The power of persuasion is seen all around us on TV, in the movies, in magazines and newspapers, on billboards, through radio communication, and so on and so on, especially this time of year during the lead up to Christmas! Wherever you go there are advertisements or people trying to push items on potential buyers. Or they just simply want to sway others into believing or going along with their thinking. Travel back in time to Genesis in the Bible, the obvious and first example being Eve and the serpent with that cursed fruit, the apple. The serpent used his enticing talent of persuasion to get Eve to bite into what he was saying.
So what comes to mind when you think of persuasion? A used car salesman? Probably any salesperson for that matter. Or maybe you think of an attorney trying to persuade a jury.
Using manipulation (or even lying) is one way to persuade. The serpent used manipulation to trick Eve. Manipulation was also a method of persuasion done in the 5th century B.C. Education was not focused on the search for truth, but instead on the teaching of the art of persuasion based on deception and argumentative reasoning. Here’s a fun fact for you: These particular teachers from that time in history were called ‘sophists’.
When people set out to persuade others, they are looking to change attitudes and feelings towards ideas or objects. As I said earlier, advertisers try all different methods of persuasion. Most advertisers appeal to a person’s emotions. A good example of this is someone looking for donations by showing sad videos of children or abused animals. Who can resist that? Some use facts and figures to prove their point. And still others will use their knowledge and experience as a way to influence. These styles are called pathos (emotional), logos (logical), and ethos (credibility). Politicians are a great example with these too. They use all three styles when giving speeches to win us over.
Arguments are also used when people try to persuade others. A person’s opinion of an issue might be so strong that in talking with someone who feels differently on that subject, the conversation turns into an argument or debate. But is arguing over a subject a productive method of persuasion? In my personal opinion, it’s not. Being pushy and argumentative will just shut down my willingness to listen to what that person is ‘selling’ me. A more successful persuasive conversation would be using facts and examples that each person can relate to (in a adult and respectable manner of course). I also believe that the conversation should create interest for each person to learn more about each position the other is in favor of. A challenging and intelligent debate with someone making good points will most likely have the chance of changing my attitude. This is when a persuasive argument has been successful, not only to persuade me into seeing the other side of things, but to create a new awareness and belief.
Putting your persuasive talents to work might be using manipulation, appealing to emotion (pathos), citing facts and figures (logos), using your know-how (ethos), or arguing your point. Maybe you use something entirely different or a combination of all or some of these examples.
So readers, what method of persuasion do you use when trying to influence others? And alternately, what type has the best effect when used on you?