Learn the subtleties of persuasion
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Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Persuasion is the art of influence. When attempting persuasion, you’re attempting to convince a person or group to believe you. You might be convincing them to buy something or to follow a different political belief, among other topics.
Individuals in various careers use persuasion often, including politicians, salespeople, and detectives. However, people can use persuasion in daily life, too. For example, a parent might persuade their child to eat green beans when they’re adamant about not consuming vegetables. It may also be helpful to understand persuasion to know when you’re being persuaded by someone else.
Robert Cialdini, a professor emeritus at Arizona State University, identified six principles of persuasion, including the following.
In the principle of reciprocity, the person offers a reward to someone in hopes of persuading them. However, this technique aims to make others believe they owe the gifter something in return. An example of this principle can be seen in salespeople of timeshares. When they ask you to attend a presentation about the timeshare, they may offer a gift card or prize money to persuade you to stay longer and could use that gift against you to try to convince you to pay for the share.
Commitment And Consistency
Commitment and consistency involve consistent beliefs and behaviors. In this step of persuasion, a person is asked for a minor favor to persuade them to receive a reward in return from you. Persuading people by asking them to commit to something can be seen in salespeople asking a customer to try a “seven-day trial” of a product.
In social proof, a persuader uses the credibility of experts or social celebrities to make their argument seem more powerful. They might cite doctors, researchers, journalists, celebrities, authors, or scientists. For example, a person selling a TV might say it’s the same TV a powerful celebrity uses, potentially showing a clip of the celebrity “endorsing” the TV.
Likability is a principle of persuasion focused on attraction. For example, if someone hopes to sell a product, they may attempt to use attractive salespeople for the first pitch and have a fancy website and unique product design. They may also use influencer marketing to connect with social trends and make clients like them more.
People may follow those who seem to be in charge. People in positions of authority represent truthfulness, whether that means they have a badge, uniform, or title. When a person who has clout tells someone to take action, they may be more likely to do so. This principle is also used in influencer marketing.
When there is a limited number of products or results, people may be more likely to be convinced to buy them. Rareness and the scarcity principle are the primary forms of persuasion behind luxury brands that only sell a certain number of items per year to specific people.
Persuasion Techniques In Writing And Beyond
People use persuasion in writing and not only in conversation. There are three practical ways to persuade someone of an argument: reason, emotion, and trust.
When writing using reason, you appeal to the audience using facts, logic, and statistics. Logic can be challenging to argue with, especially when looking at research. Some people aren’t easily persuaded unless they see hard facts. For that reason, statistics can help others decide in your favor.
People use emotions to persuade others. Emotional persuasion is used when you appeal to a person’s ideals or fears. You’re there to warn the person or group. You may claim you hope to protect them, stating what might happen if action is not taken.
A significant part of persuasion involves attempting to make a person trust you. You can appeal to their decision-making ability when you gain their confidence and trust. You may want them to believe you because of your experience in similar situations. You may appeal to them by showing them you’re “on their side.”
Persuasion can be a complex skill to learn, and not all master it. You may benefit from speaking to a therapist if you want to learn more about healthily persuading others and the difference between manipulation and persuasion. You can meet with a provider online or in your area, but some clients prefer online therapy because of its convenience, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness.
Online platforms like BetterHelp have also been proven effective. For example, one study found that internet-based therapy was as effective as and sometimes more effective than in-person therapy in treating depression, anxiety, and chronic stress. Study participants underwent sessions of cognitive-behavioral therapy and reported significant symptom declines.
Persuasion is a unique skill used in professions, writing, and everyday life. However, persuasion is not an excuse to manipulate others to their detriment. To learn more about healthy persuasion methods, read the above articles on persuasion and consider reaching out for support from a licensed mental health professional.