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Theoretical Concepts on Persuasion

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Part I: Theoretical discussion of some concepts on Persuasion

1. Define persuasion and distinguish it from other forms of communication.
Persuasion is a form of communication that involves the ability to convince others to change his/her position on a certain subject. But unlike negotiation, which suggests some degree of backing down or meeting in the middle. “Rather than compromising, as in negotiation, effective persuasion will actually convince the opposing party to abandon their previous position and embrace yours (http://westsidetoastmasters.com/resources/laws_persuasion/chap1.html).” In other words, effective persuasion enables you to get other people to willingly do what you want them to do.
Looking closely at the definition of Perloff (2003) “Persuasion is a symbolic process in which communicators try to convince other people to change their attitudes or behavior regarding an issue through the transmission of a message, in an atmosphere of free choice.” The two most important component of this definition are: (1) the deliberate intention to change the attitude or behavior of another person, and (2) voluntary compliance, that is, not by force.
Therefore, although persuasion is like any other form of communication such that it is a “process of stimulating meaning in the mind of another by means of a message (Putnam, 2014).” it is different from the accidental type since in the accidental form there is no intention to change attitudes or behavior but simply to transmit information to another person. It is also different from coercion since in coercion the other party is forced to change attitude or behavior, while in the persuasion process, the other person is left to decide whether he or she will change attitude or behavior.

There are three factors that influence effective persuasion – (1) the credibility of the speaker, (2) the type of audience and (3) the content of the message.
The personal character of the speaker is a crucial factor to the persuasion process. If the audience perceives the speaker to be credible, then it becomes easier for the speaker to convince the audience. There are two types of audiences, the highly involved and the less involved audiences. Highly involved audiences are more likely to be affected by the central arguments being relayed by the speaker rather than the credibility of the speaker. On the other hand, less involved audiences are more influenced by the credibility rather than the content of the message (Yates, 2001). For this reason, the content of the message becomes an important factor to effective persuasion as well. In order to come up with a convincing message, it is necessary that the speaker build the message around the audience. He must find a way to know his audience well and prepare carefully his arguments in such a way that the speaker will be able to relay to the audience their shared benefits and eventually convince the audience to willingly accept his position (Conger, 1998).
In summary, persuasion is a form of communication that aims at influencing other people by using the right words and/or symbols, which allows the audience to feel that he/she is being left to make his/her own choice. And so, for persuasive attempts to work effectively it is necessary that the persuaders prepares his arguments well in such a way that it will resonate the general attitude or behavior of his audience.

2. Differentiate persuasion from coercion.
“Persuasion deals with reason and verbal appeals, while coercion employs force (Perloff, 2003).” Although both forms of communication aim at changing the attitude or behavior of another person, persuasion uses non-threatening tactics to influence the other person, and allows the person to make a free choice. Conversely, coercion uses threats to influence another person such that the other person feels that they have no other option but to comply.
Aside from the use of non-threatening or threatening forms of communication, persuasive messages highlights shared benefits while coercive messages thwarts or puts down wants and desires that are contrary to what the speaker would want the audience to do (Barnhart, 1973). Hence, the main difference between persuasion and coercion is the manner in which the person is convinced to change attitude or behavior.
3. Describe the major factors that affect the persuader’s credibility.
Based on my reading, the following may be considered as major factors that affect the persuader’s credibility:
a. Rank or status – refers to the position of the persuader in relation to the audience. The more senior and the more expert the speaker/persuader is perceived to be by the audience, the more credible he/she appears to the audience.
In line with this, one’s level of expertise may be seen from the kind of evidence that the persuader is able to present to the audience. The ability of the persuader to present not only numerical data but examples, stories, metaphors and analogies in order to support his position, the more compelling and tangible his position become (Conger, 1998).
b. Open mindedness – refers to the ability of the persuader to “enter the persuasion process prepared to adjust their viewpoints and incorporate others’ ideas (Conger, 1998).” When the other person sees that the speaker/persuader is eager to listen to their ideas and finds a way to incorporate it with his own, the other person responds more positively to the persuader. They trust and listen more attentively to the persuader as the audience sees from the persuader that he has their best interest in mind as well.
c. Connect emotionally – this concept refers to the persuader’s ability to show his own emotional commitment to the position he is advocating. At the same time, emotional connection refers to having a strong and accurate sense of the audience’s emotional state as well (Conger, 1998).
When the persuader is able to show the right emotional commitment to the position or message he is trying to relay to his audience, the audience sees that his commitment to his position is not only in his mind but in his heart as well. Which means to show that he is truly convinced of his idea and this conviction makes him seem to be even more credible. At the same time, if the persuader is able to capture his audience’s emotional state, he will be able to use the right tactic to appeal to their emotion and will be able to get his message across to them more convincingly. If the audience seem to be the dramatic type, he will probably use different voice tones to capture his audience, however, if the persuader perceives his audience to be the “factual” types, he would probably use direct to the point statements to be able to capture his audience.
4. Identify and explain at least three Filipino values which constitute useful targets for persuasive appeals.
The three Filipino values which may be useful targets for persuasive appeals are (a) utang na loob, (b) pakikisama, and (c) palabra de honor.
(a) Utang na loob is a value that Filipinos hold very strongly. Having a sense of gratitude is highly valued in the Philippine society. “Literally, it means an ‘internal debt’. Figuratively, it means lifelong reciprocation, immeasurable gratitude, favors quantified exponentially (Castillo, 2011).” This automatic sense of obligation to repay a favor makes this Filipino value an easy target for persuasive appeals; it falls under the rule of obligation, a rule that compliance experts or persuaders use in order to influence other people.
The rule of obligation is based on the reciprocity principle which states that when others do something for us, we feel a strong need, to return the favor. Even without intending to do so, other people triggers this feeling of indebtedness particularly when the receiver of an action perceives such action as a favor. (http://westsidetoastmasters.com/resources/laws_persuasion/chap4.html). Because utang na loob is imbedded in the Filipino culture, compliance experts or persuaders would have to simply find a way to trigger this feeling of indebtedness in order to get their audience to do what they want them to do. Giving out samples of popular consumer products in the grocery stores such as shampoo and conditioner, soap, instant noodles, etc., is a simple example of using this value of utang na loob to get Filipinos to patronize certain products. In the same manner, when politicians extend help to their constituents, as when he places their names on the grocery bags that they distribute, is another example of taking advantage of the value utang na loob to get their constituents to re-elect them on the next election. In both examples, the act of doing a favor to someone is at play, whether the act of giving the favor was expected or not from the giver, the same reaction is triggered, which is reciprocating the act by patronizing the product or the person.
(b) Pakikisama, is another trait and value that is very much part of being a Filipino. Tomas Andres (1996) in Leoncini’s conceptual analysis of pakikisama (2009) defines pakikisama as an “act of reaching out to people and trying to know them, and understand them in their need to develop in themselves as potential members of the group and as assets to the organization...It is a symbiotic relationship of give and take that eventually leads to understanding.” Although this definition is similar to that of utang na loob where in the reciprocity rule is also at play, this particular Filipino value is another useful target for persuasive appeals as it follows another rule of persuasion which is the rule of connectivity.
The rule of connectivity states that “the more we feel connected to, part of, liked by, or attracted to someone, the more persuasive they become. When you create an instant bond or connection, people feel more comfortable around you.... When we feel connected with someone, we feel comfortable and understood; they can relate to us and a sense of trust ensues (http://westsidetoastmasters.com/resources/laws_persuasion/chap5.html).” Therefore, by simply establishing this feeling of connectivity and trust, compliance experts or persuaders will now find it simpler to influence Filipinos and sway them to accept the position or kind of attitude they want to put in them. An example where in the concept of pakikisama is working is when we see union leaders or leaders of certain group of activists are able to persuade their followers to join them in street rallies even if doing so will put them in conflict with the law. Members of these activist groups willingly follow their leaders in spite of the dangers it poses because of the trusting rapport that the leaders have established with the group as a result of the pakikisama he initially showed to the group.
(c) Palabra de honor is a value that used to be very much part of the Filipino culture. The Filipinos inherited from the colonial Spain this value where in one feels obligated by a sense of honor to tell the truth and live up to commitments (http://www.studymode.com/essays/Values-39355786.html). Unfortunately, this is one of the Filipino value rarely seen practiced by people in key positions these days. Nevertheless, this is one Filipino value that could still become a useful target for persuasive appeals. It is a concept that may be linked to the rule of dissonance, another rule of persuasion used by compliance experts or persuaders in influencing their audiences,

The rule of dissonance states that “people will naturally act in a manner that is consistent with their cognitions (beliefs, attitudes, and values). Therefore when people behave in a manner that is inconsistent with these cognitions, they find themselves in a state of discomfort. In such an uncomfortable state, they will naturally be inclined to adjust their behaviors or attitudes to regain mental and emotional consistency (http://westsidetoastmasters.com/resources/laws_persuasion/chap3.html).” We see Compliance experts and persuaders apply the rule of dissonance whenever we hear or see them verify first with their audience a certain attitude or behavior consistent with the idea that they will attempt to propose to their audience. Experts call this specific tactic as the “foot-in-the-door” technique, by getting their audience to first agree on an idea they have suggested, compliance experts and persuaders are able to trick their audience to eventually adhere to the position they are proposing because they know that the rule of dissonance will only make their audience feel uneasy if they change their position after having initially declared that they agree on the idea being suggested to them earlier.
We can see the rule of dissonance being used by advertisers when they come up with contests where they ask consumers to send them, for example, their pictures using their product together with a short essay why they prefer to use the particular brand they are advertising. By getting their consumers to put in writing the reasons why they patronize their product, they increase the probability of getting the consumer keep on buying their product because to change to another brand would mean that they do not have palabra de honor, which means they are not consistent and being inconsistent is a label that no one would normally want to be tagged.
References:

Castillo, Dolly P. 2011. Utang na loob a quaint Filipino cultural value. Retrieved on February 28, 2014 from http://filipinojournal.com/alberta/our-columnnist/our-columnnist/utang-na-loob-a-quaint-filipino-cultural-value.html

Cialdini, Robert B. 2007. Influence: The psychology of persuasion. New York: HarperCollins books.

Conger, Jay A. 1998. The necessary art of persuasion. Harvard Business Review, May-June 1998. Retrieved on February 22, 2014 from http://www.mylearningboutique.com/files/Persuasion_Jay_Conger.pdf.

Emata, Ben. 2010. Palabra de honor is gone. Retrieved on March 1, 2014 from http://www.sunstar.com.ph/cagayan-de-oro/emata-palabra-de-honor-gone.

Leoncini, Dante Luis. 2009. A conceptual analysis of pakikisama. Retrieved on March 1, 2014 from http://www.crvp.org/book/Series03/IIID-4/chapter-8.htm.

Miranda, Felipe B. 2004. A nation’s palabra de honor. Retrieved on March 1, 2014 from http://www.philstar.com/opinion/239539/nation%C2%92s-palabra-de-honor

Putman, Mike. Critically analyzing a speech: The classical system. Retrieved on February 22, 2014 from http://www.uta.edu/faculty/mputnam/COMS3312/Notes/Intro.html

Yates, Joanne. 2012. Persuasion what the research tells us. Retrieved on February 23, 2014 from http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/sloan-school-of-management/15-279-management-communication-for-undergraduates-fall-2012/lecture-notes/MIT15_279F12_prsuasnRsrch.pdf

The rules on persuasion. Retrieved on February 22, 2014 from http://westsidetoastmasters.com/resources/laws_persuasion/toc.html.

Coercion vs. Persuasion. Retrieved on February 23, 2014 from http://mettacenter.org/definitions/gloss-concepts/coercion-vs-persuasion/

2010. Reciprocity and the concept of utang na loob. Retrieved on February 28, 2014 ffrom http://laonlaan.blogspot.com/2010/08/reciprocity-and-concept-of-filipino.html

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