The act, or better said - the art of persuasion, has been around since the beginning of time, but with the appearance of various disciplines and schools of thought it’s been, and still is, constantly (re)defined and expanded.
That said, many struggle to interpret this concept as they don’t realize we use persuasive skills on a daily basis - both consciously and unconsciously.
At Skillsprout, we simply believe no one is immune to persuasion - it’s just how we (un)intentionally function and communicate as human beings. However, we do believe we can become better at persuading as well as recognize when we're being persuaded.
And that’s precisely what we’re hoping to achieve with this article (apart from brushing up on some persuasion basics!). Plus, we’ve included both aspects to assist you even further (when you persuade, and when you’re being persuaded) so that you know how to handle both situations better!
What Is Persuasion?
The concept of persuasion refers to the act of trying to influence someone else’s thoughts, beliefs, views, behaviors, and opinions. In essence, you’re trying to make others share your own perspective on things.
Of course, persuasion is very much dependent upon context. For instance, the persuasive skills you’ll need to possess and use in the business sector will differ from the persuasive skills used in the household. Not only do they differ in the language, overall approach, and style but they differ in how we express their intensity.
Namely, in a business context, you’ll probably try to come up with facts, arguments, and you won’t try to push the person away - you’ll try different methods to convince your clients. You may even send follow-up emails, think of various different marketing strategies, and so on.
At home, however, we tend to use much more neutral language, we pay less attention to how we sound, and we’re more upfront about our views and opinions (plus we don’t mind stating our views and being quite subjective at times).
How Do You Use Persuasion?
Persuasive skills can be expressed through written words, visual tools, spoken words, or any other medium that allows us to convey our message. Many people also use body language, facial expressions, feelings, and any other way which will help them change someone’s attitude towards a specific notion.
Here’s how Richard M. Perloff put it: persuasion is "a symbolic process in which communicators try to convince other people to change their attitudes or behaviors regarding an issue through the transmission of a message in an atmosphere of free choice." We recommend his book in one of our later sections, so do make sure to check it out!
Finally, whether persuasive skills are used for social good or for deceiving purposes depends on the “persuader”. This is up for individual interpretation too, so make sure you check out the next section where we go deeper into what persuasion is and what it isn’t based on our methodological approach.
- a skill that can be learned and further developed;
- a deliberate attempt to influence another human being;
- serving convincing arguments that fully support your claim(s);
- the act of convincing others to comply with your point of view and/or follow a suggested action/ piece of advice;
- an undertaking which oftentimes requires rightful assessment of your audience’s needs, current interests, objects, and mutual benefits;
- the ability to sway listeners/readers toward a specific perspective (and usually there is more than one option to pick from, hence the need to persuade).
- manipulative or deceitful behavior;
- telling a bunch of lies;
- spreading misinformation;
- not letting the other person state their view(s);
- any type of deceitful behavior;
- ignoring negative feedback or others’ points of view;
- neglecting facts and information that seems to diminish your argument(s);
- supporting and spreading fake news only because they fit your agenda;
- convincing others to do harm to themselves or/and do harm to others.
*at least this is what we don’t consider persuasion to be - we want to encourage our readers to identify toxic persuasive techniques in order to recognize them and stay away from them, not to apply them and engage in them even more
The History of Persuasion
Persuasion had its formal beginnings with the rhetoric and elocution in ancient Greece. All trials used to be held in front of the Assembly, so the prosecution and the defense largely depended on the level of persuasiveness the speaker displayed. Hence, persuasion was (and still is!) not only a life-saving skill but a very important one too!
For instance, Aristotle’s reasons as to why one should learn clearly illustrates this. In his treatise Rhetorica, he wrote:
Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind; the third the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself … The modes of persuasion are the only true constituents of the art: everything else is merely accessory.
There are, then, these three means of effecting persuasion. The man who is to be in command of them must, it is clear, be able (1) to reason logically, (2) to understand human character and goodness in their various forms, and (3) to understand the emotions—that is, to name them and describe them, to know their causes and the way in which they are excited.
So basically, according to Aristotle here are the three rhetorical means to achieve persuasion
- ethos (credibility);
- pathos (emotion);
- logos (reason).
Here’s how Aristotle views ethos, as the overall idea is that people tend to trust someone with a good reputation and a good standing in society:
We believe good men more fully and more readily than others: this is generally true whatever the question is, and absolutely true where exact certainty is impossible and opinions are divided … It is not true, as some writers assume in their treatise on rhetoric, that the personal goodness revealed by the speaker contributes nothing to his power of persuasions; on the contrary, his character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion he possesses.
An example of ethos:
“Woz and I started Apple in my parents’ garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30...
During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the world's first computer-animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.”
Stanford Commencement Speech by Steve Jobs. June 12, 2005
Aristotle understood pathos as a method to trigger emotions within the audience, or as he phrased it:
“Secondly, persuasion may come through the power of the hearers, when the speech stirs their emotions. Our judgments when we are pleased and friendly are not the same as when we are pained and hostile.”
An example of pathos:
"I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest - quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed."
I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King Jr. August 28th, 1963
Finally, logos highlights the importance of arguments, logic, and consistency in analytical thinking. Here’s how Aristotle explained it:
“Thirdly, persuasion is affected by the speech itself when we have proved a truth or an apparent truth by means of the persuasive arguments suitable to the case in question.”
An example of logos:
"However, although private final demand, output, and employment have indeed been growing for more than a year, the pace of that growth recently appears somewhat less vigorous than we expected. Notably, since stabilizing in mid-2009, real household spending in the United States has grown in the range of 1 to 2 percent at annual rates, a relatively modest pace. Households' caution is understandable. Importantly, the painfully slow recovery in the labor market has restrained growth in labor income, raised uncertainty about job security and prospects, and damped confidence. Also, although consumer credit shows some signs of thawing, responses to our Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey on Bank Lending Practices suggest that lending standards to households generally remain tight."
The Economic Outlook and Monetary Policy by Ben Bernanke August 27th, 2010
Robert Beno Cialdini is a psychologist, author, speaker, and professor best known for his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. In the book, he identifies six principles one should follow in order to persuade another person:
- reciprocity (occurs when the other person expects their favors will be returned) ;
- commitment/consistency (when the other takes actions which comply with their self-image) ;
- social proof (when the other person replicates the other people’s actions and behaviors);
- authority (when the other person uses their authority although the request may be sort of inadequate or inappropriate);
- liking (when the other person is misled by the person they’re fond of and admire quite a lot);
- scarcity (refers to when a specific thing becomes much more desirable when its availability is quite limited).
In 2016, Cialdini came up with a seventh principle, which he called the unity principle. What this means is that basically the more we tend to identify with others, the more we’re going to be influenced by them.
To learn more about Robert and/or his principle, as well as how to apply and identify them in practice, take a look at our online persuasion course (more about it toward the end of the article).
How we view persuasion hasn’t changed dramatically since Aristotle's times. It’s still a very relevant skill - the only thing that might have changed is the way it’s applied today. Also, we’ve come to understand that it’s relevant in a greater variety of contexts, and it’s much more practical - we no longer perceive it as solely philosophical.
Keeping this in mind, let’s take a look at some examples that illustrate the role persuasion has in our everyday lives:
- Entrepreneurs persuade investors to back their startups.
- Job candidates persuade recruiters to hire them.
- Politicians persuade people to vote for them.
- Leaders persuade employees to take specific plans of action.
- CEOs persuade analysts to write favorable reports about their companies.
- Salespeople persuade customers to choose their product over a competitor’s offering.
So, persuasion is not a skill one can learn or obtain in a specific context - it’s part of our routines, jobs, interaction, and communication with others, and the only thing we can work on is bettering it.
Persuasive skills (and persuasive words!) have been used throughout history to deliver influential speeches, to start and end wars, and to get people to act on particular ideas, but not exclusively for that.
Customers and persuasion
Let’s take a look at the world of commerce and our buying habits. Have you ever thought about what makes you buy something over something else? Why would you decide to make two products of the same thing? Why would you change your favorite brand to try out a new one on the market? Apparently, it’s all about the words used to market these “things”.
Of course, combine this with the persuasive skills of a shop assistant that knows what they’re doing or a website that provides a smooth shopping experience, and you have a winning combination. According to Mike Tyler, here are the 10 powerfully persuasive words that customers want to hear:
Free (This one is pretty much self-explanatory. Let’s face it - customers, ourselves included, are suckers for freebies.);
- Exclusive (When we make a product available to a set group, we make people feel exclusive, and well, whose ego could object to this?);
- Easy (When a product is easy to use or/and easy to assemble or set up, rest assured it’s going to be a popular one.);
- Limited (Who wouldn’t buy a limited Oreo edition? Or Milka? Lindt? You name it. It seems as though the adjective “limited” adds a whole new nuance of flavor to an otherwise very common chocolate brand. It’s the fear of missing out that’s being triggered here. In other words, when we read “limited edition” on a specific product, it feels as though it may be the biggest regret of our lives if we don’t buy it.);
- Get (HubSpot cited a test allegedly carried out by Encyclopedia Britannica where they replaced a headline that ended with a question mark with a headline that started with the word "get” and conversions doubled.);
- Guaranteed (We want a product that’s guaranteed to work. Green tea - we have to buy it if it can help us lose weight. Waxing strips - we’’ll try everything for proper hair removal, but if we find something that really works for our skin, we’ll stick to it.);
- You (the “yous” make EVERYTHING sound so personal, and it’s such a great marketing strategy that we’ll be willing to buy dog food even if we didn’t have a dog);
- Because (here’s the example that’s used to support this: "Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?" -- 60 percent allowed the person to cut in line.
"I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I am in a rush?" -- 94 percent allowed the person to cut in line.
"Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make copies?" -- 93 percent allowed the person to cut in line.
The example is taken from Cialdini’s book and it shows that using the word “because” and giving a valid reason can get you far);
- Best (What are you more keen to buy - “a tasty Swiss chocolate”, or a chocolate advertised as “the best Swiss chocolate”?);
- Compare (Before we buy something we tend to compare - for instance, if you’re buying baby diapers you’ll compare Pampers, Huggies, Up & Up Diapers, Luvs, and so on. If you want your brand to stand out, you’ll want to make sure it scores high on comparison tables and offers the best features and qualities).
Why Is Persuasion Important?
Persuasion is such a simple skill to explain, yet so versatile in reality and in practice. And that’s precisely what makes it so significant - its multi-purpose quality and the various contexts it can be found in.
Here’s why persuasion is important:
- It makes you a better and more experienced communicator.
- It’s the basis upon which each relationship (whether private or business) rests.
- Persuasion teaches you a lot about your capabilities, qualities, and skills.
- It helps you understand your country's politics better (and its politicians).
- It makes you a critical thinker.
- You’ll value arguments, and concise facts more.
- You’ll engage less in learning about conspiracy theories, unreliable sources, and untrustworthy media.
- You become a better consumer of information (you can decipher between fake news and real news, and can filter unnecessary and toxic pieces of information).
- You’ll make more efforts to get to the core of things.
- Persuasive skills help you better understand other people’s intentions toward you.
- Understanding other people’s persuasive strategies aimed at you makes you receptive to them, and therefore allows you to use them yourself at some point in the future.
- It will force you to better analyze and understand the messages being conveyed.
- You’ll be more successful at understanding your society and its citizens.
- You’ll strive to become an ethical listener, and learn when you’re being manipulated, coerced, and/or lied to.
How to Develop Persuasion?
No one is born with amazing persuasive skills. In fact, we’re not born with persuasive skills to start with. Of course, there are many aspects that influence us. As Robert B. Cialdini put it in his book The Psychology of Persuasion, “Often we don’t realize that our attitude toward something has been influenced by the number of times we have been exposed to it in the past.”
Having said that, some things and the ability to convince others may come naturally, but there are many skills and methods we need to further develop throughout life. So, how can you do it? How can you work on your persuasive skills?
Here are our suggestions:
- Engage in storytelling.
- Solve problems.
- Find common ground with others.
- Don’t lie, but learn to recognize when you’re being lied to.
- Analyze what first impression you usually leave.
- Practice understanding other people and their personalities (start with your friends and colleagues, and then proceed from there - to the baker that sold you that pretzel this morning and/or your new hairdresser).
- Learn to be persistent, yet don’t overwhelm others. Find your balance,
- Practice persuasive writing (you don’t need to be an artist or have amazing writing skills to do this - all you need is goodwill and pen and paper).
- Work on making things seem beneficial to the other party. If you skip this, then whatever you say/do/write becomes irrelevant.
- Always use arguments, whatever it is you’re claiming, suggesting, and/or saying.
- Work on your confidence and self-esteem (also, don’t forget your body language, as it can say more than all the persuasive words you may know and use). For instance, the mirroring technique is said to work wonders.
- Choose your words carefully.
- Engage in flattery and give a compliment every now and then, but don’t overdo it.
- Learn how to be truthful to yourself above all. Explain your passions in the best way possible - when we talk about things we’re truly passionate about, there’s a high chance others will be interested in hearing about them.
Examples of Persuasion in Everyday Life
For a brief moment, think about the number of advertisements you encounter on a daily basis. While you’re going to work, and listening to the radio; while scrolling through your Instagram feed and seeing all those “random” sponsored posts; while waiting for your favorite TV show to start. You can’t even begin to count them, right?
There are certain advertisements and messages which are very indirect, but many are far from subtle. You read people telling you who to vote for, which piece of clothing you need in your wardrobe, what color is trending this winter, which pizza is the best in town, and so on.
Do you know that, even back in 1997, the average American:
- spends 1550 hours of TV (and sees 100 TV ads each day)
- listens to 1160 hours of radio
- spends 290 hours reading newspapers and magazines?
If these numbers were so high back then, can you imagine what can those numbers be today? We don’t even want to speculate. Plus, if we consider the mass number of mass we have today (including social media), we’re certainly in for mind-blowing numbers.
That said, the fascinating thing is that it seems as though we want to be persuaded - we rarely unfollow people and rarely unsubscribe from channels. It’s almost as if we’ve grown used to everything we’re served with. What’s more, consider the following 2020 social media statistics to further understand the huge power social media has in influencing our decisions:
- 49% of consumers depend on influencer recommendations on social media;
- 71% of consumers who’ve had a positive experience with a brand on social media are likely to recommend the brand to their friends and family;
- 54% of social browsers use social media to research products;
- 73% of marketers believe social media marketing has been “somewhat effective” or “very effective” for the business (which again reinforces the idea of persuasive skills in a marketing context).
How to approach this?
If you’re persuading:
- ask yourself whether you sound credible to your listeners/readers;
- ensure you’re representing your company’s/brand’s values and not your own;
- think of the right tactics to attract potential buyers/visitors/clients;
- work on updating your persuasive skills at all times - what works for one thing may not work for another one.
If you’re being persuaded:
- expose yourself to sources, news, and media you’re comfortable with (as much as you can);
- earn to recognize marketing strategies and others’ persuasive skills, but don’t ignore their existence - in this sea of information and data, there is good stuff too;
- don’t trust everything you read or hear people say;
- learn to differentiate between a paid ad and an honest recommendation;
- Never take anything for granted - double-check claims, discounts, and especially things that simply sound too good to be true.
Sheena Iyengar in the Art of Choosing says:
Your choices of which clothes to wear or which soda to drink, where you live, which school to attend and what to study, and of course your profession all say something about you, and it’s your job to make sure that they are an accurate reflection of who you really are.
We’re been exposed to persuasion from a very early age. You probably remember when your parents spoon-fed you - they’ll try and convince you to eat everything because if you do you’ll get to play with your friends, eat your favorite dessert afterward, go to the park, and so on. So, they’ll come up with different methods to conceive you to eat your meal.
There are many such examples within close relationships, and they don’t stop later on in life. In fact, we just change the reasons and the methods. For instance, a couple in a relationship planning a summer holiday may struggle to reach a compromise on where to go - say the guy wants to go to Bali, but the girl wants to visit Spain. So, both will come up with reasons and facts to convince the other in the validity of their arguments. And the funny thing? Most of the time, we think of reasons to persuade others of something that’s very subjective (such as choosing your holiday destination).
Another example of persuasion within our most intimate relationships is when we talk to our partner and use words such as “we”, “us”, “our” in phrases like “it’s in the interest of OUR relationship”, or “WE need to spend OUR money in a more reasonable way”, and so on. That said, it’s usually one of the partners who believes these things, but by playing the relationship card, the other partner is more willing to accept these suggestions.
So, referencing the relationship appears to work very well to bring a date or mate around to your way of thinking. Plus, it’s said to cause both partners to perceive themselves as being very similar, thus even more compatible.
How to approach this?
If you’re persuading:
- make sure you have clear intentions toward your partner/family/friend;
- ensure you’re persuading for the right reasons (that is, you’re not trying to set up somebody or get payback for something);
- know your boundaries;
- use your persuasive skills, but don’t forget your feelings toward the person you’re talking to (especially if it’s a close family member or an intimate partner);
- learn to take “no” for an answer;
- appreciate the other person’s thoughts, views, and feedback.
If you’re being persuaded:
- before you decide whether you fully agree with the other person make sure you’re being as objective as you can (and yes, we absolutely understand it’s difficult to be impartial when it comes to close relationships, but that’s why it’s even more important to try);
- have respect toward yourself and be ready to reject any suggestion if you find it offending, intimidating, or unreliable (just because someone is your close friend or a family member doesn’t mean they always know what’s best for you);
- ask yourself if accepting the other person’s suggestion(s) is in your best interest (or only in that person’s best interest);
- make sure your ethical values aren’t compromised;
- see beyond the speaker’s persuasive skills.
Making a Purchase
Let’s face it - we’ve all had at least one purchasing experience where we couldn’t get away from that annoying shop assistant. You may be followed around the shop as if you’re trying to steal something, they might convince you the shirt you’ve tried on looks fabulous on you (although in reality, you might as well look like a potato in it), and/or they’re claiming they have the same product at home and they’ve never used a better one so you HAVE TO buy it too!
We’ve all been there. These are all examples of persuasive skills - sometimes done deliberately, other times because we’re trying to compliment someone or because that’s the way people tend to communicate.
That said, many times shopping (of whichever kind) can be a pleasant experience: a shop assistant may reveal they’re having an upcoming sale, so they tell you to come next week and buy the sneakers you’ve been eyeing for a long time then; you may get told to wait for the new arrival of clothes, as they’ll have more choice then; a shop assistant may tell you how to wash your new expensive boots without destroying them, and so on.
In other words, during the whole purchasing experience, you may face different aspects and facets of the same process - and there’s no escaping it. Even if you try to buy stuff online to skip the human interaction, you may find things even worse. You get bombarded with abandoned cart emails, you receive constant notifications about an upcoming sale, and so on.
Overall, when buying stuff, don’t think that you’re getting persuaded or dissuaded all the time, as it will only drive you crazy. At the end of the day, you’re the one with the money, and it’s your call where and how you get to spend them.
Also, sometimes it’s important to take a leap of faith - if you buy a pretzel from the local bakery and you get told that these are fresh although it’s the middle of the day, you won’t know whether you're being sold something that the baker is trying to get “rid of” because it’s everything but fresh, or they’re really paying attention to their customers and want to leave a good impression.
Ultimately, there’s only one way to know - you go and buy that pretzel and once you taste it you’ll know whether you’ll be coming back to that bakery again or not.
How to approach this?
If you’re persuading:
- avoid being intrusive and overly dominant - allow your client to reach a decision on their own;
- understand your buyers' needs (as Guy Kawasaki says: “we were so enchanted by our own product that we could not understand why everyone else did not feel the same way. [...] That’s when I learned that one must understand what people are thinking, feeling, and believing in order to enchant them”);
- make eye contact;
- be friendly and inviting, but respect the other person’s private space;
- always work on improving your sales persuasive skills;
- appeal to the buyers’ needs (don’t forget “word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20 percent to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions”, as suggested in Jonah Berger’s Contagious: Why Things Catch On, so make sure you have a product and service worth recommending);
- pay attention to your body language, but don’t forget the buyer’s body language too;
- avoid sounding vague and incoherent.
If you’re being persuaded:
- know when you’re being manipulated into buying vs when you are the one who wants to buy something;
- keep your objectivity (for instance, when we like the person that’s trying to sell us something, we definitely tend to lower our guard and are more willing to make a purchase);
- ask relevant questions if you aren’t sure about something;
- try negotiating (for more on how to be a better negotiator, check out our online negotiation course);
- know what you want - you’re less than likely to be persuaded to buy something you don’t really want/need, but also keep an open mind - you might be introduced with something even better than what you initially planned to buy.
People are suckers for numbers, statistics, percentages, and everything in between. They feel that if they see a piece of information that contains a number, a specific date, or some measurable quantity, then the information appears to be more credible, and therefore more believable.
While there are certainly tons of articles, research papers, and posts that support this, there’s also the possibility that those numbers are used to convey incomplete information. For example, in his book How to Lie with Statistics, Michael Steele explains there are several tactics used to obscure the relevance of stats such as:
- Biased sampling. This involves polling a non-representative group (a survey that finds “41% of retail bank customers would use mobile banking if it were available,” is obsolete when you discover the survey polled people who were just on their mobile devices);
- Small sample sizes. Choosing a proper sample size is not easy, but statements, like “14% of companies plan to deploy cloud-based email this year” becomes dubious when the sample size consists of only 24 companies;
- Poorly-chosen averages: This frequently includes averaging values across non-uniform populations. (the example here is an article that identified a neighborhood as one of the most expensive in the city - the residents had an average annual income of around $100,000, however, the article omitted the information that the neighborhood is in the process of gentrification - one part of the neighborhood is very wealthy, and the other part's income is below the national average);
- Results falling within the standard error. The headline, “E-books Preferred over Paper by Men More Than by Women” sounds very promising until you hear the actual polling results 52% of men preferred e-books vs 49% of women;
- Using graphs to create an impression. Graphing data provides room for creating many false impressions;
- The semi-attached figure. When you claim one thing as proof for something else. (an ad suggesting that “15% of CEOs drive a Buick, more than any other brand”. The point made is that CEOs are an authority on cars);
- Post-hoc fallacy. Wrongly asserting there is a link between two findings (like suggesting vegetarians have a higher average income than meat-eaters - it would be illogical to conclude you can increase your income by simply abstaining from meat).
How to approach this?
If you’re persuading:
- if you’re keen to use numbers make them relevant and credible (why should they matter to your audience?);
- use realistic stats (don’t write a bombastic heading which the overall content doesn’t support);
- don’t use numbers to manipulate the public;
- learn to recognize what would trigger readers’ resistance;
- always share the whole context (for example, don’t say all people ages 24-40 if you’ve tested only women).
If you’re being persuaded:
- don’t see numbers as something that gives absolute credibility (be more concerned with the source, and the overall context);
- use your critical thinking skills (for more info about this, we invite you to check out our online critical thinking course);
- don’t let numeric claims sway you (if something sounds off, make sure you double-check it).
Famous Quotes About Persuasion
Reading quotes always leads to having a better understanding about a specific issue, trend, skill, and/or problem. Plus, quotes are here to challenge us - we don’t always have to agree with them, but we do interpret them based on our beliefs and values.
Below we’ve included famous quotes on persuasion, and we’d love to hear how you feel about them. Also, have you come across other ones worth sharing? Do let us know!
“There are good leaders who actively guide and bad leaders who actively misguide. Hence, leadership is about persuasion, presentation, and people skills.”
“To be persuasive we must be believable;
to be believable we must be creditable;
to be credible we must be truthful.”
“Truth persuades by teaching, but does not teach by persuading.”
“People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others.”
“The more you try to impress, the more you become depressed, and the more they get tired of your coercion. It doesn't make them love you, instead, they'll see you as a little child, trying to draw a senseless picture on a piece of paper, begging people to look at it and admire it by force. You can persuade someone to look at your face, but you can't persuade them to see the beauty therein.”
“Speaking can persuade an individual, eloquence can persuade a crowd.”
Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.
“Words have power.”
“Persuasion is achieved by the speaker's personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible. We believe good men more fully and more readily than others: this is true generally whatever the question is, and absolutely true where exact certainty is impossible and opinions are divided.”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What are some examples of persuasion?
There are tons of examples of persuasion which occur on a daily basis (we’ve already dwelt on many of them in the previous section). However, most of the time we aren’t really aware we’re being persuaded constantly because we’re used to being bombarded with tons of information every day.
You open your Facebook account you see an ad about the latest iPhone and why you need to have it, you scroll through your Instagram feed and notice at least three influencers promoting a new skincare brand and why you need to try at least one of their products, you drive through the city and see all these billboards and ad banners selling you stuff. You get the point.
While there are times when you really need a new phone (so you click on the iPhone ad), or you wish to change your skincare routine because you aren’t happy with the products you’re currently using (so you read the influencers’ Instagram description and even end up using their promo codes to make a purchase) - most of the time we’re being sold stuff and it takes a very self-conscious person to decipher between adequate persuasion and cheap selling strategies.
What is the use of persuasion?
The purpose behind persuasion is to convince a person (or more people) that the opinion, assertion, or point of a specific speaker/writer is correct. Persuasion tends to shift a person’s mindset, views, and opinions (they either had one opinion before and now it’s changed, or they had a more neutral approach and after being persuaded, they swayed in one direction or another).
Persuasion can be helpful when people are clueless, that is, they want assistance in making up their minds. That said, persuasion can be a coercive act whose purpose is to attract a greater number of people/followers to a specific ideal, group, opinion, and so on.
The point at which a person can be persuaded depends on the persuasive powers of the person who’s trying to persuade, as well as the level of awareness the person-to-be-persuaded possesses.
What is the best way to persuade someone?
There are many ways, methods, and techniques you can use to persuade something to do/believe something. Here are the steps you can take to approach this in a neat manner:
- Have self-esteem and be confident in your words. Your confidence and the way you approach the topic can be key in leaving that very first impression. Make sure you always keep them in check.
- Always support your claims with arguments and facts. It’s good to check everything you’re trying to use as an argument. In times when you have no arguments to support your claims, you can still be transparent - for example, you can just explain that this is what you deeply believe about the matter and that your experience so far has confirmed this.
- Think about the other person. Why would this person be interested in what you’re saying? Is this piece of information somehow beneficial to them? If not, can you make it so?
- Focus on the words you’re using. Using the right words is crucial to conveying your messages across. Certain words have more positive connotations than others, so if you’re hoping to persuade someone, you need to find words that are persuasive enough. That said, always use words that contain a sense of honesty and truthfulness in them - avoid manipulating others with them.
- Be persistent, but don’t overdo it. Remember to always respect the other person’s boundaries. If you get a “no”, don’t try to force someone to commit to what you’re saying. By accepting this person’s opinion you’re showing respect for the overall interaction between you two.
Is persuasion good or bad?
Whether persuasion is good or bad ultimately depends on what you’re using your persuasive skills for. If you’re trying to sell a broken car to someone by listing all the perks that come with driving this specific model as well as the overall brand’s history, then you’re using your skills for bad and deceitful purposes.
However, if your friend is feeling down (let’s say they’ve broken up with their girlfriend) and you’re trying to remind them about all the good things about themselves, and what amazing qualities they possess, then you’re doing good.
Also, as with everything in life, they’re always both sides to every story when it comes to persuasion as well. What one person may consider a good scenario, another person may have doubts about. For instance, imagine a shop assistant trying to sell you a specific product. Some may say that the assistant is being helpful by explaining all the benefits that product has, whereas others may believe the assistant is only focused on the end goal, which is you making a purchase.
Suggestions for Further Reading
Some may argue that practice is the best way to further develop your persuasive skills, and while practice provides an invaluable experience, educating yourself through reading can’t do any harm, which is why we strongly recommend taking a look at some of the books we’ve outlined above (by the way, we’re not trying to persuade you, this is just our humble opinion ☺).
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert B. Cialdini
- Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, by Robert Cialdini
- Persuasion: The Art of Getting What You Want, by Dave Lakhani
- Methods of Persuasion: How to Use Psychology to Influence Human Behavior, by Nick Kolenda
- Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear, by Frank Luntz
- Maximum Influence: The 12 Universal Laws of Power Persuasion, by Kurt Mortensen
- Trust Me, I'm Lying, by Ryan Holiday
- Persuasion: The Art of Influencing People, by James Borg
- The Art of Persuasion: the Language of Influence and Manipulation, by Andrzej Batko
- Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, by Chip and Dan Heath
- The Dynamics of Persuasion: Communication and Attitudes in the 21st Century, by Richard M. Perloff
Finally, persuasion is a great skill to possess, but also to be aware of - it really can be a double-edged sword. So, to distinguish between the favorable and not so favorable outcomes of this skill - we’d like to invite you to take a look at our online persuasion course.
Through various practical examples, our course will help you understand the concept of persuasion even better, reduce resistance to fresh ideas, as well as help you work on shifting your mindset (and then encourage you to shift other people’s mindsets too!).
So, if you feel like you’re ready to expand your knowledge on persuasion, don’t hesitate to click on the link!
We’d love to have you on board!
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