Persuasive Communication: The Power of Intent

11 December, 2019
Persuasive communication isn't just about manipulation. You can also use it to start big projects and fight harmful ideas.

Persuasive communication has earned a certain negative connotation in recent years. People associate it with manipulation – of opinions, ideas, and people.

It’s true that you can use it to manipulate. But if you look past that, you’ll see that persuasive communication skills can also help people support good initiatives. Additionally, they can also help you fight bad ideas or intentions. It’s a type of communication that people in large organizations are always trying to boost. It’s also highly valued in politics.

You live in an era of communication. Although you may not have stopped to think about it, everyone is a communicator in a sense. Social networks have given people a stage where they have to communicate with others on a daily basis. This often includes communicating with people of different cultures or who have different ideas and opinions.

In addition, you often influence other people without even intending to do so. But everyone presents their opinion and their point of view all day long. Also, everyone wants their opinion to be taken seriously and accepted. At the very least, if people push it aside, you’d probably like them to have good reasons for doing so.

A group of people engaging in persuasive communication to reach an agreement.

What’s persuasive communication?

Here are two definitions of persuasive communication:

  • “Persuasive communication is the intentional use of communication to deliver an important message with the purpose of convincing the audience of something.
  • “Persuasive communication is the intentional use of communication to manipulate masses.

Is it the same message? Do they have the same intentions? The message might be positive or negative. The intention can also be good or bad. However, in order for it to be persuasive communication, it requires certain elements. These are: a communicator, a message, a receiver, and a channel. Let’s look at how these four elements work:

Elements of persuasive communication

  • The communicator. There’s a general tendency to either accept or reject a message depending on who’s delivering it. That often overrides even the content of the message itself. Some of the most important variables for success in persuading people are the communicator’s credibility and appearance.
  • The message. It’s easier to persuade people when the message is novel, brief, and full of emotion. These emotions can either be positive or negative, such as either hope or fear. You can present both sides when delivering a message. This means giving the pros and the cons of your idea or opinion. These would be more persuasive to audiences that possess more information and education. You can also present your ideas in a one-sided or biased way. In this case, the message would only contain the position the speaker intends to convince people of. These types of messages are more influential for people with less information.
  • Receiver or audience. In this category, the most important qualities of the receivers are their intelligence or self-esteem. These two factors might make the difference between whether a message is accepted or rejected. People with higher intelligence and higher self-esteem need to analyze discourse more before accepting other people’s arguments. A curious aspect is that people achieve the highest levels of persuasion not immediately but after several weeks. Psychologists call this the “sleeper effect”.
  • The channel. Simple messages can convince people better if you present them audiovisually. More complex messages can convince people better if you present them through print.

Persuasion or manipulation?

You might often confuse the meaning of these two terms. Nowadays, persuasive communication is any type of communication carried out with a purpose. That intention is often nothing more than the desire for other people to support your ideas or opinions. In many cases, they might even be good ideas. They might be ideas that could contribute significantly to other people’s well-being, improving your social or professional environment.

Not everyone wants to manipulate others for their own benefit. Everyone continuously uses persuasive communication even if they might not be aware of it. Nevertheless, you can boost your persuasive communication if you know some good techniques. The most important ones are:

  • Logic. Many people defend their ideas or opinions based solely on emotions. Opinions based on emotions might lead people to insist that some truly strange ideas are true. Yet when your arguments lack logic, you might find it hard to convince others. Emotions are necessary but they should be combined with logic.
  • Manners. People who try to impose their ideas on others using insults and disrespectful language rarely succeed. You probably encounter this on a daily basis on social media. Presenting your opinions in a respectful way tends to be much more persuasive.
  • A sense of humor. This is essential, especially when you’re refuting opposing arguments. It’s better to use irony than sarcasm.
Two friends having a conversation.

Persuasive communication is an art

Considering everything we’ve discussed here, persuasive communication is an art. As with any art, you can practice in order to get better at it. At the very least, it’s an excellent idea to make use of it. Without persuasive communication, there can’t be leadership and you wouldn’t be able to fight harmful ideas.

Alonso J, Angermeyer MC, Bernert S, Bruffaerts R, Brugha IS, Bryson H, et al. Prevalence of mental disorders in Europe: results from the European Study of the Epidemiology of Mental Disorders (ESEMeD) project. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. 2004;109:21-7.

Murphy JM, Nierenberg AA, Laird NM, Monson RR, Sobol AM, Leighton AH. Incidence of major depression: prediction from subthreshold categories in the Stirling County Study. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2002;68(2-3):251-9