PRINCIPLES OF PERSUASION

Edward Burkley and Darshon Anderson published an informative article “Using the Science of Persuasion in the Courtroom” in Persuasion Research. Among the research conclusions they discussed where these.

Research showed that if people who are asked to think of reasons to support a position and have difficulty generating ways to do so, they are likely to perceive the idea as a bad idea. Therefore, the authors say, by asking the jury to think of some ways (no more than three to make it easier) that your position is right enhances the jurors acceptance of your viewpoint. By the same token, you can weaken your opponent’s position by asking the jury to think of five or six (multiple reasons) why your opponent’s position is correct makes it more difficult and leads to the mental conclusion that position must not be correct. It is the ease with which we can come up with supporting reasons that makes us conclude we must be right and accounts for the opposite result when it is difficult.

Your manner of delivery has an impact on acceptance. People who are hesitant in delivering a message, for example inserting phrases like “you know” or paused or were viewed as less credible than people who did not do this. This research suggests that when speaking to the judge or jury, it is important to deliver your arguments with confidence, clarity and in a measured manner. Preparation to deliver the message without fumbling, pauses or hesitation means you are going to be more persuasive.

I written previously about the NLP techniques of mirroring others speech and nonverbal attitudes. This article cites research that confirms the fact mimicry does impact the listeners acceptance of you and your message. That means adopting the same physical positions, rate of speech, and other characteristics of the other person. In one research study salespersons who mimicked the customer were over four times more likely to make a sale than those who did not. The customers however were unaware that they had been mimicked, which means it must be done briefly and in a less than obvious manner. Research indicates that this is an effective technique because people are naturally ego centered and prefer things that are common to themselves. A great deal of research has demonstrated that the more similar something is to us the more we like it. We like people who like us, think like us and act like us. It only takes a few seconds when done correctly. Furthermore, this operates at an unconscious level.

From the experience of brainwashing in POW camps it was learned that fatigue helps get people to comply with a request or accept a message. In several studies people’s energy levels were monitored to determine their ability to resist persuasive messages. The research confirmed that when levels of fatigue went up people’s resistance went down. The authors say this would suggest that when jurors are fatigued these are peak persuasive time periods. During a trial this generally is before lunch and at the end of the day. Strong arguments should be repeated and one should save your strongest arguments and strongest evidence for these situations when the audience will be more open to influence during periods of fatigue.

We are all aware of the concept of inoculating against accepting an opponents argument or position. Influencing their thinking before the opponent can make the argument is an effective persuasion device according to the authors. In general people do not like to know that they are being persuaded. When they feel their freedom is being restrained they respond by maintaining their original position or resisting the message. One way to take advantage of this fact is to point out the various persuasive “tricks” that one’s opponent plans to try to use to change their mind or sell them an idea. Generally when one begins by offering weak arguments first the listener begins to reject the statements and generate counter arguments in the process. Therefore before one’s opponent has had the opportunity, presenting the jury with weak versions of the opponents arguments will inoculate them to the later arguments offered by the opponent.

Lastly, the authors suggest that common sense and research suggests that first and foremost you should be seen as a credible source. This article argues that to do that requires you to provide strong arguments for your position by being persistent, capitalizing on low energy time periods, avoiding hesitant language, many when appropriate, asking the jury to think of a few reasons why your position is correct, informing them that your opponent will try to persuade them and offering a few weak arguments in that regard, so the jury can effectively build up resistance. A a copy of the original article can be found at www.thejuryexert which is an excellent website for helpful information.

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