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Five Persuasion Situations


Techniques General persuasion > Articles on persuasion > Five Persuasion Situations

Reveal | Do | Desist | Learn | Believe | See also


While we face many different situations where we want to persuade others or otherwise change their minds, many of these are similar in the basic outcome we are trying to achieve.

Situations where we want to persuade include:

  • Reveal: To get them to tell you something.
  • Do: To get them to do something for us.
  • Desist: To get them to stop doing something.
  • Learn: To help them to understand something.
  • Believe: To change what they believe about something.

The potential response of the other person to a simple request may well be negative and the persuasive approach you take here will depend on factors such as:

  • The extent to which your request makes sense to them.
  • The cost to them of complying with your request.
  • Who is the beneficiary, you, them or other people.
  • Their general inclination towards helping others.
  • How obliged they feel towards helping you.


Sometimes you know they know something and you want them to tell you about it. But they may not. Perhaps they feel the information is secret. Maybe they wonder if you will use the information to harm them. And sometimes they just do not realize the value on the information to you.

In conversation, personal information is often revealed a bit at a time in a turn-taking format. In more formal interview situations, the person may be more cautious yet may feel obliged to try to give you an acceptable answer.

Typical situations where it is used:

Typical persuasive actions used:

  • Simply ask for the information. Sometimes that is all you have to do.
  • Explain why you need the information and what you will do with it.
  • Reveal information about yourself so they are more relaxed with you and feel obliged to reciprocate.
  • Show how the other person will lose out if they do not tell you.


One of the basic persuasive situations is where you want the other person to do something, acting in a certain way. This may be for your benefit or for theirs (although they may not realize it). For example you may want them to buy something from you our just help you out in some way.

A problem is that this action will cost them something, even if it just involves their time. They may perceive that they have more important things to do and complying with your request will prevent this. They may also react against what they feel is you taking control of them. Whether they want to help you will depend a lot on your relationship.

Typical situations where it is used:

Typical approaches here include:

  • Asking nicely and showing vulnerability, appealing to their self-image as a kind person who follows social rules about helping others.
  • Reminding them that you have helped them in the past and they are hence obliged to help you in return.
  • Explaining why you want then to act, showing you have a genuine and important need.
  • Promising that you will repay them somehow, making it worth their effort.
  • Commanding them, using a real or assumed position of authority.


In a reversal of seeking action, you may want them to stop doing something, for example criticizing you or doing something that is illegal or harmful.

Their considerations can be difficult in this case. While concern for others trying to control them remains, they are no longer affected by the thought of extra effort, other than in the issues of change. The biggest problem can be habit, where they are so accustomed to doing what they are doing, they cannot think of not doing it. Even worse, they could be addicted, though in the strict sense this is primarily applied to drug use.

Typical situations where it is used:

  • Parenting
  • Government policy (eg. smoking)
  • Policing

Typical actions here are similar to seeing action from them and may include:

  • Explaining the harm that is caused by their action.
  • Commanding them, using a position of authority.
  • Pleading with them to stop, showing vulnerability and speaking to their kind nature.
  • Physicality intervening, such as taking a stone from a child's hand.


A common position is one of teacher, where your goal is simply to impart knowledge, getting them to understand something.

This may be for their general benefit or as a part of other persuasion, such as where you want them to act and where their understanding seems likely to make them more sympathetic to your cause.

Typical situations where it is used:

Typical approaches here include:

  • Simply delivering the knowledge, assuming they will understand both what you explain and how important it is.
  • Describing a problem that makes the other person want to learn about the solution (especially something that will impact them personally). Then providing the knowledge to solve the problem.
  • Being kind and speaking nicely, assuming they will repay your kindness with attention.


Sometimes you want them to change what they believe, such as in religious conversion. Sometimes also addressing belief seems the best approach, such as when trying to stop a person from smoking.

Beliefs are at the base of much of what we assume is true. This makes persuading at this level both powerful and difficult. Yet when you master working at third level, you may be better at all round persuading.

Typical situations where it is used:

Typical approaches here include:

  • Show that their current beliefs are weak or false, and that the new beliefs are more logical or better for them.
  • Get them to act in ways that indicate they have adopted the new belief, so in order to appear consistent they change what they believe.

See also

Fear and Persuasion

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