What Is The Persuasion Definition?

Updated November 18, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Persuasion. When you think of the word, you may think of something positive or negative. Some people may think about peer pressure, such as someone pressuring you to do something to fit in. Alternatively, you may think of a salesperson trying to convince you to buy their wares. 

Whatever comes to mind, persuasion is an exciting concept because it is so pervasive. We all try to persuade someone at some point, and it's even a skill that can help you in specific scenarios. For example, in an interview, we may persuade someone that we are the best person for the job. Likewise, when negotiating, we might persuade someone to reduce the price of what we want to buy. 

In this post, we will look at persuasion and its many aspects.

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Persuasion Affects Everyone

Persuasion is often more than just someone trying to push their beliefs or products onto you. Instead, persuasion can come in the form of something more subtle, and you may be surprised at how much it can affect us.

Persuasion can be positive or negative. On the one hand, you can be persuaded into doing something reckless. However, you can also be persuaded away from doing something reckless. No matter who you are, you may have been persuaded to do something in your life.

So what is persuasion? How can we recognize it?


Persuasion can be broken down into a few small definitions, but the basic definition is that it's the process of changing someone else's opinions or actions.

Elements of persuasion include:

  • It may use symbols to persuade you, including pictures, sounds, words, etc.
  • Persuasion is deliberate, not accidental.
  • The person being persuaded, in the end, must be the one to choose. Persuasion does not involve force but a suggestion.
  • People can persuade you in various ways using different media types.

Modern Persuasion

While the concept of persuasion remains the same, modern persuasion may affect people differently than it once did.

First, we may now be persuaded more than a hundred years ago. On social media, you may see advertisement upon advertisement. You may also find many people trying to persuade you to believe what they believe. Persuasion can travel much faster thanks to the advent of technology.

In modern times, persuasion may also be more subtle than it once was. Many people may not like blatant advertisements, so marketers have found many ways to send messages without appearing too pushy or obvious. Subtle imagery and suggestions may be necessary if companies want to persuade someone.

Modern persuasion may be more competitive as well, simply due to the sheer volume of persuasion on the internet and social media.

Principles Of Persuasion

One theory about persuasion is that six principles make it up. So let's look at all six and see what they entail.

Reciprocity Principle

This persuasion principle simply involves you paying back what you were given. If someone gives you something, you may feel persuaded to give something back to complete your exchange. For example, if you wish to persuade someone to be your friend, you may offer them a personalized, thoughtful gift.

Commitment And Consistency

Humans tend to have their own comfort zone. If we are overwhelmed by many options to choose between, we may retreat to our comfort zone. For example, if a brand has already persuaded you to buy a product, you may be more likely

Social Proof Principle

We may be persuaded to do something because we see other people doing it..

For example, if it is difficult to get a reservation at a restaurant, one may feel more inclined to think that the food there is good.

Marketers also use celebrities to recommend products because people may feel like they know that celebrity and thus might have an affinity to use products that the celebrity says they are using.

Good reviews might also make one more inclined to try a particular product. Or maybe you are persuaded by experts, such as a toothpaste commercial saying that ten out of ten dentists recommend it.


The liking principle is when we are persuaded by someone that we like.

This is quite similar to the previous principle, and like the last one, it can involve friends, family, and loved ones. However, it can involve strangers as well.

If someone we find attractive recommends something, we may be more likely to be persuaded. Often, ads may use attractive people to get their point across.

Attractiveness doesn't just involve the physical appearance of people, however. It could involve the attractiveness of a store or a website. A good-looking and user-friendly website can attract many people.

Based on this principle, if you are trying to persuade someone, it might help to become their ally and friend. A friendly relationship can persuade one more than a salesperson-and-customer relationship. Try offering someone a few genuine and well-timed compliments, and you may find they warm up to you.

Authority Principle

Someone in a position of authority or considered an expert might persuade you. Sometimes, the authority can be vague as well. For example, many ads can say things such as "according to research" or "science says." The ad may not even mention who or what study came to those conclusions. Nevertheless, the implication of authority may be enough to make us want to buy the product.

Sometimes, persuasion can come from actual positions of authority. For example, a politician you like may convince you to try to make a change or vote for someone.

Trusting someone with experience can be beneficial, but you should always remain alert and ensure the person claiming experience really has the research and facts backing them up.

The Principle Of Scarcity

Finally, we have the scarcity principle. This is when people are persuaded to do something if it's considered rare or exclusive.

Many of us may want to be the person who has something that no one else has. Commercials use this method when they tell you to call within the next ten minutes to get the best offer. Usually, it may not matter when you call, but the sense of urgency might help.

Auctions are another example of using that social drive toward exclusivity to persuade. An auction may convince people to buy something out of sheer competitiveness.

Want To Learn More About Persuasion?


There are many ways you can be persuasive and many ways you can be persuaded. If you want to improve your skepticism so you can be persuaded less, or you want to learn how to be more persuasive if there is an idea of the product you want to promote, consider speaking to a counselor

One study showed that online therapy can be equally as beneficial, if not more beneficial, than in-person therapy. Another study showed that online therapy can be more affordable than in-person therapy, especially considering costs like transportation, time off work, and childcare.

A counselor may know how the human condition works and can teach you how to persuade in a way suitable for your character. Speak to a counselor and see how you can be more persuasive with whatever you do.

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