Various Types of Persuasion


There are several principles, or types, of persuasion. Various types of persuasion have the ability to convince people in different ways. If you have someone who is grounded in fact and only accepts what they can see and hear, then you will have to use the appeal-to-reason method, while someone who has a bit more faith will respond to the appeal-to-emotion method.

This article will go over all of these methods to help you better understand the various types of persuasion that you can write, and how each will work on different types of people.

The first type of persuasion is the appeal to reason. The appeal-to-reason method uses a logical argument, with everything about the persuasion centered in logic and in the scientific method. This method will work best with the types of people who need proof of something and don't accept arguments that are based more on faith than on fact. If you are trying to convince a group of scientists to follow your belief that the earth revolves around the moon, then you need to have a lot of proof to back it up, otherwise you will not persuade them to your argument. Simply saying that it looks like it revolves around the Moon is an argument that is too centered in faith, and that won't work for the appeal-to-reason method.

The second type of persuasion is the appeal to emotion. The appeal-to-emotion is not based on proof, but on the emotions that a person feels. Often this can be a more effective approach for the population as a whole, because people can often be governed by their emotions more than by their minds. There are several examples throughout history that show this to be true. With the appeal-to-emotion method, you will be using a person's faith and imagination to appeal to them, and to get them over to your own argument. You may also use seduction, tradition, or even pity to get them to agree with you. Sales people use this method quite well. They will appeal to your imagination by giving you a presentation of a test drive of a vehicle so that you can see yourself in the vehicle. Then, they will sometimes use pity to tell you how they may need this sale as it has been a slow month. Some even use seduction to appeal to you. Advertising and propaganda are two other methods of using this form of persuasion. Appealing to emotions also uses tradition as a means to get someone to your side. By saying, "This is the way we have always done it, so we should continue to do it this way," is often very effective, even if there are many other methods available that are more effective than what you are trying to get people to agree to.

With persuasion, there are four aids that can help to persuade someone toward your opinion or idea. Not all of these can be used in written persuasion, but the better you understand persuasion, the better you will be at it, both verbally and through the written word. These aids are:

  • Body Language. Roughly two-thirds of our communication is based on our body language. For example, when you want to have someone open to your ideas, you should stand with your hands at your side, palms out as a symbolic gesture of peace. If you stand with your arms crossed, you are blocking yourself from the recipient and they will unconsciously not want to deal with you or listen to you.
  • Communication Skills. The better you are at speaking and writing out what you want to say, the more open people will be to what you want to say. If you write, "I would like to offer you the chance to 'bye' my product," the person may not be willing to buy because of the poor spelling and wording. However if you say, "I would like to offer you a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience what it truly means to have free time with this amazing product!" -- here you are appealing to the person on many fronts. Look at various Internet ads to really see how this is done effectively.
  • Sales Techniques. This method uses the ingrained sales techniques that people can learn over time. Learning to highlight only good points, appealing to a person's needs, and more, all work in sales techniques.
  • Personality Tests. With personality tests you can devise a strategy that is based on an individual's style of interaction. Some people prefer the phone or e-mail to face-to-face speaking. Others prefer to buy items based on what they see on television, while others buy products only when they need them. Knowing how to sell a product or idea to someone comes from that person's personality.

There are four other techniques that are often used, though not always as much, or as ethically, are the following:

  • Deception. If you fool someone into believing your idea is the best option, you can get them to go for it. Many financial gurus have done this to get investors' money by faking how profitable the company or their investments are.
  • Hypnosis. Under hypnosis, people can be convinced to do a wide variety of things. However this does not help with written persuasion.
  • Subliminal Advertising. Movies use this effectively by putting products in the background to help appeal to someone watching the movie. The movie Cast Away has been described as one long FedEx commercial, because of its use of FedEx products in the background.
  • Power. People respond favorably to those they think are in power. By faking power, or giving the image of power, it is much easier to get someone to follow what you want. A mail clerk sending out a memo to the building asking people to stop taking coffee without paying for it will be meaningless. However, the CEO doing it will have an immediate impact.

Understanding Reason and Emotion

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In order to understand how to write good persuasion, we need to understand the concepts of reason and emotion much better. As we begin this process, we will also look briefly at the third appeal of persuasion, which is the persuasive appeal of one's character.
Throughout history, great philosophers have studied the concepts of truth, logic, reason, and persuasion. Aristotle felt that there were three kinds of persuasion appeals: the appeal to reason, the appeal to emotion, and the appeal to one's character. These were identified by him as logos, pathos, and ethos.

Logos is a Greek term that means many things, including reason, which is why it is associated with the appeal to reason. Aristotle felt that all communication must be done through this appeal because this was the most logical form of persuasion that there was. With this type of persuasion, there are no lies and no deceptions. Everything comes from proof, the scientific method, and logic. One of the most famous arguments done with the appeal to reason for the existence of ourselves comes from Descartes, who said "I think, therefore I am". We know that we are alive; we know that we think and therefore, we know that we exist. There is proof in that and there is no way to lie. By saying, "I think, therefore I fly." does not apply. It could be construed that thinking leads to science, which leads to flying, but that falls more into the grounds of appeal to emotion, because the links between are so vague.

The appeal to reason is appealing to the inner reason of an individual. There is no violent fight or disagreement with this. Everything within the appeal to reason is measured and presented in a logical way.
The reasoning method has two processes within it: deduction and induction.

Here is an example of an appeal to reason:

The issue is whether or not nuclear weapons are dangerous and should be banned. Your position is, yes, they should be banned. Therefore, you should ask yourself the following four questions to determine if you can make a good appeal to reason and present a persuasive essay regarding this concept:

  1. Do you have the evidence to support your claim?
  2. Will your audience believe the evidence that you present to them?
  3. What assumptions will be part of your argument and are they logical and fair?
  4. Is the conclusion you come to in line with the claims that you make?

This brings us to your deduction, which is the general principle that you will draw the conclusion from. Your deduction would be split into two premises and one conclusion.

The major premise of your argument is that nuclear weapons are dangerous due to the threat of mutually assured destruction. The minor premise is that volatile countries have nuclear weapons. Therefore, nuclear weapons will destroy the planet. That is your conclusion.

Now you need to ask yourself if that is a strong enough argument. Does it support your claims? Is there a cause-effect link between nuclear weapons being dangerous and nuclear weapons destroying the planet?

This now brings us to the induction, which is the general conclusion based on facts and cases.

These facts would be the following:

  • The nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed tens of thousands of people due to the blast and the radioactive fallout.
  • Nuclear weapons today are much more powerful.
  • Countries like North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, Israel, and India have nuclear weapons and are located in volatile regions.
  • One nuclear war between Pakistan and India could cause a nuclear winter around the globe.

With these facts, your deduction, and other pieces of logic, you will have made an effective argument that, in fact, nuclear weapons are dangerous and should be banned. You have not lied and you have appealed to the reason of those who are listening to you.

The appeal to emotion will work differently. Identified as pathos, the philosopher Cicero was well known for his encouragement of ending any argument or oration with an appeal to emotion to get those listening to agree with your point of view. While it would be great if everyone only listened to appeals to reason, the truth is that the appeal to emotion is extremely effective, because humans are greatly influenced by their emotions.

One method that is used extensively with the appeal to emotions is images. A good example of this is Drivers Education. Explaining the danger of drinking and driving in an appeal to reason may not be as effective as an appeal-to-emotion argument that shows the car crash victims who were in drunk driving accidents.

Concerning our example above, we could use the following examples as to why nuclear weapons are dangerous.

  • You could show pictures of radiation burn victims from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • You could show the destruction caused by small nuclear weapons in those cities.
  • You could show videos of nuclear weapons exploding around the planet and the damage that they cause.
  • You could show the video of Robert Oppenheimer, the creator of the nuclear bomb, where he states with remorse that he has become the god Shiva, Destroyer of Worlds.

You could also appeal to the emotions of the audience by talking of the pain of radiation, and how people literally had their skin falling off due to the extreme radiation burns that they suffered in the nuclear blast.

The third appeal of persuasion is the appeal to one's character, often called ethos. This method of persuasion is established through speech and discourse. According to Aristotle, the persuader desires to appear knowledgeable and benevolent to the person they are trying to persuade in order to make the appeal of one's character work. Cicero felt the initial portion of a speech needed to be the establishment of one's character to the audience.

With the appeal to a person's ethics, one of the following has to be achieved in a given argument:
1. Are you a reasonable person?
2. Are you an authority figure? 3. Are you ethical?
4. Are you concerned with the well-being of the audience?
With the appeal to a person's character, the audience must trust the person that is talking to them, otherwise this will fail.