Is all communication persuasive? I would argue that it is.
In many contexts, it is easy to see that communication is persuasive. When a person has a clear objective and makes it readily known, we can tell that what they are doing is an act of persuasion. For example, imagine your friends are discussing what restaurant to eat at. You say, “I would love some Italian food,” or “You know, there are lots of good restaurants to go to, but I hear Mediterranean cuisine is very healthy.” It should seem obvious you are working to influence their decision. You are attempting to persuade them to go where you want to go.
However, what about when someone says good morning to you or simply says hello? Could that possibly be persuasive communication? Isn’t it just part of basic dialog which carries with it no persuasive component? I say no.
Every time we speak, we are doing that speaking from a unique point of view. We are speaking from our particular vantage point in the world. What is persuasive about saying hello to someone? On one level, it is an act of courtesy which seeks to persuade another person that, at the very least, we are courteous. But it is more than that.
Every single time we speak, no matter how banal the topic, no matter how short the message, we are planting a flag of personal, existential significance. In an often complex and confusing world, we want to persuade others, as well as ourselves, that we exist. When we speak, it is at very least a persuasive cry to be paid attention to.
The challenge we have when we discuss communication is that we often fail to realize that any piece of communication: spoken, written, body language, etc, has a goal – stated or unstated, conscious or subconscious. When we wake up to the reality that communication by its very nature is persuasive, we become better able to take in the messages we are receiving and contextualize them with our own perspectives, needs and desires.
Becoming a better communicator means becoming more persuasive. The first step to becoming more persuasive is being able to understand the fundamental nature of communication in the first place.
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