Persuasive Techniques

Call them techniques, call them strategies. Call them smart, call them sneaky. Chances are you're using persuasive techniques, consciously or not, to help tilt things in your favour every now and again.

Just remember that they're being used by everyone else, too.

36 Common Persuasive Techniques

 1) Analogy. A more complex metaphor, explaining, not merely showing a comparison. For example, “What you’re doing is as useful as rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.” 

 2) Anecdotes. Short personal stories to help illustrate a point and convince the audience that this message might be worth the audience's time. These anecdotes are often linked to emotional appeal. 

 3) Attentive listening. Showing that you are listening actively is a way to show you care and want to participate in the matter at hand. 

 4) Bandwagon appeal. If everyone does it, why not you?! This is the essence of the bandwagon appeal. Saying that something is extremely popular or desirable makes other people want to be a part of whatever is going on. They just want to join! They want to "jump on the bandwagon" with everybody else. 

 5) Celebrity appeal. An old technique that showcases a known person endorsing an idea or product. If that celebrity likes it, why not you?! 

 6) Confidence. Showing that you believe in yourself, in your ideas, tends to convince people to give you a chance.  

 7) Constructive feedback/criticism. Making sure that your negative comments are accompanied by potential avenues for a solution or improvement is usually a productive way to communicate. 

 8) Cultural reference. A message that suddenly refers to The Simpsons, Cardi B, Fast and Furious or any widely known cultural icon tends to ease connections with the audience. Of course, the key is to find cultural references that appeal to the desired audience. 

 9) Details. When asked a question, offering plenty of details in your answer can be quite convincing. 

 10) Developing personal rapport. Also called “relatability.” Often used in sales, this can be done by finding commonalities and making a connection with you, the audience.  

 11) Disparaging opponents. Although it is not something that is encouraged, it is used in many contexts – but with a potential for blowback. It might discredit you. 

 12) Emotional appeal. Through the use of adjectives, stories, adverbs or simple images, someone can make an audience feel a particular way about an issue. 

 13) Empathy. Also called "perceived benevolence." Showing that you care about your audience will help you be more convincing with your message. It will also help people trust you. 

 14) Everyday language. Using "street language," or colloquialisms, makes the speaker seem down-to-earth and therefore more likeable to more people. 

 15) Everyman appeal. This is a technique that is very similar to "celebrity appeal." Instead, an average person is shown or mentioned. The inference here is that most people in the audience deem themselves as to be average people, so they will feel closely linked to the message because it involves people like them. 

 16) Exaggeration/hyperbole. Overstating something might help persuade readers of a point of view by making it more obvious than it otherwise would be. 

 17) Expert opinion/authority. Also called "perceived ability." The opinion of experts and of authority is usually more persuasive to an educated audience.

 18) Flattery. Complimenting someone is often a polite way to get on their better side. Overdo it, though, and you may come across as a sycophant… 

 19) Focusing on strengths. While it may be misused to avoid speaking about weaknesses, focusing on your strengths might be a way to sway some people into positive reactions. 

 20) Honesty. Being honest and transparent may endear you into someone’s trust.  

 21) Humour. As you can imagine, a successful joke will make the audience laugh. This establishes a connection with the audience and increases the potential for persuasion. 

 22) Imagery. Descriptive writing, or appealing visuals in video, can be a powerful persuasive technique. Vivid presentations tend to be quite popular, too. 

 23) Inclusive language. Inclusive language – using the words we or us – is often used to get an audience onside. 

 24) Irony/sarcasm. A type of darker humour where you showcase the contrary of what you perceive in a way to make people laugh or realize something. 

 25) Logic. A logical, well-structured argument can be very persuasive. 

 26) Making one feel special. This is often used in luring someone into a group mentality or mindset. This may be done nefariously. 

 27) Metaphor. A metaphor is a figure of speech that directly compares one thing to another for rhetorical effect. From Shakespeare: “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.” A well-presented metaphor will appeal to the audience’s intellect, or simply make people smile. In any case, it can be an effective tool to help convince an audience. 

28) Proposing solutions. Concluding a relatively negative situation with potentially positive  solutions will make you look like you actually care about the problem. 

29) Pun. A play on words often relying on homophones, homonyms or rhymes can make the audience smile and even laugh. For example, “A pessimist's blood type is always B-negative.” 

30) Repetition. The repetition of words, strings of words, slogans or even certain letters creates emphasis and sticks to the audience’s mind. 

31) Rhetorical question. A question where the answer is obvious and can help lead readers to a particular conclusion. 

32) Sandwich technique. Before breaking bad news, it is often more polite to preface with something polite and rather positive. And the bad news has been shared, finishing with a silver lining can also help. In other words, the sandwich is positive/negative/positive. The positives being the bread that hold the meatier negative in the middle. 

33) Simile. Creating a comparison using like or as. From the movie Forrest Gump: “Life is like a box of chocolates”. A simple comparison can help persuade an audience. 

34) Specialist language. By using jargon (for example, legalese), one attempts to reach an audience of specialists. This shows you are in the know. This, however, can backfire if used with an audience of non-specialists: they might see you as stuffy and snobby. 

35) Supporting evidence. Facts, figures, quotes, or graphs that help support arguments are often excellent persuasive techniques. 

36) Surprise. Most people love positive surprises. Steve Jobs, a founder of Apple Inc and longtime CEO, used to finish his presentations with a big product reveal that would make people rave about the novelty. Partly because he kept it as a surprise for the end of his talks…

Photo credit:"Capslock is NOT persuasive" by afagen is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.