Reality Check: May I Persuade You?

It would be difficult to ignore all of the persuasive messages that come into our lives, wouldn’t it? Many of those messages are focused on getting us to do something, often it’s to buy something.
Marketing ads have a clear purpose—they want to persuade us to trade our money for their product or service. I recently heard such an ad that I thought quite persuasive. I’ll describe it for you; you decide whether you find it persuasive, too.
The ad tells a story, and while I can’t remember exact details, it went something like this:
“Julie takes her pups for visits to her grandmother’s home in the mountains. Julie’s car is getting older and she noticed it’s a lot harder on gas than it used to be. So she took it to the friendly folks at XYZ Garage. The boys checked it over and found several problems that needed to be fixed before winter. Julie decided instead to buy a newer, more reliable vehicle from them. She’s now confident about taking those long drives into the country in the winter, she’s saving money on gas, and the pups love the new sunroof!”
What do you think? Would this motivate you to visit XYZ Garage? Let’s take a look at it from a choice theory perspective.
You may already know that Dr. Wm. Glasser suggests that we have five basic needs: safety/security, love/belonging, power, freedom and fun. Essentially, we act to satisfy those needs. Let’s look at the ad with those needs in mind.
First, Julie’s need for safety/security is now better satisfied through the implied reliability of her new vehicle. Her need for love is satisfied because she can continue to visit her grandmother. Also implied is that this garage treats you like family—a place where you belong.
Julie’s power need is satisfied because she’s now more confident about driving. She’s also freer; she can go wherever she wants without concern. There’s even a nod to satisfying her need for fun with the pups enjoying the sunroof!
I found it striking that this simple story managed to touch on satisfying every one of those basic needs. Is that what makes it persuasive? Does it matter? Why bother to analyze an ad to see why it might be persuasive?
In addition to marketing-related persuasion (buying and selling) we’re subjected to many other persuasion efforts. Companies, governments, organizations and individuals would like to shape our opinions into the “correct” ones, that is, so we agree with them and disagree with others. Those efforts can be persuasive.
Because we are so inundated with information, much of it attempting to persuade us, it’s helpful to be able to recognize what we’re seeing and hearing.
It’s useful to know what phrases, stories or examples push our buttons. What appeals to our empathy? What persuades us to open our hearts? To open our wallets? To form or change our opinions?
I’m not suggesting that it is manipulative or wrong to attempt to persuade. I’m simply suggesting that we—the folks who are the targets of persuasion, coercion, even manipulation—can make more effective choices and decisions when we are aware of how we can be influenced.
Do you pay attention to persuasive techniques? Would you like to share any examples with me?

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