Tipultech logo

Persuasive arguments

Author: Dr Simon Moss


During meetings, speeches, advertisements, paraphernalia, and other media, organizations need to present persuasive arguments. A variety of strategies can be utilized to construct persuasive arguments to customers, subordinates, managers, and other stakeholders.

Specifying benefits and drawbacks of proposals

Presenting benefits

Step 1. To persuade an audience, individuals should present three arguments that support their proposal. In particular, these three arguments should describe three consecutive events.

Sales employees, for example, could describe three consecutive studies that demonstrate the benefits of some product. In addition, sales employees could refer to the benefits that employees would experience one, two, and three days after they purchase some service.

Three consecutive events are perceived as a streak (Carlson & Shu, 2007). Specifically, three consecutive events, such as a share that has increased in value on three consecutive days, is perceived as significantly more informative than two consecutive events. In contrast, three consecutive days is not perceived as appreciably less informative than four consecutive events.

Demonstrating balance

Sometimes, you need to persuade individuals to choose one option over another alternative. For example, you might want to encourage colleagues to work overtime rather than not work overtime.

Step 1. In these instances, first specify the benefits of the choice you would rather individuals to select. Then, to ensure credibility, specify the drawbacks of this choice.

If individuals first specify the benefits of one alternative over rivals, and then describe the drawbacks, customers are more inclined to choose that option than perhaps they would have otherwise (Russo, Carlson, & Meloy, 2006). For example, suppose two strategies can be used to improve the organization. Initially, managers might present the benefits or merits of the first strategy relative to the second strategy. Listeners, at this stage, will obviously assume the first strategy is preferable. The managers then present the benefits or merits of the second strategy relative to the first strategy. Unfortunately, listeners had already assumed the first strategy is superior& this assumption biases their evaluation of the additional information. They will, for example, tend to trivialize the importance or relevance of the information that implies the second strategy is preferable.

Labelling preferred options

Step 2. You should label the choice you would rather individuals to select& do not name the other alternative. For example, suppose you wanted customers to choose one service rather than another service. You could refer to one of the services--the service you want to promote--as the "Qual program". You would not label the other alternative.

Alternatives that are labelled are processed and understood more rapidly (Labroo, Lambotte, & Zhang, 2009). Individuals tend to prefer the options that are processed more efficiently (Reber & Schwarz, 1999 & see Fluency and the hedonic marker hypothesis).

Detail of the preferred options

Step 3. For similar reasons, you should also describe the alternative you want customers to select in more detail. That is, you should ensure these individuals can vividly imagine this option. Vivid alternatives are processed more fluently and thus perceived as more credible (Leboe & Ansons, 2006).

Granting a sense of freedom

Step 1. Ensure your style and language is accommodating and flexible rather than dogmatic and forceful. For example, avoid words such as "must" or "need", but instead allude to choice, such as "I'll leave the choice to you". Second, curb any derision towards other perspectives, such as "Any reasonable person would agree that...". Third, avoid absolute allegations, such as " You cannot deny that..." but instead show more balance, such as "There is some evidence that...". Finally, present impartial, objective information instead of dire warnings.

Individuals feel their autonomy is infringed when someone else is dogmatic rather than flexible and balanced. Therefore, they often attempt to restore their sense of autonomy and freedom. To restore this sense of autonomy, they tend to opposing the recommendations that someone else offers (Bushman, 1998;; Quick & Stephenson, 2008 & see Psychological reactance theory).

Time and context

Conditions that improve concentration

Step 1. Sometimes, you do not want individuals to change their judgment or attitudes. For example, perhaps an employee donated generously to a fund the year before and you are concerned they might reduce the donation this year. In these instances, you should seek their donation this year while they are distracted, perhaps during a complex speech or during an event in which alcohol is flowing liberally.

In contrast, sometimes you do want sometime to adjust their initial perception. Perhaps they mentioned they do not want to donate but they are willing to reconsider. In these instances, you should seek their donation this year while they are concentrating carefully. You should discuss one issue at a time to ensure they are not distracted. In short, individuals are more likely to shift their attitudes when they are concentrating carefully.

The final judgment of individuals, such as the price they feel an item is worth, is especially influenced by their initial impressions if they feel intoxicated, distracted, or impulsive (Epley & Gilovich, 2006). To illustrate, suppose supervisors were asked to specify the time or budget they would like to dedicate to a project that is organized annually. Their initial estimate might be the time or budget they dedicated last year, perhaps 10 days or $100,000. They will then adjust their judgment from this initial estimate. Nevertheless, adjustments tend to be limited. Their final judgment will tend to approximate 10 days or $100,000 (see Anchoring and adjustment). This adjustment is especially limited if individuals do not likely to engage in careful thought, a tendency that is especially likely if they feel intoxicated, fatigued, or distracted (see Need for closure).

Customization of arguments

Promoting benefits versus preventing problems

Sometimes, potential customers are more focused on maximizing benefits, called a promotion focus (see Regulatory focus theory). On other occasions, potential customers are more focused on minimizing problems, called a prevention focus. The messages that organizations should convey depends on whether customers adopt a promotion or prevention focus.

Step 1. Therefore, organizations first need to establish whether their customers will most likely adopt a promotion or prevention focus. In particular, customers are more inclined to adopt a promotion focus if:

In contrast, customers are more inclined to adopt a prevention focus if:

Step 2. Organizations then need to modify their message to accommodate the extent to which customers adopt a promotion or prevention focus. If the customers are likely to adopt a promotion focus, the message should:

If the customers are likely to adopt a prevention focus, the message should:

Specifically, when individuals experience a promotion focus, their attention is directed towards possible opportunities or benefits. On these occasions, they consider limitations in their own ability not the constraints that other individuals impose (Keller, 2006) and thus focus on whether the activities are convenient. In addition, because their attention, is directed towards possible benefits and gains, they prefer products and services that are excellent on some attributes, regardless of the potential complications or drawbacks (Zhang & Mittal, 2007).

When individuals experience a prevention focus, however, their attention is directed towards potential threats and problems. On these occasions, they perceive products and services with inferior attributes as problematic, regardless of the potential benefits (Zhang & Mittal, 2007). If informed that some solution, product, or service exceeds rather than merely meets some standard, they assume that some other shortcoming is likely (Jain, Agrawal, & Maheswaran, 2006). Finally, to uncover potential problems, rather than future opportunities, they focus their attention on tangible features not abstract possibilities (Gun, Higgins, de Montes, Estourget, & Valencia, 2005).


Bushman, B. J. (1998). Effects of warning and information labels on consumption of full-fat, reduced-fat, and no-fat products. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83, 97-101.

Carlson, K. A., & Shu, S. B. (2007). The rule of three: How the third event signals the emergence of a streak. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 104, 113-121.

Epley, N., & Gilovich, T. (2006). The anchoring-and-adjustment heuristic: Why the adjustments and insufficient. Psychological Science, 17, 311-318.

Gerend, M. A., & Sias, T. (2009). Message framing and color priming: How subtle threat cues affect persuasion. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 999-1002.

Gun, S., Higgins, T., de Montes, L. G., Estourget, Y., & Valencia, J. F. (2005). Linguistic signatures of regulatory focus: How abstraction fits promotion more than prevention. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 36-45.

Jain, S. P., Agrawal, N. & Maheswaran, D. (2006). When more may be less: The effects of regulatory focus on responses to different comparative frames. Journal of Consumer Research, 33, 91-98.

Keller, P. A. (2006). Regulatory focus and efficacy of health messages. Journal of Consumer Research, 33, 109-114.

Labroo, A. A., Lambotte, S., & Zhang, Y. (2009). The "name-ease" effect and its dual impact on importance. Psychological Science, 20, 1516-1522.

Leboe, J. P., & Ansons, T. (2006). On misattributing good remembering to a happy past: An investigation into the cognitive roots of nostalgia. Emotion, 6, 596-610.

Quick, B. L., & Stephenson, M. T. (2008). Examining the role of trait reactance and sensation seeking on perceived threat, state reactance, and reactance restoration. Human Communication Research, 34, 448-476.

Reber, R., & Schwarz, N. (1999). Effects of perceptual fluency on judgments of truth. Consciousness & Cognition: An International Journal, 8, 338-342.

Russo, J. E., Carlson, K. A., & Meloy, M. G. (2006). Choosing an inferior alternative. Psychological Science, 17, 899-904.

Sherman, D. K., Mann, T., & Updegraff, J. A. (2006). Approach/avoidance motivation, message framing, and health behavior: understanding the congruency effect. Motivation and Emotion, 30, 165-169.

Zhang, Y., & Mittal, V. (2007). The attractiveness of enriched and impoverished options: Culture, self-construal, and regulatory focus. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 588-598.

Academic Scholar?
Join our team of writers.
Write a new opinion article,
a new Psyhclopedia article review
or update a current article.
Get recognition for it.

Last Update: 5/11/2016