How to be Persuasive

What makes a speaker an effective persuader? We may be able to manage self presentation and make a great impression on others. We can control our personality, appearance, and attitude, but the impression we make on others depends on their perception of us. There are two sides to this, how we manage our self presentation and how others perceive and rate this presentation.

A persuader must have all four of these characteristics, credibility, attractiveness, charisma, and power. Aristotle claimed  or identified two dimensions of persuader credibility, ability and trustworthiness.  You are evaluated to the extent the audience believes you are knowledgeable of the subject, and the extent they perceive you have their best interest at heart. The audience evaluates the self-interest of the persuader and determines what that speaker is trying to gain. If it is a sale, or a call to action  the importance of trust is imperative to the success of the speaker. If the audience suspects that the speaker has little to gain then their trust value is not as great a concern and the knowledge the speaker has on the topic becomes the main selling feature.

To enhance credibility the speaker’s use of evidence will influence the audiences perception. Although this has also been shown of negative value for politicians and business executives of multi national corporations. The perception is that they are now manipulating statistics to show themselves in a better light. For all other speakers introducing old evidence diminishes your persuasive ability, only new, unfamiliar evidence must be introduced to the audience. Remember that all audiences do not have the same knowledge so that old information is new to some audiences. The use of evidence is of particular importance if the persuader has low credibility, the evidence is unfamiliar to the audience, and most important the speaker can deliver the message with high communication skills.

Attractiveness encompasses both physical appearance and psychological identification. Psychological identification is the attraction of a person by the shared language, values, and characteristics the audience wishes to emulate. An attractive person is not always charismatic, and a charismatic person is not always attractive.

Physically attractive people are more persuasive. Why? Research suggests that physically attractive people develop different personalities. They socialize differently, are encouraged more often, and attract others to be around them These people have developed more communication skills, optimism, and confidence. The beauty they have is not skin deep.Their advanced social skills enhance their persuasiveness.

Psychological attractiveness is the similarity we have with others. Similarity between persuader and receiver increases attraction and persuasion. To be able to set up long-term persuasion, psychological identification between speaker and receiver must be established. The only time that this similarity is harmful to persuasive abilities is when the audience is in great fear. If the economy is faltering or an illness makes you see a doctor, we do not look for similarities, what we actually seek is someone with the power and ability to manage the fears. For this reason people who wish to gain power over others try to disassociate themselves from similarities with the audience. Religious figures wear cloaks and ribbons, doctors a white lab coat and stethoscope, politicians are always wearing a suit, and police a dark uniform. The impact of psychological attractiveness on persuasion depends on the receiver’s perceptions of the persuader as attractive.

Charisma  is the natural ability to charm and impress people. It is described as a sort of magical ability to almost mesmerize people. People just like being around charismatic people. History  books have chapters written about charismatic people and the blind faith that nations have at times placed in these people. Charismatic people are persuaders.

Power is simply the ability to change another’s behaviour. We give people power. No one can have power over another unless we give it to them. We voluntarily place ourselves under doctor’s care allowing them the power over our health. Parents have power over their children until the children decide to rebel or question this power. There are four types of power strategies that may be employed by the persuader. Your boss has the power of expectations and consequences over you. That is he has the power to reward or punish you, pay raise or no pay. Relational loyalty power is the expertise someone holds over another It is mainly based on respect. Religious leader use value power. They make you believe that particular behaviour is consistent with  the moral values the religion extolls. Obligation power is a legitimate position of power. The police have this because they have the rights to control your behaviour. Do crime and you will do the time.


2 thoughts on “How to be Persuasive

  1. So much of what Aristotle wrote is still relevant. My personal favorite is his somewhat tongue-in-cheek aside that “it is easy to praise Athens to the Athenians.” In other words, find out what your listeners already care about and connect your own ideas and words with that. A nice post!


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