Introduction to Persuasion
When someone mentions persuasion, what comes to mind? Powerful, charismatic leaders? Subliminal ads? News? Lawyers? Presidential campaigns? Or the Internet perhaps, with those innumerable Web sites shamelessly promoting products and companies? That's persuasion, right? Powerful stuff—the kind of thing that has strong effects on society and spells profit for companies. But what about you? What does persuasion mean to you personally? Can you think of times when the media or attractive communicators changed your mind about something? Anything come to mind? Not really, you say. You've got the canny ability to see through what other people are trying to sell you.
Well, that's perhaps what we like to think. It's everyone else who's influenced, not me or my friends—well maybe my friends, but not me. But wait: What about those Tommy Hilfiger jeans, Gap sweaters, or Nike sneakers you bought? Advertising had to play a role in that decision somehow. And if you search your mind, you probably can think of times when you yielded to another's pushy persuasion, only to regret it later— the time you let yourself get talked into doing a car repair that turned out to be unnecessary or agreed to loan a friend some money, only to discover she had no intention of ever paying you back.
But thaf s all negative. What of the positive side? Have you ever been helped by a persuasive communication—an antismoking ad or a reminder that it's not cool or safe to drink when you drive? Have you ever had a conversation with a friend who opened your eyes to new ways of seeing the world or with a teacher who said you had potential you didn't know you had?
You see, this is persuasion too. Just about anything that involves molding or shaping attitudes involves persuasion. Now there's another term that may seem foreign at first: attitudes. Attitudes? There once was a rock group that called itself that. But we've got attitudes as surely as we