Strategic persuasion: art and technology


The nature of peoples is varied; and it's easy to persuade them one thing, but it's hard to stop them in that persuasion.
(Niccolo Machiavelli)



On 11 September last at Camogli Communication Festival among the speakers there was Giorgio Nardone who spoke rigorously and creatively on one of the most difficult and mystified topics ever: persuasion. The title of the report was. "The noble art of persuasion”Which takes up the title of his in its entirety book.
The aim of this article is to give an overview of the concept of persuasion by analyzing some technical aspects in such a way as to stimulate its use in one's daily life.

When we talk about persuasion we must first of all distinguish it from all other processes of communicative influence. Its etymology from the Latin, persuadēre, composed of pĕr, and suadēre '(lead to oneself through the "suavitas", sweetness) indicates that when we want to persuade someone we must use a language and a communication that must never be a forcing or a constraint, but on the contrary, must ensure that the interlocutor comes to convince himself of the validity of the argument we are talking about, that is, we lead the person to change his point of view apparently "spontaneously".
Through the teaching of Paul Watzlawick, the idea is to create a series of "proximity events (or communicative maneuvers) random scheduled”Through rhetorical tricks.
Before going into the purely technical aspects we should first understand what persuasion is not in such a way as to more easily recognize when and how to use it, after all the oriental tradition in the search for the most effective and efficient ways to interact with oneself and others teaches us. that the "the best way to understand who we are is first of all to understand who we are not".

  • Persuasion is not manipulation. To manipulate means to force something by intervening directly on it by changing its elements, structures or functioning. Therefore, in the sphere of communication, manipulation refers to techniques that force the effect of direct influence and conditioning. (Nardone, 2015) Pavlov's famous “classic” or Skinner's “operant” conditioning are two examples of manipulation as they “force” the will of the subject.
  • Persuasion is not conviction. When you want to convince someone you use the language of reason with which to bring evidence or objective facts that tend to validate your position or your thesis. (Nardone, 2015) The person who is convinced therefore loses the argumentative tug-of-war. Thesis and antithesis are the protagonists of the competition for conviction.

So how is persuasion accomplished?

Persuasion is achieved through a "dialogic" communicative exchange, that is an encounter between intelligences where two different points of view of seeing things harmonize until they change.
Although it is impossible to be exhaustive in explaining and illustrating a vast and complex topic such as persuasion in a simple article, we can however give some small suggestions and indications in changing the way we interact to gently shape our communication models. In other words, we will persuade ourselves while we will try to persuade others (for those wishing to deepen the topic, I refer to the numerous Publications by Prof. Giorgio Nardone on his thirty-year study in the field of strategic brief therapy and strategic communication).

  • Use an analog and metaphorical language. Try to create images that in turn evoke feelings in relation to the goal you want to achieve. We must first make people feel rather than understand and this is easier to achieve through the strategic use of analogue images, metaphors or aphorisms; as one of the greatest persuaders of all time said Blaise Pascal "before we can convince the intellect, we must touch and prepare the heart".
    Modern neuroscience (Gazzaniga, 2000; Damasio, 2012) has shown that persuasive language simultaneously activates the left and right hemisphere of the brain, inducing responses of the telencephalon and paleoencephalon. This type of activation creates amazing effects in the interaction processes.
  • Take care of your own non-verbal and para-verbal communication. Knowing how to move the body, smile at the right time, look intently, know how to caress and touch are more effective communicative acts than any speech, however intelligent this may be. In the same way, knowing how to make the right pauses while remaining strategically silent and modulating one's voice according to the situation and the interlocutor are essential elements for being seductive.
    This can be well understood in the processes of falling in love. Who would conquer you more: a person who describes you rationally and in a precise and linear way how beautiful and useful it would be to fall in love with her / him or a person who manages to make you get the famous "butterflies in the stomach" because he can look at you deeply or touch you making you shiver
  • Asking questions rather than affirming. The best way to persuade someone is to start by asking questions. Showing interest in the interlocutor will make him lower his resistance and will make him well predisposed towards us.
    Furthermore, when the person feels at the center of attention, he will provide us with very useful information to understand his system of beliefs and convictions.
  • Proceed in small steps. Persuasion is a process and not an enlightenment, in the Buddhist sense of the term. We have to create a series of more or less indirect agreements so that the person can never return on his steps about the topic. The series of agreements will lead to the overturning of the interlocutor's point of view without any forcing and with the apparently magical effect that the person will be convinced that he has arrived at this new understanding in a completely spontaneous way. After all Pascal always states: "Whoever persuades himself does it sooner and better. "
    A very powerful technique for making such agreements possible is to strategically paraphrase what the person said earlier. This technique can be studied in detail in the work of Giorgio Nardone: "The strategic dialogue".
  • Publicity and non-advertising. The best way to create aversion towards yourself is to sponsor and directly show your qualities. On the contrary, if we want to capture attention and dispose people well towards us, we must let others talk about our talents and resources. This does not mean, as Oscar Wild said "good or bad, the important thing is that they talk about it"But strategically it is necessary to create the conditions for our publicity to be oriented and planned. This inevitably focuses on the construction of one's personal image understood not only in appearances but also, and especially, in behavior. To conclude this short article, which I repeat, I do not it may be that a drop in the ocean in this discipline, it is necessary to emphasize that persuasion is simply a communication tool whose purpose can change depending on the goal you want to achieve. It is no longer a novelty that "no tool is good or bad in itself, but of the use we make of it"; in the case of persuasion, however, we must pause for a moment because unlike other processes there is an important variable, that is,  the more we practice persuasion the more we self-persuade ourselves to be persuasive and the more we self-persuade the more we will be able to persuade others; said in the words of a French writer of the '600, Jean de La Bruyère, "The shortest and best way to make your fortune is to let others see clearly that it is in their best interest to support yours."

Dr. Stefano Bartoli (Chief Operating Officer of the Strategic Therapy Center, lecturer)


Nardone G., Riding your own tiger, 2003, Ponte alle Grazie;
Nardone G., The strategic dialogue, 2004, Ponte alle Grazie;
Nardone G., The noble art of persuasion. The magic of words and gestures, 2015, Ponte alle Grazie
Nardone G., P. Watzlawick, The art of change, 1990, Ponte alle Grazie;
Nardone, G., Watzlawick, P., Brief Strategic Therapy: Philosophy, Techniques and Research. Rowman & Littlefield, Aronson.
Nardone, G., Balbi, E. (2008). Sail the sea without the knowledge of the sky. Ponte alle Grazie.
Castelnuovo, G., Molinari, E., Nardone, G., Salvini, A. Empirical research in psychotherapy. In G. Nardone, A. Salvini (2013), International Dictionary of Psychotherapy, Garzanti.



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