In trying to convince another person they should include more physical activity in their day, or anything else for that matter, my approach would need to be different depending on their relationship to me. Richard Shell and Mario Moussa point out that persuasion is the art of winning people over rather than trying to defeat them. Therefore, it’s important to see the topic from multiple points of view (Shell & Moussa, 2007).
For example, when speaking to a business manager, I would need to focus on how doing so would increase overall productivity in spite of the sense that it would do the opposite. I would need to focus on practical reasons that make good business sense – reduced sick time, happier employees, the hazards of spending so much time sitting at the desk, etc.
If talking with a friend, on the other hand, I would need to focus on the fun they could have by doing what I suggest. Maybe point out how we might be able to do some of those things together, or they could do them with other friends. It would be all about the social elements of my suggestion rather than the practical benefits.
A challenging person, is, by definition, challenging. They would want to challenge all of my statements and assertions. To convince them, I would need to be armed with facts and precedent. Showing them the historical evidence and the scientific studies that back up what I’m trying to say is not guaranteed to convince them, but I’ll have a better chance if I’ve thought about all the possible objections they could raise and have information, facts and figures that answer those concerns.
An open-minded person is easier to convince, but I would want to concentrate more on how this information or what I’m trying to convince them to do is cutting edge or based on new research or somehow new and exciting or ancient and experiencing a resurgence because of new research. Open-minded people like to feel they’re on the edge, not trend-followers.
The reason these different approaches would need to be taken is because of the different relationships I have with each of the different people and what they’re most focused on. Each audience has its own set of expectations and ways of assessing the information they receive. “People draw on their beliefs about persuasion to cope with other people’s attempts to influence them and to fashion their own persuasion techniques” (Friestad & Wright, 1999). Part of that assessment is based on what they know about me, but it’s also largely based on their personality, their culture and upbringing, their lifestyle, their train of thought at the time I talk with them, and a number of other factors.
- Friestad, Marian & Peter Wright. (1999). “Everyday Persuasion Knowledge.” Impact Factor. 1, 13: 185-194.
- Shell, Richard & Mario Moussa. (2007). The Art of Woo. New York: Penguin Books.