Power of persuasion

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The July 23, 2003, online edition of Expert Magazine carried the article "The Power of Persuasion: Emotion, Logic, and Character" by Dianna Booher. Booher writes that "According to Aristotle, the father of modern persuasive thought, not only are [emotion, logic, and character] the three cornerstones of successful persuasion, they are absolutely fundamental in interpreting the messages of others as well as winning them to your way of thinking."

"Simply defined," says Booher, "emotion is 'a strong surge of feeling marked by an impulse to outward expression.' It's our passionate side. Logic is 'the science concerned with the principles of valid reasoning and correct inference.' This is our rational side. Character is 'the combination of qualities or traits that distinguishes an individual.' This is the sum total of who we are."

Booher points out that Aristotle's concepts work equally well today, particularly when the modern political arena provides "evidence of persuasive tactics at work. ... Appealing to emotions: 'Let me tell you about a man I met in Dallas who's out of work and has no health-care insurance.' Appealing to reason, a candidate might argue, 'Here are the plain and simple facts, folks.' Appealing to character: 'I voted my conscience. I believe it's the right thing for America.'"

Litigation lawyer Paul M. Sandler, writing on legal ethos in the March 31, 2003, edition of the Baltimore Business Journal, states that the Power of persuasion is at the tip of your tongue. Again citing Artistotle, Sandler says "One of the most significant factors in any argument -- which Aristotle called the most potent -- is ethos ... [which is] the character of the advocate as perceived by the listener."

"Ethos," he continues, "concerns the persuasive effect of the speaker's perceived qualities. Aristotle identified the integrity of the speaker as a key component of ethos. ... When you create the impression that you are a person of honesty and integrity, you will have a considerable advantage over someone who is perceived otherwise. ... Research shows that if an audience is informed that the speaker has ulterior selfish motives, the speaker's persuasive ability is diminished. The audience doubts the speaker can be trusted."

Sandler recommends:

  • "Speak about truth and fairness."
  • "Speak expressly in terms of the truth of what happened and the fair and just resolution of the dispute. By speaking of truth and fairness as shared values, you reinforce in your listener's mind your own adherence to these values."
  • "Be honest. For purposes of persuasion, it is the perception of integrity that matters. It is possible to create that perception without a basis in fact, but doing so is much harder and more uncertain."
  • "Admit unfavorable facts. When you are forthcoming about problems or weaknesses, ...you enhance ... credibility."
  • "Demonstrate your sense of fair play."
  • "Avoid taking extreme positions."
  • "Avoid asserting facts that your listener is unlikely to believe. If a listener thinks you are speaking falsely about any fact, your credibility will be undermined and your ability to persuade your listener about other facts or about the inferences to be drawn will be compromised. Even if you are convinced of its truth, a statement is better omitted if your listener is not likely to believe it."

The Psychology of Marketing: The Power of Persuasion:

"The most effective persuaders are the least obvious. And they know how to get under your skin because the rules of persuasion are similar, regardless of who is doing the selling or what they're pitching.

"Research shows that three characteristics are related to persuasiveness:

  • Perceived authority
  • Honesty
  • Likeability

"When someone has any or all of these characteristics, we're not only more likely to agree to that person's request, we're more willing to do so without carefully considering all the facts. That's because these characteristics lead us to assume we're on safe ground. That means we're happy to shortcut the tedious process of informed decision-making. As a result, we're more susceptible to messages and requests, regardless of their particular content."

According to Carmine Baffa, the "creator of Human Performance Engineering, the concepts of communication and persuasion cannot be separated, as "they are one and the same from the point that you can not communicate with another person without at the same time influencing that person." However, "if you are going to be influencing that person, ... it would be MORE respectful if you knew exactly in what direction your influence was leading a person. The opposite would be when you were not willing to take responsibility for your communication."

Baffa says that, to build a "more successful model" for persuasion, it is necessary that all "parts" are working together:

  • Attitude at the level of conviction.
  • Value system: "If you have a value system which is built upon a win/lose negotiation, then attempt to build in a presupposition which says that what the other person wants in this communication is important, the possibility will exist for some incongruency in the system. The more congruent, the more effective."
  • Beliefs, or Presuppositions: It is important that congruency between beliefs and values "actually support the strategies/skills sets layered on top of them. ... There is no substitute for congruence. Of all of the process that make up this persuasion model, congruence is the most important."

Baffa also offers some of the "skill sets" he sees as necessary for effective persuasion:

  • "Rapport is a natural function of communication which is brought about by honoring the person with whom you are communicating."
  • Find "out what the other person wants [in order to] help that other person reach that goal."
  • Target "people who are already interested" in a particular product or goal.
  • "There is no resistance, only feedback."
  • "Communicating effectively is not about being in control, but rather about being able to recognize what you are, in fact, eliciting with your communication, and having the flexibility to adjust accordingly."


  • "Persuasion based on truth, justice and right reason and prayer of a pure heart for a benign cause is infinitely more powerful than combined might of atomic fission and hydrogen fusion."[1] --Parmatman Shri Sat-Chit-Atman.
  • "Persuasion is that all-important ability to get others to do what you want them to do because they want to do it. Maybe it takes reasoning, coaxing, explaining, or even a plate of brownies still warm from the oven. But whatever it takes, obviously persuasion is what's needed to make things happen, to take anything from Point A (your idea) to Point B (others helping to advance that idea)."[2] --Dr. Tony Alessandra.
  • "To be persuasive, you 'sell' yourself and your ideas every day. You communicate in such a way that you persuade others to your way of thinking, gain respect and loyalty, and further your most cherished dreams and goals."[3] --Bob Brown.
  • "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed [and hence clamorous to be led to safety] by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

Related SourceWatch articles


  • "Persuasion: Winning over, inducement, convincing, coercion, influence, opinion, conviction, school of thought, philosophy, compelling."[4]

External links



  • 18 November 1998: "The power of persuasion. 900 deaths left an unforgettable legacy. JONESTOWN: 20 years after mass suicide, new religions inspire hope, caution, fear for followers" by Tom Kisken, Ventura County Star.
  • 22 December 2003: "Libya Turnaround Shows Power of Persuasion, Diplomacy" by Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor: "The extraordinary decision by Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi to verifiably abandon weapons of mass destruction is a triumph for both diplomatic action and tough threats of the use of force."