What comes to your mind when you hear the word persuasion? Perhaps Jane Austen’s last completed novel “Persuasion”? But that’s not what we are talking about today. Let’s get started with…
What is Persuasion?
According to Richard M. Perloff persuasion can be defined as
“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.”
His book The Dynamics of Persuasion: Communication and Attitudes in the 21st Century,
is a great source to gain new insights.
Let’s define persuasion as a method of convincing people to change their attitudes, behaviors or habits by presenting them facts in a positive light and by showing them how they would benefit from those changes.
In dictionaries, you’ll mostly find some explanation like this:
- the act of persuading or seeking to persuade
- the power of persuading or a persuasive force
- the state or fact of being persuaded or convinced
- a deep conviction or belief
- a form or system of belief, especially religious belief
- the act of persuading or of trying to persuade
- the power to persuade
- the state of being persuaded; strong belief
- an established creed or belief, esp a religious one
- a sect, party, or faction
Why should we speak about persuasion?
Because there is nothing we can think of that is not influenced by the power of persuasion: media, news, advertising, legal decision, politics, etc. And in turn, they influence us. When we think of influence, especially how influence can impact on our own decisions, on our life,
we mostly remember the negative examples first. That’s what makes us feel uncomfortable when somebody tries to influence us even if we know that what they suggest could be beneficial to us.
So we should not forget that influential persuasion has a positive power as well. Do you remember all those campaigns to influence people and persuade them to quit smoking?
Well, that should be seen as a positive aspect of persuasion, don’t you agree?
What about all the “weight loss campaigns”? Do you think they influence people in a positive manner by showing them the real facts and benefits when they change their habits and lose weight? Or, are they just another negative example of persuading people to buy all those weight loss products, pretending that by using them they could lose weight without having to change their habits? Think about that – and perhaps read the article about Manipulation again…
What are the key elements of persuasion?
- persuasion uses words, images, sounds, music, etc.
- transmits messages verbally and/or non-verbally
(via TV, Internet, radio, face-to-face)
- to influence people
- while they can freely choose, but
- self-persuasion is here key.
For sure, modern persuasion differs from the past. Just think about the huge amount of advertisments and information we encounter each day. Or, think about how fast the Internet, radio and TV spread their persuasive messages.
We should not forget about all the companies who do business by using the power of persuasion like PR and advertising agencies and marketing companies. Besides the obvious persuasive strategies, they use some very subtle forms of persuasion by using carefully selected, very specific images, fragrances or music to make people buy a product or a service. And, because consumers have so many choices today, their strategies in persuasion will become even more “convincing” in the future.
OK, I think we should stop here for today. I’d love to hear what you think about persuasion, how do you feel if someone tries to influence you and what do you usually do if that’s the case. Drop me a message if you wish and thanks for reading!
Modern Language Association (MLA):
“persuasion.” Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. 18 Jul. 2012. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/persuasion>
Jane Austen: Persuasion
Robert B. Cialdini: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Collins Business Essentials)
Richard M. Perloff: The Dynamics of Persuasion: Communication and Attitudes in the 21st Century