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The Oxford Dictionary defines “persuade” as causing another person or even oneself to believe, realise or agree with a point of view or to carry out an action. To persuade is to convince. The purpose of persuasive writing or presentation then is to convince one or more people to agree with our point of view or to take the action we want them to take.

Effective communication takes careful planning, selection of appropriate words that will engage our intended readers or listeners and a call to action whether it is to believe our point of view or do something we want our reader or listener to do. Every day we are bombarded with a broad range of persuasive communication. Advertising is one of the most obvious examples and is a multi-billion naira industry focused on enticing someone to act – to buy – to get involved – to sign up.

Advertising messages come in many forms, television, radio, direct mail sms, newspapers and magazines. In persuasive communication, the communicator of a message is usually called the persuader. Since persuasion often takes place in a public speaking context, the communicator or persuader is also referred to as an orator or speaker.

Similarly, the recipient of persuasion is referred to as the persuadee. In public speaking context, the persuadee may be called the listener or a member of the audience.

What is Persuasion in Public Speaking?

According to Perloff (2003), persuasion can be defined as “…a symbolic process in which communicators try to convince other people to change their attitudes or behaviors regarding an issue through the transmission of a message in an atmosphere of free choice.” In other words, in public speaking, persuasion is a method of getting someone to do, believe or accept something by means of the words you use. It involves reasoning with the listener, using sound arguments or a compelling entreaty to persuade.

In contrast, manipulation involves controlling or influencing a person or group of people through unfair or unscrupulous means. In the simplest terms, persuasion is to get what you want through the use of words. Persuasion always benefits both the persuader and the persuaded.

Manipulation only benefits the manipulator; some think that persuasion is a bad thing. Actually, it can be positive, and in more ways that you would imagine. Persuasion is not the negative kind of manipulation that goes on in the world around us. Manipulation does not create lasting relationships. Many aspects of manipulation are a part of persuasion. Manipulation will always eventually fail. Persuasion will last. Manipulation is always bad.

Persuasion follows a specific pattern of processes, methods and tactics that will help you to help others. True persuasion is ethical, honest, truth and elicits the persuasion criteria that is hard wired into our brains. By learning how to persuade others, you can experience a simple truth. The sooner you help everyone else get what they want, the sooner you will get what you want. To master persuasion will require continuous practice. The difference between persuasion and manipulation mostly lies within you. Your intent is what makes the difference.

Persuasion usually results in long lasting relationships. Persuasion is usually about gaining agreement and support. It is about creating a common ground where you and others can come together in purpose of thought. To become an effective persuader will require taking the time to learn how people make decisions. You will have to look at how you persuade and where you need to make changes and improvements. Where you need to review the techniques and how to review them to get the best results.

Relationship Based Persuasion

In their book The Art of Woo G. Richard Shell and Mario Moussa describes a four step approach to strategic persuasion. They explain that persuasion means to win others over, not to defeat them. Thus it is very important to be able to see the topic from different angles in order to anticipate the reaction of others to a proposal.

Step 1: Survey your situation. This step includes an analysis of the situation of the persuader, his goals and the challenges he faces in his organisation.

Step 2: Confront the five barriers. There are five obstacles that pose the greatest risks to a successful influence encounter: relationships, credibility, communication mismatches, belief systems, interest and needs.

Step 3: Make your pitch. People need solid reason to justify a decision, yet at the same time many decisions are taken on the basis of intuition. This step also deals with presentation skills.

Step 4: Secure your commitments. In order to safeguard the long-time success, it is vital to deal with politics at the individual and organisational level.

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