Among the different types of communication that exist, persuasive communication has been charged in recent times with a certain negative connotation. It is associated with manipulation of opinions, ideas and people.
It is true that it can be used in that way, but we can not ignore the importance that good persuasive communication skills can also support good initiatives and combat bad ideas or purposes. It is a type of communication that is trained in large organizations and a skill highly valued in high executive positions and in politics.
We live in the communication age and, although we have not stopped to reflect on it, we are all communicators. Social networks have given us a scenario where we communicate daily with other people, from other cultures, with many different types of ideas and opinions.
In many of those cases in which we influence others we do not intend to do so. Or that’s what we tell ourselves. But somehow all people give their opinion or their point of view about something at any time of the day and all would want their opinion to be taken into account and accepted or dismissed with reasons, at least.
What is persuasive communication?
Let’s see below two definitions of persuasive communication:
“Persuasive communication is the intentional use of communication to launch an important message for the purpose of reaching out to the audience.”
“Persuasive communication is the intentional use of communication to manipulate the masses.”
Is it the same message? Is it the same intention? The message can be positive or negative, the intention can be good or bad. But to be persuasive communication requires a communicator, a message, a receiver and a channel. Let’s see how these four elements work:
- The communicator: there is a generalized tendency to accept or reject a message depending on who communicates it, rather than depending on the content of the message. Among the variables that contribute most persuading is the credibility of the communicator and, although it seems untrue, its appearance.
- The message: it is easier to persuade other people when the message is novel, contains few arguments and is loaded with emotions (positive or negative) such as hope or fear. The message can be presented bilaterally, so that the message presents the pros and cons of the idea or opinion. They are more persuasive for audiences that have more information and education. They can also occur unilaterally or biased; when the message presents only the position of the intention of the message. These types of messages have more influence on people with less information.
- Receptor or audience: the variables that most influence are intelligence and self-esteem. They are the two factors that make the difference between accepting a message or rejecting it. The more intelligence and self-esteem, the higher level of analysis before accepting the arguments of others. Something curious is that the highest degree of persuasion does not have an immediate effect, but after several weeks. This is known in psychology as the sleeper effect.
- The channel: simple messages are more likely to convince if presented through audiovisual media. More complex messages convince better through printed media.
Convince or manipulate?
We often confuse the meaning of these two terms. In reality, persuasive communication is all intentionally oriented communication. That intention is often nothing more than the desire for other people to support our ideas and our opinions. And in many cases they are good ideas. Ideas that can contribute much to the well-being of others, helping to improve our social or professional environment.
Not all people want to manipulate others for their own benefit. Everyone continually makes use of persuasive communication without knowing it. But this type of communication requires certain techniques that can be trained. The most important ones are:
- Logic. Many people defend their ideas or opinions based exclusively on emotions. Opinions based on emotions can make defend the strangest things as true. But the lack of logic convinces little. Emotion is necessary, but combined with logic.
- Education, good education. People who try to impose their ideas based on insults and disrespect do not convince anyone. This is experienced daily in social networks.
- Presenting opinions with respect towards others convinces more.
- Sense of humor. This should not lack, especially to be able to refute the contrary arguments. It is convenient to train irony, not sarcasm.
Persuasive communication is an art
In fact, and based on the above, it can be said that persuasive communication is an art. Like all art can be trained. At least it is not enough to have some control over it and make good use of this much needed skill. Without persuasive communication, there is no leadership, and important projects could not go ahead, and ideas that do harm could not be stopped.