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What is Persuasion?


Persuasion is the art of changing a person's opinions, beliefs, values or actions using logic, evidence, emotion, and reason. 

Coercion is using force to mandate a change of person's opinions, beliefs, values or action.

Manipulation is using trickery to make a person change.

Persuasive speeches share a view with the intent on changing people's belief, attitudes, values, or actions regarding a topic or issue.

          Persuasion is the art of changing a person’s opinions, beliefs, values or actions by using logic, evidence, emotion, and reason. For persuasion to work, you need to choose a topic with two distinct sides of the problem or issue. If not an opposition, there is no reason for the other party to change. It isn’t always necessary to present both sides of an argument. However, by doing so it makes you stronger in your persuasion. Presenting both sides allows you to build all sides of information into your presentation. If you decide to not bring in the opposing side, it is imperative to do research on the other side. Knowing what is being said by the opposition adds a validity and depth to your arguments. You are also less likely to have the opposition attack your weak areas. Persuasion utilizes several levels of psychological support as you build your persuasive arguments. Humans are thinking, feeling, and emotional beings and the task as a person who urges change asks you to be aware of the psychological methods and impacts of your persuasion. It may be best to present your arguments in an unforced manner, instead working to change someone’s beliefs, values, or stance using ethos, pathos, and logos.

          Persuasion is not coercion or manipulation. Coercion is using force to mandate a change of a person’s opinions, beliefs, values or action. Coercion only lasts while the force is applied. Once force is released the change will not stay.

Example: Parents telling their child to clean their room, or they will be grounded. If the parents stop applying the force (threat of grounding), the action (clean their room) will not occur.

          Manipulation is using trickery to make a person change. Manipulation leaves out part of the information such as the negative viewpoints toward change in order for a person to make a decision with only part of the whole story. Manipulation only provides one side of the story. Often manipulation may be used in cults, peer pressure, or hazing situations. It removes a person from a caring and supportive environment and isolates them. The person removed and manipulated has no frame of reference affecting their belief system allowing the cult or negative system to “have a hold” on them rather than making a legitimate, unbiased decision. Manipulation may focus on “group think” vs. individual thinking.

Example: The speaker gives the audience statistics that support his particular call to action. However, when doing research, the audience finds the statistics used were inaccurate and would cause severe consequences if followed as the speaker indicated.

          Persuasion is not these things, manipulation or coercion; persuasion uses logic, evidence, and reasoning to inspire change on an audience. Persuasion leads to overt or covert actions. Persuasive speeches may not always have a call to physical action, and they may instead work to inspire a mental change. Covert changes may not be observable and could be claim of fact or value. Overt changes require physical action, such as a claim of policy.

Review Questions

1) What is persuasion? How is it different from manipulation and coercion?

2) Should persuasive speeches always include a specific call to action? Why or why not?

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