Persuasive Techniques at an Intermediate Level
When we have talked about people who are naturally persuasive, one of the most common attributes that these individuals share is that they are charismatic. When a person appears to be full of confidence and is bold, we are naturally inclined to believe that person. This type of persuasion builds upon the insecurities that we each have as individuals; the idea is that if we feel insecure in our lack of knowledge or conviction, we are likely to believe that someone acting with confidence does have the answers. If you pay attention, and try to look at a situation objectively, you can usually pick out the people that are naturally charismatic in almost any setting. The popular kids who are not so talented or may not be very good looking are typically very charismatic. Highly successful politicians tend to be very charismatic. A gifted charismatic person projects an energy and a feeling of being alive that other people are attracted to. Those people often wind up believing what the person says simply because the charismatic person seems to believe it and we find that person appealing in some way.
Using euphemism is an age old tradition and a form of persuasion that requires little mastery to use; you must, however, have a good understanding of when to use it. Euphemisms are most commonly used when something has to be done or talked about that is unpleasant to most people as theimain goal is to modify people's emotional responses. For example, putting the dog to sleep sounds a lot better than killing the dog even though it means the same thing. When having to deliver bad news, using euphemisms may help ease the process for both you and the person on the receiving end of the news. However, you want to be careful not to use euphemisms in an inappropriate situation or when the euphemism might be misunderstood. Some people are not as culturally aware and may misinterpret a euphemism; sometimes it is better for everyone to just say the correct words than having to use several euphemisms, none of which the person understands. If somebody is using euphemistic terms with you, consider whether or not they are using the words to soften the blow for you or if they are using the words to temper your response to make their lives easier.
Simply put, extrapolation is when a large conclusion is made based on one or two very small pieces of evidence or indicators. Imagine a dramatic 13 year old who has a fight with her best friend. She may cry to her mother exclaiming, "Oh my God, my life is over and everything is ruined!" While this example is not persuasive to anyone over the age of 13, you would be surprised at the frequency with which this same concept is used to persuade huge groups of people. News media, politicians, business executives, and so on will use extrapolation to manipulate individuals by boiling down a huge issue into one very simple statement. Slogans are typically all about extrapolation because they discredit or ignore the complexities of an issue and focus everything on the conclusion they want you to draw.
Imagine issues regarding gun laws. A fervent gun rights activist may be likely to say things like, "You can kill someone with a knife; are we going to ban knives?" This individual has taken what is actually an extremely complex social issue and tried to boil it down into one statement that seems to be logical. In reality, what he is not telling you is how much faster guns kill, how many more people guns kill, and the difference between the psychological makeup of people who use knives compared to people who use guns. That is not to say that his position is wrong or even that his statement is inaccurate; rather, it is an incomplete statement based on ignoring the complexity of the issue. No matter how good it sounds, if a bumper sticker seems to summarize a position on a complex social issue, it usually is too good to be true.
Also consider that extrapolation can come in the form of optimism. While optimism itself is a great thing, we are talking about the kinds of ads that claim a product will achieve a particular goal when it has only achieved one step or aspect of that goal. This type of extrapolation is often paired with exaggeration. There was an ad campaign for particular prescription drug to treat fibromyalgia. In clinical studies, a significant portion of program participants found that this drug did lessen their symptoms of pain. Consequently, the ad campaign features individuals with fibromyalgia gardening, running a restaurant, and performing other tasks. Almost any person with this condition will tell you that taking this prescription may help, but it does not give them the ability to perform those types of tasks. By taking one finding of the study, the company extrapolated that people suffering from chronic pain would be able to completely change their lifestyle based on this drug.
The old saying goes, "Flattery works every time;" this may not be quite accurate, but flattery certainly rarely hurts the situation. Everyone likes to be told that they are smart, beautiful, wonderful, and so forth. The problem is that when people are able to convince us to believe or behave certain ways because we want to appear to be all of those wonderful things that they already assume we are. Flattery should be done in measured doses as it can be very easy to see through, especially by people who receive flattery all the time. Consider a charitable foundation. The foundation is run by a business CEO who reviews thousands of grant applications every year for deserving nonprofit organizations throughout the country. This type of person is more likely to respond positively to a factual representation of what the a charity does rather than a proposal that continually mentions how wonderful the CEO or his company is. It is easy to use flattery on people but you must be careful under what circumstances you use it and in the size of the doses.
This type of persuasion is exactly what it sounds like, the use of bullying tactics to get a desired result. In the United States, despite how society has pushed for anti-bullying policies and programs the past few years, a commercial break watching TV will show you that students are not the only ones engaging in this type of behavior. Commercials just as frequently use insults (whether explicit or implied) as individuals do. Ads may state or imply that something is unattractive, undesirable, lazy, passive, rude, fat, ugly, and so forth. Longer ads such as infomercials are particularly bad as they often rely on this type of tactic. Pay close attention to any time that someone, even if they do not directly call a name, implies that you are somehow inferior unless you buy their product or agree to their thought process.
People love things that are new. In America, we put a very high in value on technology and new development. Likewise, we are often attracted to things that give us a fast return on our investment and we consider newer things to have a higher likelihood of doing that than older things. New products and new ideas have to be marketed well so that people are aware that they exist. Nevertheless, as long as you can get the message out there, the fact that you are promoting something as new, even if it is not really new or a new idea, you are likely to be able to generate considerable support.
This is just as true in people's individual lives as it is for businesses and politicians. Most people like to believe that their situation can improve, so they embrace new things. Of course, humans are also inclined to resist change, so the new elements, individuals, or ideas have to be delivered at the right time and at the right speed. Sometimes the speed with which a person embraces something that is new is primarily determined by their attitude towards what is old. For example, a recently divorced person is far more likely to be open to a new relationship then someone who has recently been widowed. By presenting yourself or your ideas as new or fresh, you are more likely to be successful in your attempts to persuade.
One of the most tried and true methods of persuasion, especially given certain subject matter and persuasion targets, is to build rapport. Building rapport can take varying lengths of time depending on the suggestibility and inclination towards trust for the person whom you are trying to persuade. If you are hitting on a woman at a bar, for example, if she happens to get hit on a lot, it may take you longer to get her to warm up to you than a woman who is rarely approached.Alternatively, a child is often easy to build rapport with because they are more inclined to trust someone who has something in common with them. To begin building rapport with anyone, express an interest in what they think, feel, or like. Then identify the things that you may have in common; if a potential date says that she likes old jazz music, mention that you were just listening to a Billy Holiday CD. We are all looking for people (in every type of relationship) that have things in common with us or are like minded, so we typically respond well when someone tries to build rapport. However, be sure to keep it as a real as possible and do not overstate it, rapport is easier to build when you do not overreach.
One of the most common ways to build rapport is by using rhetorical questions. We have all seen ads that begin with, "Are you tired of unsightly cellulite?" or "Don't you want to get rid of that awful headache?" Aside from the fact that the TV does not expect you to answer it, the answer you will have in your head is clearly implied. Not only does this help a commercial gain your attention, it begins a pattern of acquiescence. Therefore, when the sales pitch comes, you are more susceptible to continuing to agree with the ad.
For individuals, pairing rhetorical questions with flattery is a natural evolution. For example, let us say you want to set your sister up with a friend of your boyfriend. You may be watching a movie or TV show where a male character behaves badly. You turn to your sister and say, "Don't you hate when guys are like that? It drives me crazy. I'm so glad John doesn't treat me that way." After your sister responds, you continue to say, "Hey, did that guy you met ever call you (knowing that he didn't)? You deserve so much better. (Pause) Actually, I do know somebody who would be great for you! Do you remember John's friend, Paul?" This combination of rhetorical questions and flattery works well because it makes the other person believe that you have their best interests at heart.
Again, this persuasive technique is precisely what it sounds like; similar to the idea of extrapolation, a simple solution posits that there is one easy fix to the problems that plague us. As humans, our individual selves are complex. We all experience a myriad of emotions and we all have our own perspectives that we bring into everything that we say and do. Our bodies are complex, our beliefs are complex, our values are complex, and so forth. The way that we interact with others is just as complicated and provides at least twice as many variables since you now have at least two people interacting.
This jumble of complexity expands exponentially when we consider all of the problems of the world around us. It is no wonder then that we each want so desperately to be given a simple solution to virtually any problem. Obviously, we all want world peace, but we also all hope for a simple solution to what to fix for dinner if we are feeling overwhelmed enough. Politicians are particularly adept at using this technique as they try to convince us of two things: one, that there is a simple solution to a complex social problem and two, that they are the candidate who embodies simple solutions to complex problems. If you have the ability to present an idea or even a product that seems to be a solution that will make people's lives less complex and easier to manage, you will likely persuade them to buy whatever you are selling.
- Marketing and Sales Strategies that Use Persuasion
- More Advanced Techniques of Persuasion
- The Role of Persuasion in Interpersonal Relationships
- The Influence and Consequences of Persuasion
- Strategies for Confronting Your Fears when Speaking
- How to Reach a Healthy Balance When Being Assertive
- Effective Communication: Negotiation
- How to Conclude a Mediation Session
- How to Achieve Healthy and Positive Assertiveness in the Workplace
- Resolving Conflict Using Problem-Solving Methods
- Defining a Hostile Environment in the Workplace
- Three Easy Methods to Manage Stress
- Sexual Harassment that Takes Place in the Workplace
- Resolving Conflict Between Others