Persuasion as a Process of Communication
What is a process? A process is a series of actions or events. This means that communication has no fixed beginning or ending. As the participants express, interpret and reply to each other’s messages, the process develops. When we say that persuasion is a process of communication, we imply that without communication, persuasion is impossible. It also means that persuasion is a dynamic, on-going process that includes the expression and interpretation of messages.
From the foregoing discussion, we can postulate that persuasion is a process of communication in which a communicator succeeds in voluntarily forming, sustaining or changing the attitudes or behaviour of one recipient or a group of recipients, in accordance with what the communicator intends by his or her message. It is important to also state that persuasion can be used to sustain or strengthen existing attitudes or behaviour, or to encourage recipients to form attitudes and behaviour.
For example, advertisements for banking institutions which advertise new services or lower rates not only try to persuade people to become clients of the institution (change), but also try to persuade existing clients to stay with them (reinforcing).
Persuasive Communication: The Historical Context
Communication as a field of academic study became established at universities in the western world during the 20th century. However, a systematic study of communication can be traced to classical Greeks (between the fourth and fifth centuries BC). Their focus was on the study of oratory – the creation and delivery of spoken messages
Persuasion is a powerful force in daily life and has a major influence on society and a whole. Politics, legal decisions, mass media, news and advertising are all influenced by the power of persuasion, and influence us in turn. Sometimes we like to believe that we are immune to persuasion. That we have a natural ability to see through the sales pitch, comprehend the truth in a situation and come to conclusions all on our own. This might be true in some situations, but persuasion is not just an overzealous salesperson trying to sell you a car, or a television commercial enticing you to buy the latest and greatest product.
Persuasion can be subtle, and how we respond to such influences can depend on a variety of factors. Interestingly, when we think of persuasion, negative examples are often the first to come to mind, but persuasion can also be used as a positive force. For example, public service campaigns that urge people to quit smoking are great examples of persuasion used to improve people’s lives.
In this article, we have been learnt that persuasion is symbolic; utilizing words, images, sounds, etc and involves a deliberate attempt to influence others. In other words, during persuasion, people are not coerced; they are instead free to choose. The methods of transmitting persuasive messages can occur in a variety of ways, including verbally and nonverbally via television, radio, Internet or face-to-face communication.