The art of persuasion

Greek philosopher Aristotle reckoned he had this whole persuasion business nailed. His thinking was that if you combined logic, emotion and credibility, then there was no way your audience would disagree. In Aristotle’s opinion, it’s logic that’s the trump card, though. If your argument doesn’t make sense, no one’s going to care what you’re saying.

Except that logic doesn’t always do the trick, does it?

We might know that a bank or utility or supermarket or mobile phone company has a cheaper deal, but that doesn’t mean we’ll switch. Logic alone isn’t enough to persuade us. You need something else there too.

When it comes to writing at work, pretty much everyone needs their words to persuade. Marketing wants to sell more. Managers want to motivate. HR wants us to fill in some paperwork. Recruitment wants to convince candidates that their firm is a great place to work. Facilities don’t want us to park in a certain place next Friday. Good business writing is good sales writing. No exception.

Of course, the reality is that a lot of business writing – particularly the internal stuff – does a pretty poor job of persuading us, of selling an idea to us. And a lot of the time, that’s because the writers think logic’s going to make the case for them. They’ve forgotten about all the other ways that words convince us to do one thing instead of another.

We haven’t forgotten, though. When I run writing workshops, people always ask me for tricks and techniques to make their words work harder. So we’ve pulled them together to create win me over, our Academy workshop all about the art of persuasion. (In words, naturally.) 

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