Persuasion and the power of communication
In my job (leadership), persuasion is a very powerful tool in leading a team. A company has a vision that must trickle down through the ranks so that all of its team members will follow. In order to do this (or to begin the process of following that vision) is the ultimate goal of persuading each and every team member to follow the vision and in order to succeed. This is where the truth lies that power is the ability to influence another.
My theory above is not as simple as it may seem. A company usually has a simple and unique vision that will differentiate themselves from others and create a common goal for all so that the company will accomplish what it needs. This simple vision can mean a huge amount of change, which ultimately needs persuasion to accomplish. In order for people like me to succeed at persuading each team member to follow this vision are two crucial components; as Adler, Rodman & Sevigny (2011) explain, adapting to each and every individual is crucial in this process as well as the fact that in order to communicate persuasion, you need credibility. First, each individual is different and therefore is motivated differently. If you say the same thing, exactly the same way, doing exactly the same thing to a group of different people, you will not once get the same reaction. Therefore adapting and changing to each individual to properly motivate and hence, persuade them is crucial. Second, being credible is just as important as adapting to each person’s different personality. By simply adapting to each persons differences in motivation helps make you credible as it gives you that human factor. You also need to prove in some way that your persuasion is working, this in term will give you your credibility and will make every next step easier as the belief in the appropriate change will be more believable.
Persuading many different people is not as easy as it seems. Every person is different (different purpose, different attitudes, beliefs, values etc.) therefore the way you communicate to each person must be unique in order to achieve the appropriate persuasion (to reach the goal of what you are trying to say). This not only takes proper communication skills but also credibility. In order to be persuasive, you must prove yourself worthy for someone to strongly believe in you.
Adler, R. B., Rodman, G.& Sevigny, A. (2011). Understanding human communication. Second Canadian Edition. Oxford university press.
I love Jason’s thinking! I hope he can manage to hang onto it through the program. His observations are precise, correct and, if taken seriously, challenge much management orthodoxy. (Which raises real questions about management orthodoxy and textbooks.)(This is one of the reasons I always want students to draw upon real world examples. They often significantly expand, or correctly contradict, the material you are taught.)
The question for Jason is how much a standardized program can be implemented that does good enough. Or is persuasion something that must remain an individualized front-line management initiative?
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Persuasion and the power of communication
The power of persuasion is extraordinary, this is seen in nearly all human encounters which include an attempt to persuade or influence ones way of thinking to others. It transcends age, profession, culture, religions, beliefs; people are always trying to persuade each other. Everyone needs persuasion skills and everyone uses techniques and tactics of persuasion every day. This makes mastering communication and understanding human nature essential to effective persuasion. (Rosellie, Skelly & Mackie, 1995)
Master communicators understand the art of persuasion and know how to recognise and use persuasive strategies. Advertisers spend billions of dollars in research and analysis of psycho-graphics to figure out how to subtly persuade their audience. Persuasive influences flood our daily existences and they are inescapable. Hence it is in our best interest to understand persuasion and know how it works and functions and also learn how to use proven techniques of persuasion so that we are empowered. (Conger, 1998)
In daily life one encounters persuasion in every facet and all type of interactions have some element of persuasion be it with family, friends, colleagues, peers, etc. At work I am constantly encountering it sometimes I am on the receiving end and sometimes on the giving end of persuasion. There are meetings for projects which involve heavy use of persuasion to get things done a certain way that I have envisioned and believe will lead to successful completion. Then there are vendor meetings where one is on the receiving end of someone trying to convince you that their technology is the best thing to happen. They use persuasion tactics to try and convince that their technology is a must-buy or sometimes a must-try at the very least. A classic persuasion technique of getting the “foot-in-the-door“. Sometimes they even offer additional incentives like throwing in free services or equipment with the new technology as part of the deal. This is the “that’s-not-all” persuasions technique to make lucrative offer or proposition to convince us to buy their technology. (Alder, Rodman, & Sévigny, 2013)
One of the most visible components I come across is the 3 c’s of credibility in these situations. These constitute an important aspect of the communicator’s ability to persuade. (Alder, Rodman, & Sévigny, 2013)
Competency, which one acquires from one’s expertise and experience in the field. One gets to see this when sales folks bring along a technical experts in their field to speak in a product presentation meeting.
Character which is something one finds establish based on the history one has built from pervious performances with other projects which helps gain the trust of peers and fellow project team mates.
Charisma, one gets to experience this enthusiastic and dynamic element frequently among people who come making sales pitch or product demonstration of their technology or product. They bring this element to attract their audience to get and keep their attention while they express both verbally and non-verbally. (Alder, Rodman, & Sévigny, 2013)
Regardless of where we work and who we interact in our daily lives, there is going to be persuasion involved and hence it is very useful to have good persuasion skills. Persuasion in a nutshell involves careful preparation, good framing of arguments, presentation of supporting evidence, and the appropriate emotional match with one’s audience. It’s a tool which empowers us gives us the ability to do, to execute, to convince and to achieve. It goes hand in hand with good communication skills. This helps us in all walks of our life and in different roles we play as a parent, a partner, a mentor, an employee, a coach etc.
Alder, R.B., Rodman, G. & Sévigny, A. (2013) Understanding Human Communication, 3rd Edition
Persuasion, Audiences, and Persuasive Writing
Conger, J.A.(1998) Harvard Business Review
Rosellie, F., Skelly, J.J. & Mackie, D.M. (1995) Journal of Experimental Applied Social Psychology
Processing Rational and Emotional Messages: The Cognitive and Affective Mediation of Persuasion
Vinny certainly gets at the pervasiveness of persuasion and some of the aspects. I wonder what difference this course makes to his (or anyone else’s) ability to sidestep aspects of persuasion or work to more effectively persuade?
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Persuasion or Manipulation
The first thing that comes to mind is abusive relationships. This is a very difficult subject for me, as I have lived this type of manipulation personally. Controlling or verbally abusive people have a knack at making manipulation look like persuasion. Their techniques are so well perfected that the victim unsuspectingly falls into their trap.
I can almost hear the comments; “How can anyone not know they are being manipulated?”, “Someone has to be pretty naive not to see it”, etc. I, myself, was one of the people that use to make these comments. Most victims are women (Evans, 1996), which is why I will refer to them in the feminine. I often made comments like; “Why doesn’t she just dump the guy?”, “How can she put up with this type of behavior?”
But one day someone spun their web around me and I really got stuck. It started slowly, gradually. Little things at first; he would convince me that the Italian restaurants were always better. Next thing I know, that is all we are eating; Italian food. Once we were living together, all the bills were put in his name. Somehow he convinced me it was better that way. Then slowly he even convinced me that it was better to get a combined cellular plan in HIS name (despite the fact that I was running my own business); after came the Costco membership, which he did not need, but decided to get one and eliminate mine. I still cannot remember how that one happened, but I can tell you he had a convincing argument for I’d had that membership for a long time and there were no real need for this change. This was all part of the web he was spinning around me, taking away my independence one piece at a time. I will not bore anyone with the numerous details, but to give you a good picture in the end he took over my business and I spent several years working from home raising two little boys that we adopted.
Persuasion is selling an idea that will benefit all or most people involved, while manipulation is selling an idea that will mainly benefit the seller of the idea. Manipulation is derived by selfishness (Adler& al., 2011).
There is a very thin line between the two and sometimes it is difficult to see the nuance. For example; if someone says “Are you sure you want to do this?” If they are asking this question out of real concern, because they recognize the action may have a negative consequence, then it falls under the category of persuasion. But if a person asks this same question simply to steer the other person towards their preferred outcome, then it becomes manipulation. An example would be the wife considering taking on an employment and the husband asking that same question, because he is thinking about all the responsibilities he would have to take on because his wife would no longer be home all day to do all the house chores.
Couples use persuasion all the time to make decisions, whether it be for the purchase of a new car, the location in which to settle in, where to go on vacation, which restaurant to eat at. It is all part of a healthy relationship. There is nothing evil or malicious in persuasion, contrarily to manipulation. The definition of manipulation when we look it up in the dictionary is “to falsify for one’s own advantage.” (Collins, 2003)
As stated by Patricia Evans (The Verbally Abusive Relationship, 1996), some of the signs that one is being manipulated are;
– Gradual loss of self-esteem
– Loss of confidence
– Behavioral adjustment as to avoid outbursts
The victim of this type of manipulation may not realize all the changes at first, but they do have a sense that something is not quite right. They simply can’t pin point exactly what it is. In my personal situation it was a therapist that told me what was happening to me, then recommended Patricia Evans book. If a situation does not feel comfortable, it is often an indication that something is wrong. Anytime a person is being manipulated their own needs are not being met causing discomfort and unhappiness.
In a situation where persuasion is involved, all parties gain and there should not be any ill feelings attached to the outcome.
Adler, R.B., Rodman, G., Sevigny, A. (2011). Understanding Human Communication, Second Canadian Edition. Oxford University Press. Don Mills, Ontario.
Collins, W. Sons & Co. (2003). English Dictionary: Complete and Unabridged. HarperCollins. Bishopbriggs, Glasgow.
Evans, P. (1996). The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to recognize it and how to respond, Expanded Second Edition. Adams Media Corporation. eBook. Chapter on Characteristics and Categories of Verbal…
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Persuasion or Manipulation
As is pointed in the course material for this week, almost all communication contains some degree of persuasion; however, the question is, when does persuasion cross the line and become manipulation. This is a difficult question; nevertheless, I will attempt to articulate an answer. For me, when considering whether or not a person is persuading, we need to determine their intent, and their honesty.
When I read the title of Kevin Hogan’s book, Covert Persuasion: Psychological Tactics and Tricks to Win the Game, I immediately thought that the entire book was going to be about how to manipulate people, as I associate the word “covert” with dishonesty. My understanding of the word comes from its being used to discuss the covert operations of the Pentagon in its waging various kinds of secret military operations. For example, when I hear the word “covert”, I think of the American military’s secret bombing campaigns against Laos and Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Despite my original understanding of the word, once I began reading Hogan’s book, my perception changed when I read the section called “Eight Steps to Get Your Outcome.” It can be said that through his clear and overt presentation of these eight steps that I was persuaded to take what he is saying seriously. In particular, in these steps he states,“You need to be certain the new outcome is truly going to be good for your customer/client.” (p. 7). Not only did this statement convince me that Hogan is not just selling manipulative techniques, but it also helped me locate the possible line between persuasion and manipulation.
For me this line is formed by the intent of the individual doing the persuading or manipulating. Therefore, we are delivered to the realm of ethics, as it is the ethical theory of deontology that locates the morality of an action not in its results, but rather in its intent.
This takes me to an incident involving my parents. An incident that I used to believe to be a case of manipulation, but now I believe to be a case of persuasion. After graduation from high school, I was not very keen on immediately pursuing a post secondary education. As a result, after high school I began working; however, after doing this for a year, my parents began to pressure me about going back to school. In the related communication that took place, my parents often communicated in a manner that would make Hogan proud; that is, they essentially followed his formula “Negative Emotions + Behavioral Plan = Behavioral Change.” In the past, I would pretty much put anything down as manipulation that utilized fear tactics; however, my opinion has now shifted when fear tactics are used with genuine intent, which is more or less the case with my parents.
After waffling about whether or not I wanted to return to school after taking a year off following my high school graduation, my parents began to use persuasive tactics in order to persuade me to go back. These tactics involved painting a number of future scenarios and involved instilling fear in me. According to Hogan, “people do not see the future clearly” (p. 12), which opens up a powerful space for persuasion. In their persuasion tactics, my parents tried to paint a picture of the future for me using fear. They did this for my by describing what my future would look like if I did not attend a post-secondary institution. One of the pictures that they painted involved my having a dead end job for the rest of my life, just as one of my cousins does. Another picture that they painted was their being extremely disappointed in me. A third picture they painted for me was what my life would be like without their financial support, which they would immediately stop if I did not enroll in school. From my new perspective, the majority of parents’ communication in this regard was persuasion as opposed to manipulation. As Hogan argues, when involved in persuasion, “A good rule of thumb is to always to act in the very best interests of everyone you communicate with” (p. 17).
I believe that my parents’ intent had my own interests in mind. I feel that they believed that my future would be much bleaker if I did not study at a post-secondary institution; therefore, even though they utilized fear tactics, I believe that the majority of what they communicated was based on concerns for my well-being and what they believed to be the truth. The only area where manipulation may have occurred was in their threat to stop supporting me financially, as I am not sure that they believed that they would actually do this. Therefore, if they were being dishonest in this threat, then I would have to say that manipulation took place.
It is often a fine line between manipulation and persuasion. In my opinion the determining factors that delineate this line are the intent and the honesty of manipulator or persuader.
Hogan, K. (2006). Covert Persuasion: Psychological Tactics and Tricks to Win the Game. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Jiaqi very carefully introduces an ethical framework to make her case. Deontology, as she notes, focuses on intent. We have duty to intend well for those with whom we communicate. This framework clarifies the line between persuasion and manipulation. Is this a satisfying approach? What in a genuine good intention? Are we human beings actually capable of such intentions? If not (and there are good reasons why one might argue they are not), then what happens to the line Jiaqi has drawn? Is there another moral system that might help us?
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