Senior Communication Major at Spring Arbor University
Often in the field of communication, the goal is to persuade. It is important to understand how to go about persuading in order to be the most effective. Most of the information in this blog post will be taken from the text for my Corporate Communication class, written by Cheryl Hamilton, cited at the end.
To persuade, it is important to make sure an argument is coherently logical (logos), that the speaker is credible (ethos), and that the psychological needs of the audience are met (pathos).
According to the text, there are four main methods of persuasion, and each one has a different level of usefulness, depending on the situation.
Method 1 is “assertion plus evidence plus source,” such as “We need to paint our workroom orange [assertion]. Productivity normally increases by 20 percent when the walls are painted orange [evidence] according to Kenneth Johnson
” (Hamilton, 2014, p. 399). Method 1 is the least persuasive, but tends to work well if the audience is already well-acquainted with the source or is very convinced of the credibility of the speaker (Hamilton, p. 399).
Method 2 is “assertion plus evidence” such as “We need to paint the workroom orange [assertion]. Productivity normally increases by 20 percent when the walls are painted orange [evidence].” (Hamilton, p. 399). This is a good method to use when you are speaking to those inside your organization (Hamilton, p. 400).
Method 3 is “assertion plus evidence plus source plus qualifications of source,” such as adding to the above statements that Kenneth Johnson is “the research director for Business Color, Inc. [qualifications of source]” (Hamilton, p. 399). Method 3 is often a good choice when trying to persuade people outside of your organization (Hamilton, p. 400).
Method 4 is “assertion plus firsthand experience” such as adding, “Twice I have been in departments that painted their walls orange, and both times productivity has increased approximately 20 percent [firsthand experience]” (Hamilton, p. 399). Method 4 is a fantastic method to use when you are speaking to people within your organization, but is also persuasive to people outside of your organization.
Persuaders need to decide whether they will exclusively present their side of view or the opposing arguments as well. If your audience already agrees with you, or does not know anything about your topic, or you want immediate action such as donation from your audience, or if your audience probably will not hear an opposing view, then you should just present your side of the argument (Hamilton, p. 401).
However, if the listeners know a lot about your topic, or if they disagree with your proposal, or if you know your audience will probably hear the other view anyway, you should present both sides (Hamilton, p. 401-2).
It is important to avoid “fallacious reasoning” when persuading, including ad hominem (attacking the person instead of the argument), ad populum (because everyone knows this idea is right, it can’t be wrong), ad ignoratam (since no one can disprove it, it must be right, begging the question (“asserting something that is because it is”), hasty generalization (concluding something with too few examples), post hoc (assuming a causal relationship when that may not be the case), slippery slope (assuming that one step will lead to much more drastic ones) (Hamilton, p. 403).
Hamilton presents several interesting methods of persuasion in this chapter, but I will only mention one that I found interesting: the criteria satisfaction pattern. This method works well even when your audience opposes your position, and it involves two steps: first, establishing criteria to follow when evaluating plans or solutions, and second, explaining how your method meets or exceeds the criteria. Apparently if you can get your audience to agree to the criteria, you can often convince them of your method as well (Hamilton, p. 416).
Hamilton, C. (2014). Communicating for results: A guide for business and the professions (10th ed.). Boston: Wadsworth.
Image from http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/bj-fogg-interview-persuasion-psychology/.