The Social Strategist: Summary & Review

The Social Strategist is a 6-chapter book on advanced social skills in which the authors, Lucio Buffalmano and Ali Scarlett, teach social skills, social strategies, and social power dynamics.

Bullet Summary

  • Position yourself as a value-giver: and build social capital to build goodwill and influence 
  • Acquire empowering mindsets: to empower your own assertiveness
  • Be high-power and high-warmth: balance being very powerful with being very friendly
  • Avoid allowing others to pull power move on you: especially when they’re very damaging
  • Stick to high-quality frames and frame control techniques

Full Summary

About The Authors:

Lucio Buffalmano holds a master’s degree from La Sapienza, department of communication and sociological research, and is an American Psychology Association (APA) member.

His approach combines science, first-hand experience & critical analysis. You can learn it all in one fell swoop with Power University.

Ali Scarlett is a bestselling author, entrepreneur, and avid researcher of the science of networking. He has studied the likes of professional sociologists, applied psychology researchers, and other business networking experts when defining his methods. He’s also one of the main contributors to this website, Power University, and power dynamics as a discipline.


Here, Buffalmano and Scarlett underline that this book is not for people without a basic, foundational understanding of social skills.

Chapter #1: How to Gain Positive Influence and Leverage Over Anyone You Want

#1: What is the Social Exchange?

Buffalmano and Scarlett: “The social exchange theory is a framework model that looks at social relationships as exchanges among individuals who seek to maximize their selfish interests…The social exchange theory starts from the proven premise that people prefer relationships that add value to their lives. These are the relationships that advance their interests, make them feel good, and generally make them better off.”

#2: How the Social Exchange Helps You

It will help you to:

  • Assess people’s character.
  • Recognize and choose givers and collaborators who make your life better.
  • Recognize and cut out the “takers” who hamper your progress.
  • Be a better friend or partner.
  • Be a better leader.

#3: How to Leverage the Social Exchange 

  • Present yourself as a value-giver
  • Build your social capital with those you want to influence

Read more on the social exchange.

Chapter #2: The Number One Quality to Gain Respect and Fairness

#1: What Is Assertiveness?

Scarlett and Buffalmano: “Assertiveness is defined in many different ways, but we believe in an assertiveness that supports emotional independence, personal empowerment, and a win-win relationship. 

So, assertiveness defined within those three elements is:

‘To state your needs, wants, feelings, and opinions clearly and directly, to respect yourself as well as others, and to influence the world around you, including other people, to reach certain goals.’

#2: Limiting Beliefs

  • “Dark” feelings such as anger and a will to power are bad to feel and show.
  • Assertiveness means getting your own way all the time.
  • Being assertive means being selfish.

#3: Empowering Beliefs

  • I am worthy of respectful behavior and communication, and so are others.
  • I’m in charge of my behavior, and others are in charge of theirs.
  • I decide for myself what I will and will not do.

#4: Assertive Communication

The first assertiveness framework taught is the “DESOE” framework (pronounced “dee·so”).

  1. D (Describe): Define the situation and what’s going on.
  2. E (Express): State how you feel in the situation.
  3. S (Specify): Describe what you would like to happen.
  4. O (Outcome): Describe what happens if they go along with your wishes and, potentially, what happens if they don’t.
  5. E (Enforce): Enforce your boundaries as needed.

As a shorter format for quick personal feedback, Scarlett condenses the DESOE assertive communication framework into only three parts. He coined it the “ESE” framework (pronounced “easy”):

  1. Express: State how you feel in the situation.
  2. Specify: Describe what you would like to happen.
  3. Enforce: Enforce your boundaries as needed.


Chapter #3: How to Build a Social Circle of Cool Friends, Allies, and Mentors at Will

#1: Leverage the High Power/High Warmth Matrix

Also known as the stereotype content model.

People determine whether or not they want to be around you based on how powerful you are and how friendly you are:

To keep a great chapter short, the more you can balance being very powerful with being very friendly, the more people will want to be around you.

Read more about the High Power/High Warmth Matrix.

Chapter #4: How to Overcome the Power Games People Play that Cost You Success

#1: What Are Covert Power Moves?

Here, Buffalmano provides the higher-level definitions and Scarlett shares the “simplified” definitions for ease of comprehension: 

Power Dynamics:

  • High-Level Definition: “the science of power negotiation among people and groups, as well as the strategies that facilitate the acquisition of resources and the achievement of goals.”
  • Simplified Definition: “the process by which an individual gets (or can get) what they want in a given setting.”

Power Move:

  • High-Level Definition: “A power move is any action that affects the power dynamics of an interaction.”
  • Simplified Definition: “any action that affects the flow of power in a given setting.”

Covert Power Move:

  • High-Level Definition: “Any action or combination of words that on the surface seems neutral, apologetic, even value-adding, while actually increasing the power and/or status of the speaker, and potentially disempowering the victim.”
  • Simplified Definition: “a hidden power move.”

#2: Chapter Highlights

  • People may try to pull a value-taking power move on you to channel the power away from you toward them, leaving you lower-power and lower status (and, low-value, as a result).
  • They may try to pull these power moves by judging you or by knocking you down a peg socially while hiding behind a cover such as it only being a “joke.”


Chapter #5: How to Win More Negotiations with Advanced Frame Control Techniques

#1: What Is a Frame?


  • Higher-Level: “a set of beliefs, values, perspectives, and personal predispositions with which people filter and interpret the world.”
  • Simplified: “the lens with which we view the world and situations within it.”

#2: Chapter Highlights

  • You can influence the lens people look through so they see you in a better light (so they see you as higher power). 
  • You can also influence people’s lenses so they see giving you a “yes” as a win for them.
  • Frame control techniques can be used for negotiating business deals, relationship situations, and any opportunity for persuading others.

Read “10 Frame Control Techniques to Out-Frame Anyone” and:

Chapter #6: Next Steps

This chapter shares techniques for managing job seeker power dynamics in interviews and handling trap questions as well as negotiating refunds.

The authors then share an inspirational story closer to the end.

the social strategist book cover

Real-Life Applications

  • Work to achieve more status, authority, and financial power while rooting out your submissive behaviors and adding more high-power behavior.

Most people struggle to reach the high-power side of the HP/HW matrix, whether that’s by balancing their friendliness to avoid coming across as “too nice”, raising their status in social groups, or even simply being more assertive.

Focus on increasing your power and you’ll put yourself above the masses of other people (who are lacking in power dynamics) when it comes to getting that promotion, attracting that mate, and even building strong relationships with high-status elites.


  • Only an introduction

This book only gives you a taste of the wisdom you’ll find in Power University.

  • Omits darker topics

The authors withhold covering some aspects of human nature that are often looked down upon, such as Machiavellianism, manipulation, and psychopathy.


  • Covers the exceptions

For example, many communication skills authors endorse assertiveness as the best communication style for all situations.

However, there are cases when passiveness and aggression are better suited and this book ventures into those exceptional cases.

  • End of chapter summaries

There are recaps at the end of each chapter to give you an overview of the biggest takeaways.

  • End of chapter action steps

To take the theoretical, abstract information, and translate it into real-life applications.


The Social Strategist is a unique resource in the self-development and social skills genre because it ties together the true basics of social success with the more advanced notions and skills.

That means, the book gives you a solid overview of the full “empowerment skyscraper”, from the foundations to your next-level floors of power.

What also makes The Social Strategist stand out, and this is 50% a compliment to the book and 50% an indictment to the industry, is that many of both the foundational and advanced concepts are new or semi-new.

Of all the books on self-development, social skills, power and strategies that we’ve gone through, not a single one of them had more than a passing mention to, say, personal value and value exchanges; frames and frame control; social power dynamics of everyday life.

And these are all foundational topics for any real effort of self-development and personal empowerment.
Glad there is now a book that tackles those basics.

So, in brief, with our own readily admitted bias, we can highly recommend The Social Strategist to most readers beginners or advanced alike.

Check the best social skills books, or get the book on Amazon.

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