisfying emotional relationship” with another. As he notes, all of us can use these traits to encourage an appealing reaction from others. He calls the recognition of these key features “likeability literacy” and lucidly describes how outward appeal can enchant and captivate, much akin to falling in love, but it can also be important for companies to embrace it to ensure profitability and customer loyalty. In terms of public personalities, Goldstein points out specific characteristics shared by figures like Benjamin Franklin, who instinctually engaged his constituents through uplifting stories; Ellen DeGeneres, a relatable celebrity who captured a nation’s attention with a live Oscar telecast selfie, America’s sweetheart Betty White; and social justice advocate Malala Yousafzai. These and many others, Goldstein acknowledges, have garnered positive attention and greatly enthralled followers while a noted lack of these likable traits can cause popularity quotients (and stocks) to sink and elections to be lost. Goldstein’s expertise shines most in his delineations of eight classic likability traits and how each factors into and cultivates our impressions, opinions, and takeaways of others, particularly public figures like CEOs, world leaders, and celebrities. He breaks down each trait and pinpoints their individual strengths and durability within the arena of today’s hypercritical, impressionable culture, stressing the conclusive perception that “likeability is leverage.” An oddly tempting self-assessment analysis encourages readers to measure their own overall appeal.

A psychologically provocative study on the gravity of charm, charisma, and outward impressions.

Pub Date: Oct. 22nd, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-06-291169-8
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Harper Business
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2019