Rhetoric devices and fallacies Words cannot be remote from reality when they create reality. John Cowper Powys An accomplished persuader knows how to use the tools of language to achieve his purpose. In particular, these tools include “persuasive words.” Top salespeople, negotiators, and trial lawyers use them regularly. Most of us do not fully understand how or why their words wield such power, but many researches show that certain kinds of language can significantly diminish a listener’s critical thinking (Vickers, 1998, p. 25).
This does not mean persuasive language can always overcome reason, nor convince someone to do something against his or her will. It can reduce critical thinking, but it does not eliminate it entirely.
Persuasive language does trigger mental processes that have more to do with memory, imagery, and emotion than with analytical thought. In extreme cases, especially, the right combination of factors can result in deadly persuasion. To prevent being misled by such language, it is necessary to maintain awareness that it contains persuasive words. With this awareness, our critical judgment can remain alert. We can then make sure we carefully consider the persuader’s message before we think or act in a particular manner. A single word can trigger a metaphor. Telling a person he is “burning his money up” is likely to prevent him from making a foolish purchase more than merely saying he “is better off not spending the money” (Eckhouse, 1999, p.
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The double-bind strategy provides the listeners with an illusory freedom of choice between two possibilities, neither of which is really an option that has been carefully considered. Researchers are unsure why double binds are so effective. On the surface, it seems we would recognize the trick, or would be more objective with our decision. Double binds often work well with children, also. If we tell a child to go to bed at 8:00 p.m., she is likely to resist the order.
If, however, we ask whether she wants to go to bed at 7:45 p.m. or 8:00 p.m., she will likely select the latter option of her own free will (Natanson & Johnstone, 1965, p. 82).
Let’s look at one more device. Here is the example: “Perhaps you are not courageous enough to see my point…” This sentence typifies a way speaker can link two ideas so they must be accepted or rejected together. If the listener identifies with the first idea, he is compelled to accept the second.
Similarly, if he does not identify with the first, he is likely to reject the second as well. This is a common strategy used by persuaders (Vickers, 1998, p. 11).
Watch for itCreating an affinity with the listener is a prerequisite for effective communication. The following techniques are all ways a trained speaker uses persuasive words to build sufficient rapport. (1) The first is a positive introduction.
It should instill confidence and a sense of togetherness. Within the first few sentences, the listener ought to feel that the speaker is there to offer assistance. Such an introduction begins to reduce a defensive posture normally associated with meeting a stranger. (2) Showing respect for the listener is another way to gain rapport. (3) Speaking the language of the listener also creates rapport. This, of course, includes speaking the same national language as the listener, although a trained person can develop rapport with body language during a one to one encounter. Essentially, though, this means identifying with the person or people the speaker wants to persuade. Anything that accomplishes this, such as using the local vernacular, will suffice. Even the rate of speaking can help a speaker identify with an audience.
The Elements that Make a Conflict Positive: Humor, Choices, and Faith When surrounded by so much anguish and despair, it takes a lot for a person to be optimistic and to do something about it. Gregory Boyle, a pastor working in Los Angles, which happens to be gang central, decides to turn an awful predicament into something that will help his community grow. Guy Burgess from Beyond Intractability ...
For example, the average high school-educated audience prefers a speaker who talks around 170 words per minute. (Incidentally, Limbaugh speaks an average of around 177, based on a sampling of three TV broadcasts.) (Jacobs, 1995, p. 375).
(4) Hopefulness builds rapport. Hopeful messages that put positive images in people’s minds can serve a useful purpose. Hopeful messages that distract attention from challenges may not do so, even if such distraction cultivates rapport. Hope should be coupled with positive direction, not with cynical assaults on large groups of Americans who may not be motivated by self-interest.
Kenneth Clark says, “We can destroy ourselves with cynicism and disillusion just as effectively as by bombs.” Hope is an essential ingredient for ending disillusion, but so is love. Attaining positive rapport with one group at the expense of another group can ultimately lead to despair. And despair is the opposite of hope ((Jacobs, 1995, p. 377).
Herbert Gardener said, “Once you get people laughing they are listening and you can tell them almost anything.” This says much about this aspect of persuasive language. Books have been written in the field of psychoneuroimmunology on the ability of humor to heal disease. Humor therapy has brought people out of depression where clinical psychology was not successful. If someone has the ability to get a person to laugh, he has the opportunity to persuade the person to do something else (Eckhouse, 1999, p.
This does not mean that persuasion should preclude humor from its arsenal anymore than any of the other strategies we are discussing. Listeners should, however, see the red flag so they are not beguiled beyond the point of no return. Listeners should be especially mindful when a speaker’s humor is at the expense of another person or group. If this remains the main source of mirth, the listener should find something else to laugh about. References Eckhouse, B.
Humor is an important part of everyday interaction. It serves mainly as a social lubricant that creates a lighter atmosphere between a speaker and an audience. Provided that it is not provoke offensive behavior, humor can be used as a first step towards building individual relationships. A more relaxed ambiance between people, in turn, is conducive to friendliness. In the sociological context, ...
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The Red Flags of Persuasion. ETC.: A Review of General Semantics, 52(4), 375. (1965).
Philosophy, Rhetoric and Argumentation (M. Natanson & H. W. Johnstone, Ed.).
University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press. Vickers, B. (1998).
In Defence of Rhetoric. Oxford: Clarendon Press..