Can we learn to persuade others effectively?

Can we learn to persuade others effectively?
We all persuade daily. To persuade is human nature.
We persuade our teachers to give us an extra day to submit an assignment in college. We persuade our bosses to give us a raise or to hire us because WE are the best person for the job. We persuade parents telling our kids that they should eat their broccoli because they will be able to run faster if they do. We even persuade our spouses and significant others to like us! But how can we be more persuasive and convincing when it comes to getting what we want or getting others to do what we want?

“Persuasion” and the act of being convincing, or in modern times what we can call “selling” started as long as time itself. Ancient Greek philosophers like Aristotle proposed that to persuade others into agreement, 3 factors must be put into place. These 3 “artistic proofs” are what he termed in Greek terminology as Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. 

Ethos or the ethical appeal means to convince an audience of the author’s credibility or character.

Pathos or emotional appeal means to persuade an audience by appealing to their emotions.
Authors use Pathos to invoke sympathy from an audience; to make the audience feel what the author wants them to feel. A common use of pathos would be to draw pity from an audience (or pathetic). Pathos can be developed by using meaningful language, emotional tone, emotion-evoking examples, stories of emotional events, and implied meanings. 

Logos or the appeal to logic means to convince an audience by use of logic or reason.
To use logos would be to cite facts and statistics, historical and literal analogies and citing certain authorities on a subject. Logos is the Greek word for “word”.

Aristotle believed that by using all 3 of these elements, one can convince an audience to take action or to reach an agreement.

Perhaps applied in modern terms, Ethos can be created by communicating effectively in discussing or proving one’s credentials and expertise in their field to gain this credibility among the audience.

Pathos can be achieved by affinity through connecting with your audience, customers, clients or whomever it is you would like to convince, by finding out what factors you may have in common with that person and touching upon their emotions. Pathos has achieved its effectiveness in storytelling or in sharing and finding those commonalities. Creating emotion in our stories to touch the hearts and minds of our listeners. For example, a woman salesperson may try to sell a product for children with atopic skin disorders. If this saleswoman starts to tell the story that she too is a mother who has had the same issues with her son and she, therefore, knows the struggles and the frustrations that can occur, she will share this emotion and affinity ie. “connection” with the other mother she is selling to and eventually make the sale by gaining her confidence.

Sometimes, however, Ethos and Pathos may not be enough to convince or persuade. Sometimes people are not driven by their emotions and may perhaps need more scientific evidence or proof to convince them. This is where Logos is highly effective as well. By showing concrete evidence and examples or testimonials this may help to further influence. 

Robert Cialdini
Robert Cialdini is a known psychologist and writer who created the theory of the 6 Principles of Persuasion. Different from Aristotle, he modernized the persuasive methods by stating that not only are the 3 factors of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos key but goes a step further into the following factors which also play an important role in persuading others.

His 6 principles were the following:

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Scarcity
  3. Authority
  4. Consistency & Commitment
  5. Liking
  6. Consensus

In Reciprocity, he believed that people are more apt to return favours or to “reimburse social debts” when you add some sort of value. Whether it is by offering some assistance to them or perhaps performing a small favour, people are more likely to feel “obligated” to reciprocate.

Scarcity is an example of when something is believed to be rare or hard to come by, therefore people tend to want it more. This stems from the fear of missing out. We always feel the need to purchase things that may be going “out of stock” or may only be available for a “limited time”. This creates our sense of urgency and helps us to further act quickly instead of contemplating a purchase or decision. 

The Authority principle relates to Aristotle´s Ethos, in that people tend to listen to people in positions of authority. When others seem more experienced or knowledgeable on a subject then we are willing to listen or entrust them as a source of knowledge and wisdom.

Consistency & Commitment encompass people needing to strive to maintain a self-image that aligns with their beliefs and values, looking for and asking for commitments that can be made. If what we are offering is consistent with what the person believes in, then it will be easier to persuade them. If it goes against their core values, it will be more of a challenge to motivate.

In the Liking theory, Cialdini states that the more you like and trust a person, the more likely you are to be persuaded by that person. However, 3 important factors must take place for this to be effective:

The first is that we tend to gravitate towards or like the people who are similar to us. The affinity (Pathos). The second is that we love people who pay us compliments and flatter our ego´s, and finally, we tend to relate more to people who we feel may cooperate with us towards mutual goals.

The last principle from Cialdini is Consensus. He states that people are more likely to do things if they see other people doing them (monkey see, monkey do; safety in numbers). 

Whether it be the Ancient Greeks the Fathers of Philosophy, or Psychologists today, there are many more theories that have been created relating to how people can be persuaded or convinced. However, one of the most effective ways, in my opinion, is to always be open, honest and genuine in your intention. Carrying a positive nonverbal communication message as simple as a “smile” can go a long way towards having others gain your trust and truly feel a connection with you to be persuaded.

By Professor Karyn Elizabeth Suárez

Can we learn to persuade others effectively? was last modified: May 4th, 2020 by MIUC

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