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The role of imagination in persuasion

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Is the sign above true?

I caught this posting by Seth Godin

An anonymous copyeditor working on my new book unilaterally changed each usage of “persuade” to “convince.”

I had to change them all back.

Marketers don’t convince. Engineers convince. Marketers persuade. Persuasion appeals to the emotions and to fear and to the imagination. Convincing requires a spreadsheet or some other rational device.

It’s much easier to persuade someone if they’re already convinced, if they already know the facts. But it’s impossible to change someone’s mind merely by convincing them of your point.

If you’re spending a lot of your time trying to convince people, it’s no wonder it’s not working.

Some people might think the difference between persuade and convince is nitpicking.  But, if you are trying to influence an investor or a stakeholder then this insight into the words convince and persuade is vitally important.  Why?  It gets down to the mechanism by which people make decisions.  And, in the world of influence, to understand the dynamic of decision-making on the part of individuals is crucial.

If you saw the series The Men Who Build America on the History Channel then you saw many examples of how people like JP Morgan invested in Edison’s inventions not so much that they were convinced by evidence “after the fact” that cities could be lit by the electric light but by the power of the imagination of how it might be.  Other people invest “after the fact” – after they see it in action and are convinced by a large-scale demonstration.  The difference is the ability of the imagination to see the potential (persuasion) before other people are (easily) convinced.

Related is the idea that many people make decisions through an emotional process and then attempt to use reason to justify it.  Appeal to the emotions and reason becomes the slave.  This is operative in a diversity of scenarios from religion to making buying decisions on consumer goods.

Want to influence people?  Then knowing the difference between “to persuade”, “to convince”, and the role of emotion and imagination in influence and decision making will get you a long way to your goal.

Written by frrl

November 26, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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