5. The Language of Persuasion – Business Communication for Managers

Chapter 5

THE LANGUAGE OF PERSUASION

“In making a speech, one must study three points: first, the means of producing persuasion; second, the language; third, the proper arrangement of various parts of the speech.”

 

Aristotle1

After completing this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Understand people's values, beliefs, and attitudes in the context of persuasion.
  • Appreciate the difference between influence and persuasion.
  • Understand tools that help analyse complex business situations and bring about persuasion.
  • Write persuasive documents.
INTRODUCTION

Persuasion is a kind of human communication designed to influence others by modifying their attitudes, values, or beliefs. However, persuasion is different from influence. While influence is a desired change in mindset, persuasion involves acting on that changed mindset. Persuasion is, thus, an intended action or behaviour.

The following preconditions must exist for persuasion to occur:

  • There must be a goal. The sender must have a purpose when he or she attempts to persuade others.
  • There must be a desired outcome. The sender must motivate the recipient to commit to a desired course of action.
  • The outcome must be voluntary. There must be an element of free will on the part of the recipient. Coercion is not persuasion.
  • The sender must have a planned strategy to execute the persuasion process. A series of communication activities should be followed to bring about the persuasion process.
ATTITUDES, BELIEFS, VALUES, AND BEHAVIOUR

It is generally presumed that attitude influences behaviour, and that most organizational strategies are aimed at uncovering the prevailing attitudes of customers, employees, stakeholders, and other recipients. Attitudes are thus relatively stable predispositions to respond positively or negatively towards external stimuli. Attitudes are also changeable. They are learned. People do change their perception about people, events, places, and situations. On the other hand, beliefs refer to what people perceive to be true or false. The statement “I believe in miracles” indicates belief in the existence of miracles. Values refer to the right or wrong and good or bad aspects of something. The statement “I value marriage” indicates that the speaker thinks marriage is a good thing.

As mentioned previously, the purpose of persuasion is to attempt to change the values, beliefs, and attitudes of the recipient to induce a desired action. This gain in behaviour or intentional action is the result of persuasion. This can be verbal when the receiver says what the speaker wants him or her to say. It can also be physical—when the receiver does what the speaker wants him or her to do.

THE PROCESS OF PERSUASION

The rational model of behaviour suggests that people are essentially logical and consistent in their approach and that they think and behave in predictable ways. It is represented in Exhibit 5.1.

 

Exhibit 5.1 The Steps to Persuasion

 

People support those ideas that are concurrent with their beliefs (B) and values (V). On the basis of their beliefs and values, they develop an attitude (A) or a predisposition towards something. For example, people who hold different beliefs or values on euthanasia will typically have different attitudes towards it. A person who does not think that mercy killing frees an individual of suffering will not favour euthanasia. In other words, a person who values life under all circumstances will not be persuaded to support euthanasia.

There are a series of steps involved in a persuasion attempt.

Step 1: Analyse the Audience

The first step is to understand the needs, motivations, values, beliefs, and attitudes people have towards the proposed idea. This can be done through surveys, by talking and listening to the audience, and through the experiences of others. For instance, proceeding with the example of euthanasia, suppose the persuader concludes that the audience is negatively disposed towards euthanasia, he or she has the following options:

  • Attempt to change the belief that mercy killing is wrong under all circumstances by showing that there are certain circumstances where it is recommended.
  • Attempt to alter the value (of life) that the audience attaches to their belief.

The audience has grown up with certain beliefs and values and these are extremely difficult to change over a period of time. However, experts recommend that this can be done in two ways:

  • Providing evidence to support the claim.
  • Introducing a new value, such as the argument that euthanasia may be beneficial as it values the life of the innocents who take care of the invalid. (The value introduced here is “life of the healthy caregiver”.)

Step 2: Segment the Audience

The second step is to classify the audience into categories and then adopt a methodological approach to each segment of the audience. This is based on a rough estimate of how ego-involved the audience is with respect to a particular belief. A person can be highly ego-involved (non-negotiable stance) or moderately ego-involved (not so strongly opposed). The persuasive purpose will then be determined on the basis of this.

Step 3: Determine Specific Persuasive Techniques for Specific Audiences

Different techniques work for different kinds of audiences. The following methods might prove to be useful in different situations:

  • For a strongly opposed audience: The speaker can create a little uncertainty in the minds of the audience. This can be done through a provocative statement or a statistic that supports the speaker's claim. The aim is to make the audience a little less sure of their stance.
  • For a moderately opposed audience: The speaker may try to reduce resistance to his or her idea and shift the audience towards neutrality. This can be done by urging the audience to look at others' point of view.
  • For a neutral audience: The speaker can make an attempt to change the attitudes of a neutral audience as they are not particularly committed to any course of action.
  • For a moderately motivated audience: The speaker can bring a moderately motivated audience to his or her side by reinforcing existing attitudes and making the audience commit to a course of action.
  • For a highly motivated audience: The logical approach is to ask the audience to act on the persuader's claim. The persuader should not spend much time communicating with them.

Information Bytes 5.1

The term “propaganda” first appeared in 1622 when Pope Gregory XV established the Sacred Congregation for Propagating the Faith. Propaganda generally means convincing a large number of people about the veracity of a given set of ideas. It is different from persuasion. While persuasion is confined to individuals and small groups, propaganda is addressed to a large mass of people. Also, persuasion is more logical in its impact while propaganda often stirs emotional responses in an audience. Persuasion is also more rational and professional, while propaganda has political or social overtones. Propagandists often selectively provide information to sway the audience to act in a desired way; persuaders have to provide all information available to commit the audience to a desired course of action.

Step 4: Commit the Audience to Action

The audience is committed to an action through a verbal or a non-verbal signal that the target gives to the persuader. A commitment is the right opportunity to close, as a committed audience rarely backtracks on their word. In case a commitment is not forthcoming, the persuader can introduce a series of questions aimed at getting a “yes” response. Allowing a minor concession to the target as a last resort before final commitment of the deal may also get the target to commit to the deal, idea, or proposal.

Step 5: Follow Up

Follow up has to be immediate so that the audience acts on the persuasive message. The persuader must ensure that dissonance does not set in by assuring and reassuring the audience of the merits of their decision.

BARRIERS TO PERSUASION

Several barriers exist that can hinder a persuasion encounter. These are described in this section.

  • Low credibility: The persuasion process is enabled by the high credibility of the persuader, while low credibility can hinder persuasion. Credibility has to be reinforced or proved. Sources of credibility include the reputation of the speaker's place of work, personal qualifications, and the listener's experience of the persuader's qualities (for example, punctuality), knowledge, and personal reputation.
  • Poor relationships: A healthy relationship between the persuader and the audience facilitates persuasion, while a poor relationship may hinder the process. In business, persuasion is an ongoing process. Even after a persuasion encounter has taken place, the relationship with the audience has to be maintained for future encounters to be profitable. If the relationship is not nurtured, it may wither, and the audience may turn to competitors. Thus, relationship management is important for persuasion to be effective.
  • A mismatch in beliefs and values: Where beliefs and values are contradictory, persuasion may not take place. A rigid mindset is not amenable to change. An audience with fixed ideas may prefer not to be dictated to unless they desire a particular thing.
POINT COUNTERPOINT
We are persuading when we communicate. We persuade only when the target is not convinced about their position.
Persuading others requires force. People often persuade themselves. Thus, the persuader need not use force but should supply enough evidence to support the argument.
Persuasion is manipulative. Persuasion is ethical if the target is willing to be influenced. Anything more than that can be manipulative and unethical.
To persuade, one requires only logic. To persuade a target, one requires a mix of logic, emotional appeal, and credibility.
PERSUASION STRATEGIES AT WORK

Broadly speaking, there are two forms of persuasive appeals. One is an appeal to reason. In these cases, the persuader appeals to the left brain, or the logical aspect, of a person. The persuader prepares arguments to support inductive or deductive logic. The approach is essentially analytical and combines examples, graphs, visuals, statistics, and other forms of evidence to influence the audience.

The other method of persuasion is to appeal to emotion. In these cases, the persuader appeals to the right brain, or the conceptual aspect of a person, through the use of emotions such as love, hate, fear, anger, joy, and happiness. Advertisements are good examples of such appeals. There, the audience has to be influenced in a short span of time (30 seconds) through an impersonal medium.

An unethical form of persuasion is “coercive persuasion.” Coercive persuasion is not persuasion at all as it does not involve free will on the part of the recipient. It includes arm-twisting tactics, torture, forceful compliance, and brainwashing.

Consider the following example. Hari is a manager working as the head of HR at a major corporation. He would like to introduce the concept of flexi-time for women in his rather conservative organization. He wants to persuade the management on this issue. However, if he is to do that, the first thing he needs to do is find out what the management's attitude is towards this issue. He will have to figure out how to segment the management and how egotistic the involved individuals are. He will have to pinpoint the messages they will respond to. Theorists often talk about determining the latitude of acceptance and the latitude of rejection of a persuasion event. True communication can only occur if the message Hari sends is in the individual's latitude of rejection or latitude of non-commitment. Based on his analysis, he can influence the management using logical appeal.

Shabnam is a professional in the wealth management department of a successful private bank. Accordingly, she has to influence rich investors to invest in a financial plan charted by the organization. However, before creating a persuasive message, she must understand the members of the audience. She can adopt two routes of persuasion: “centrally routed messages” or “peripherally routed messages.” Each route targets a widely different audience.

Developed by Petty and Cacioppo2, the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) depicts persuasion as a process in which the success of influence depends largely on the manner in which the recipients make sense of the message. The centrally routed message technique is the more elaborate, as well as the more complex method of the two and includes arguments, debates, a mass of information, and much evidence. It is designed to bring about a long-term change in the perspective of the recipient and, hence, its impact is permanent in nature. Proponents of the ELM theory assert that the strategy is a success only when the recipient is motivated enough to listen to the arguments of the speaker, has the cognitive capability to process the message in a desired manner, or is impressed with the strength of the arguments. While preparing strong arguments to influence the target, Shabnam should ensure that her persuasion is enough to convince the receiver to commit. In case of weak and neutral arguments, particularly when the recipient's motivation level is quite low, Shabnam may resort to shortcuts such as giving peripheral cues in order to get the client to commit.

When audience involvement is low, the persuader can use the peripheral route to persuasion. The peripheral route resorts to more superficial means to persuade the target audience. The sender relies on emotional cues to send messages that strike a chord with the audience. Tactical in nature, this is a short-term method to achieve change. Returning to the first example of Hari, if he finds that his company's management is averse or plain disinterested in his flexi-time proposition, he can turn to the peripheral route for persuasion. For instance, he can show that other companies are doing it, or promise reciprocal exchange, agreeing to support other initiatives of the management if this decision goes in his favour. He can also quote a management expert or an authority figure, or point to the scarcity of important resources if the proposal is rejected and women are forced to leave their jobs. He can also enlist the support of women in the workforce for this initiative.

Robert Cialdini, a well-known social psychologist, identified several cues that signal that a peripheral route has been taken by the sender.3 These are:

  • Authority: Authority is when force or threat is used to influence the other person.
  • Commitment: Commitment is when one agrees to do something and then stands by it, even if the original offer is slightly modified.
  • Reciprocity: Reciprocity is persuading someone by promising to do something in return in the near future. Mutual benefits are emphasized to persuade the target.
  • Liking: People are easily persuaded by people they like. A common example is that of brand endorsements. A brand endorsed by a popular film personality or a sports icon carries a decisive appeal for its target market. Viral marketing is another example of persuasion by liking. People are influenced more when a well-known authority endorses a plan of action. Many organizations (e.g., Unilever in India) adopted the bottom-of-the-pyramid approach (valuing the low-income and middle-income price-sensitive markets) because the late C.K. Prahlad, a noted philosopher, espoused its virtues in a market like India. People are known to perform even objectionable acts if an authority figure tells them to do so. Hitler's tirade against Jewish people, and the resulting genocide, is one such example.
  • Scarcity: This is a veiled persuasive attempt that warns of a possible decline in demand if the offer is not taken up. It may cause the person who is being persuaded to accept the proposal. Sales promotions often use this technique to bolster demand.
  • Social proof: People do things that other people are doing. This is the essence of persuasion by social proof. Social proof is an endorsement by peers or similar groups and organizations. Letters of appreciation also serve as social proof.

 

 

People are easily persuaded by people they themselves like. A brand endorsed by a popular film personality or a sports icon carries a decisive appeal to the target market it is intended for.

 

The effectiveness of a persuasive message is judged by behaviour. Even if the audience or target is positively influenced, persuasion is not deemed to occur if the audience fails to act in the direction given by the sender. Exhibit 5.2 illustrates this further.

For example, in the 2008 U.S. presidential elections, “Joe the Plumber” was shown as representing presidential hopeful John McCain's agenda. The average person is strongly susceptible to emotional appeals such as these. However, there can be mixed reactions to this form of persuasion.

In the first case, there could be positive evaluation from the target audience. The masses would identify with the common man's values/beliefs and vote for McCain in the election (behaviour/action). The second scenario could be that the masses identify with the common man (positively evaluate the message), but do not vote for McCain in the election. Thus, even if the message creates a positive affective state, it may yield weak positive changes in attitude, which, in turn, result in inaction.

In the second case scenario, the target audience could perceive the message neutrally. It may be either indifferent to the message or the messenger or be unaware of the cues given to them. If the target audience does not care about the portrayal of the common man or is disinterested in the political affairs of the nation, it can either “go along” with what everyone else is doing (there is no real attitude change) or prefer not to vote altogether.

In the third case scenario, the target audience could strongly disapprove of the message. This can be due to the following reasons: a) it thinks that it is a publicity gimmick to get votes, b) it disagrees with the choice of the symbol (Joe the Plumber was not registered with the Ohio Construction Company), and c) the visuals irritate the audience. In this scenario, the audience rejects the candidate and votes against McCain (behaviour); another alternative could be that though the message has created a negative affective state, it yields a weak change in attitude and the target audience does not vote. Consider the following situation:

David is the CEO of a world-class concern. There are many changes to be brought about in the company to cope with the changed work scenario. The first of these changes is a change in mindset. In recent times, hierarchical models have been replaced by matrix-like work structures where individuals of different ages, genders, departments, cultures, and specializations have to work as a team. In order to bring about such changes, mature handling of people, processes, and other issues is needed. However, David is not sure his team is capable of such behaviour. At the first meeting with his staff, David starts by narrating a short story called “The Eagle's Quest for Survival.” The story talks about an aged eagle that can either choose to die or to revive itself through a painful process lasting for 60 days. The eagle chooses the latter and emerges victorious after the struggle. David concludes that change is inevitable everywhere. It might be painful, but it is immensely rewarding as well.

Persuasion through storytelling, as shown in this example, influences people through narration. The storytelling approach assumes that people in general are influenced by emotional rather than rational arguments and are fundamentally influenced by the good lessons that a story conveys. This mindset can be found behind visuals that try to tell a story through pictorial and other graphical representations. Successful advertisements focus on a “story” (associating the product with human attributes), rather than the product, to persuade the buyer.

 

 

Exhibit 5.2 Various Ways in which a Target Might behave during Persuasive Communication

Communication Bytes 5.1

Experts recommend juxtaposing the rational view with the emotional view to obtain more satisfying results with persuasion. The logical explanation involves the fact that our brains are divided into the left brain and the right brain. While the left brain processes rational arguments, the right brain deals with the emotional aspects of life. Hence, effective persuaders combine the appeal of both the worldviews to influence the target audience. This is also the essence of the 2300-year-old Aristotelian theory on the “art of rhetoric,” which is still relevant in the twenty-first century.

Some preconditions must exist to make this approach successful:

  • First and foremost, the target audience must be motivated to listen. It has been found that listening to this form of narrative is strongly correlated to age, seniority, and the position held by the speaker.
  • The sender must attune the story to the sensibilities of the audience, paying attention to their culture, context, experiences, and values.
  • The narrative must be consistent.
  • The target audience must be able to reconstruct “reality” from the narrative and rationally apply it in the real world.

Some of the other popular persuasion techniques that border on the slightly unethical are:

  • The bait and switch: The bait and switch involves putting forward an inviting offer that never materializes. The target is simply manipulated into believing the persuader's message.
  • The door-in-the-face approach: The door-in-the-face approach wants the target to reject the claims of the persuader the first time. After the first rejection, the persuader makes the real offer, which usually gets accepted as it sounds reasonable in comparison to the first offer.
  • The foot-in-the-door approach: The persuader begins with a small offer (to get a foot in the door), which is usually successful, and then increases the offering.

These techniques are used in pressure selling. Since the market is flooded with competing products, and current as well as prospective clients are largely well-informed, salesmen sometimes use these high-pressure selling tactics to sell their products and meet their weekly, monthly, and half-yearly targets.

RHETORIC

According to Aristotle, rhetoric is the ability, in each particular case, to see the available means of persuasion. He described three main forms of rhetoric: ethos, logos, and pathos. Aristotle also said that a persuader is essentially a “good man” with the right intentions.

Ethos

Ethos is appeal that is based on the character of the speaker. An ethos-driven document relies on the reputation of the author. It uses trust as the basis of interaction. It includes aspects such as the reputation and credibility of the speaker. Ethos is the level of credibility as perceived by the audience. Persuasive speakers leverage their past successes and their experience and expertise to get others to listen to them.

Having an excellent reputation and high credibility is more than just good, it's also persuasive. Lying, subterfuge, and hiding facts are not only wrong, but also unpersuasive. The target audience is more likely to believe an honest person than someone who comes across as deceptively smooth. What if the audience does not know the person beforehand? These cues are easy to imitate, but not for long, as the verbal, visual, and vocal cues given by the sender can easily convey the truth to a discerning audience.

The foundations of ethos are wisdom, virtue, and goodwill. To prove dependability, persuaders follow through on their commitments. To show integrity, they will speak the truth. Ethos is charisma as well as character. To portray credibility, position yourself as an expert. Investigate everything about the subject of the persuasion event. Talk as if you cannot be challenged. Show how others look up to you. Use powerful gestures, eye contact, and so on to position yourself.

People buy ideas and products that add value to themselves in terms of self-esteem, social approval, happiness, wealth, and power. In turn they rationalize these internal motivations with logic and facts. Persuaders use many appeals to influence the audience—fear and love being the most prominent. Fear of using the competitor's products, the fear of pain, the need for self preservation, and ego (love of oneself) are some of the popular emotional appeals used to influence others. In fact, building a relationship with the audience is the essence of a successful persuader. When the audience starts visualizing the persuader as a problem solver rather than a peddler of products, they will be more influenced to buy into the speaker's ideas.

Pathos

Pathos is appeal that is based on emotion. Persuasive speakers excite and arouse the emotions of the audience to get them to act. They appeal to the values of the audience and challenge existing beliefs and attitudes. Language plays an important role in conveying emotions as words are the vehicles used to trigger the senses of the audience.

Pathos is argument by emotion. Skilled persuaders play on the heartstrings of targets who they feel are susceptible to emotions. This technique is successful when the persuader takes into account the feelings of the audience and employs them to his or her advantage. Pathos inspires sympathy and “one-ness” with the cause, but the cause and the feeling have to be genuine for both the sides. For example, the statement “You have worked hard for this organization,” where the emotional appeal used is love for, and commitment towards, the organization, might be received differently by different people. If one addresses this statement towards an undiscerning supervisor, the answer might be the following: “Thanks. I really appreciate that. It's nice to think that at least some of my employees appreciate my efforts.” However, a more discerning boss might smile and give the following reply: “Thanks, but I still won't sanction your leave.”

Logos

Logos focuses on arguments, rational appeals, reason, and demonstrable evidence. This technique uses empirical, validated facts to persuade the audience. Pictures, statistics, and data serve as evidence to influence the target. Reason includes accepting truths and providing cause and effect rationale to explain things.

According to Aristotle, appeals to logos most often use a “syllogism” and “enthymeme.” The following argument is an example of syllogism: No reptiles have fur. All snakes are reptiles. Therefore, no snakes have fur. An incomplete syllogism is known as an enthymeme. These are also known as “rhetorical syllogisms.” The following is an example of an enthymeme: Some teachers are strict. Therefore, Prakash could be strict.

Thus, a syllogism leads to a necessary conclusion from a universal true premise, but an enthymeme leads to a tentative conclusion from a probable premise. Syllogisms and enthymemes are examples of deductive arguments where specific conclusions are drawn from accepted truths. On the other hand, the induction form of argument “builds up” from evidence, reason, and logic as in most forms of scientific writing.

According to Aristotle, one rarely finds syllogisms in their purest from and most arguments use enthymemes. The following argument might provide an example: We do not have enough money to pay our workforce. Without a decent salary they wouldn't have any motivation to work, leading to lower productivity levels. Therefore, we should automate most procedures to save important resources so that we can pay our staff well.

As can be seen, this argument is weak and incomplete. Automation involves a cost that has not been taken into account. Also, it is not clear what important resources would be saved. Does the statement suggest having a reduced workforce, implying a layoff or downsizing? In that case, it would actually demotivate the workforce!

AGREE TO DISAGREE REASONABLY

Argument by the stick is no argument. It never persuades, it only inspires revenge. To disagree reasonably, the tools of persuasion are logos, ethos, and pathos. To be logical, speakers must connect what they want with the reasons they gave. For instance if Jerry desires a raise in salary, it must connect with the reasons she gives for the increment. The following example illustrates this.

         Jerry: The boss won't give me a raise.

         Preeta: Why should he give you a raise?

         Jerry: Because I have been working for the past ten years in this organization.

         Preeta: So the boss should give you a raise because you have been working here for ten years?

 

Repeating the premise of the argument with the conclusion will force Jerry to think logically and generate more logical arguments to get what she wants.

The following strategies might work if one wants to persuade logically:

  • Confirm the facts provided.
  • Quote authorities on the subject, whether it is the customer, the media, or the business analyst.
  • Use factual statements instead of suppositions. One should always use the words “it will” instead of “it could.”
  • Arrange arguments in a sequence. The weakest should come first and one should gradually lead up to the strongest argument.
  • Be prepared with responses to reports contradicting statements.
  • Bring up the negative consequences of not being persuaded by the idea/offer.
  • Use repetition, alliteration, and other techniques for persuasion.
  • Use euphemisms.
  • Use graphs, charts, and other pictorial representations.
  • Narrate the data and connect with the audience. Don't just rattle off fact.
  • Assert ideas plainly. Use the active voice.

 

Using graphs, charts, and other pictorial representations might be helpful if one wants to persuade logically.

 

Though Aristotle believed that logos should be the most important of the three persuasive appeals, logos alone is not sufficient. A combination of all three elements is essential to be an effective persuader.

SUMMARY
  • Modern approaches to management require adept influencing and persuasion skills. This is especially true in current times, characterized by the demise of the command and control form of management.
  • Persuasion is visible in different forms in one's personal as well as work life. It is used nearly everywhere—for instance, during presentations, in business writing, when preparing plans and proposals, and so on.
  • Persuasion requires the skillful use of elements such as logos, pathos, ethos, timing, context, examples, and illustrations. All must be orchestrated for maximum results.
  • Persuasion is not always manipulation. There are ethical as well as unethical means to influence others. Unethical persuasion results in short-lived successes.
  • Effective persuaders focus more on the subject than on the message object. They attempt to win the audience first.
  • Planning and preparation are essential to effective persuasion.
  • When the audience is favourably disposed, the centrally routed persuasion technique is most effective; in case of audiences with negative predispositions, it is safer to adopt peripheral persuasion techniques.
ASSESS YOUR KNOWLEDGE
  1. Explain the difference between influence and persuasion.
  2. What, according to Cialdini, are the seven ways to influence a target audience?
  3. Elaborate on the role of values, attitudes, and beliefs in persuasion theory.
  4. How does a persuader motivate a reluctant audience?
  5. Explain the merit of the following statement: “The effectiveness of a persuasive message is judged by behaviour. Even if the audience or target is positively influenced, persuasion is not deemed to occur if the audience fails to act in the direction given by the sender.”
  6. Critically analyse Aristotle's exposition of the ethos, logos, and pathos methods of persuasion. Which technique yields greater benefits in your opinion?
USE YOUR KNOWLEDGE

 

1. You are the CFO of a financial corporation. You have had a bad year, though the severity of the problems was not public until the fourth quarter. At the annual shareholders' meeting, the management team and your performance have been challenged by an active opposition. Justify your company's performance and the current management team against the active opposition. After you have prepared the structure of your argument, assess the following: Is the structure appropriate for the audience and situation? Is the main recommendation, argument, or proposal easily identified? Are sub-arguments made clearly? Are two-sided or one-sided arguments used appropriately depending on audience, purpose, credibility, and context? Is the evidence presented concrete, accurate, relevant, and sufficient? Did unnecessary information clutter the presentation?

2. You are a senior staff member at an airline corporation. You have been asked to examine a set of insurance policies for the airline, and to recommend one of them. Make and support your recommendation. After you have prepared the structure of your argument, assess the following: Is the structure appropriate for the audience and situation? Is the main recommendation, argument, or proposal easily identified? Are sub-arguments made clearly? Are two-sided or one-sided arguments used appropriately depending on audience, purpose, credibility, and context? Is the evidence presented concrete, accurate, relevant, and sufficient? Did unnecessary information clutter the presentation?

3. Review the scenarios given below and prepare a persuasive response to each of them.

  • Persuade the staff of your micro-credit firm of the merit of using computers for day-to-day business activities. The firm is operating in rural areas and the staff is reluctant to use computers.
  • Persuade the director of your business school to sanction a field trip to the industrial township near your institute.
  • The academic committee of your institution is planning to do away with a popular student club activity. They are hoping to introduce something new and different in place of this activity, which is now in its tenth year of existence. The student council members do not agree to this, however, as the club was appreciated by the faculty, students, and companies alike. As secretary of academic affairs, plan a persuasion strategy aimed at retaining the activity.

4. Consider the following situations carefully and answer the questions that follow them.

Situation 1

A second-year MBA student gives a flawless presentation about the corporate strategy of Dabur. It is logically sound and traces the evolution of the company from a small enterprise to the behemoth that it is today. The presentation is racy, fast-paced, and pitched just correctly. It is low on ethos while being high on pathos and logos.

Situation 2

A company spokesperson gives a dull presentation, albeit with all the correct facts and figures, accompanied by sound logic. However, it is long-winded, full of slides, and bereft of any real discernible interest on the part of the speaker. It is low on pathos and high on ethos and logos.

Situation 3

A company spokesperson gives an energetic presentation, replete with facts, arguments, and sound logic. It is crisp and strongly pitched. It is low on pathos and high on ethos and logos.

Situation 4

A second-year MBA student gives a presentation on the corporate strategy of Dabur. However, the presentation is too long and rambling, the presenter looks ill at ease, there are too many slides, and the presenter's appeal falls flat.

Which one of these presentations seems most persuasive to you? Do you think that the MBA student in Situation 1 manages to persuade the audience? Or is the spokesperson for the company more persuasive just because she has much more credibility or ethos? Does unpreparedness make a presentation less persuasive? What role does the audience play in such a circumstance?

WEB-BASED EXERCISES
  1. Refer to the following link: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subliminal_stimuli>. How is subliminal persuasion different from traditional forms of persuasion?
  2. Refer to the following link: <http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/625/01/>. Now enumerate the different forms of persuasion in rhetorical situations.
  3. Refer to the following Web site: <http://dell.co.in/home/laptops?&dgc=ST&ST=Dell%20website&cid=33221&lid=783243&acd=10599679472341480>.

    As a Dell service professional, design a persuasive presentation to the student council representatives of a reputed business school seeking to buy around 400 laptops for new students. What persuasive pitch would you use? What techniques would you adopt to convince the council members to buy Dell laptops?

  4. Prepare a statement of purpose as a compulsory requirement for entry to a prominent international business school. The document must be persuasive enough to impress the business school authorities. Visit the following link for the details: <http://www.edhec.edu/jsp/fiche_pagelibre.jsp?CODE=38271431&LANGUE=1&xtor=SEC-261>
FURTHER READING
  • R.B. Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, (New York: Quill Books, 1993).
  • R.B. Cialdini, “Interpersonal Influence” in S. Shavitt and T.C. Brock, eds., Persuasion: Psychological Insights and Perspectives (Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 1994).
  • M. Dainton and E.D. Zelley, eds., Applying Communication Theories for Professional Life: A Practical Introduction (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2010) (2004).
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