Definition of persuasion

Persuasion is often defined as “Human communication that is designed to influence the other by modifying their beliefs, values, or attitudes” (Simons, 1976). According to O’Keefe (1990) there are three requirements to make something persuasive:

  1. First, persuasion involves a goal and the intent to achieve that goal on the part of the messa sender.
  2. Second, communication is the means to achieve the goal.
  3. Third, the message recipient must have free will. When the third requirement is not met, often the message is not considered persuasive, but coercive. The line between these two is very thin. This can be seen, for example, by the existence of coercive persuasion (also known as brainwashing, mind control or thought reform).

Therefore, good use of persuasion is neither accidental nor coercive, but inherently communicational. See for the background information of this article the download safety@work, p25-28 and influencing behaviour, p39-41.

Strategic persuasion in four steps

In order to gain a persuasion that works, it is good to use a strategy. Shell & Moussa (2007) argue for a four-step approach to strategic persuasion. These four steps are:

  1. survey your organisation
  2. confront the five barriers
  3. make your pitch
  4. secure your commitments

See for more information the download “safety @ work”, p25-26 and the article: Strategic persuasion in four steps