Text 4. Persuasive Communication

 Persuasive communication may be defined as the process through which people attempt to influence the beliefs or actions of others. In many cases persuasive communication involves people who are important to each other—parents influence children, children influence parents, and friends influence each other. Persuasive communication may also involve strangers. When customers are upset about products they have purchased, they may write letters to company officials seeking a refund. Similarly, customers are the targets of television commercials produced by strangers in advertising agencies. People begin to influence others early in life. Preschool children learn that they can influence other children and adults by crying, smiling, whining, pointing, tugging, and, eventually, talking. By the time children enter school, they use a variety of strategies to influence others. During elementary school years children grow in their ability to adapt persuasive messages to the people they wish to influence. Research has shown that kindergarteners and children in the first grade tend to use the same strategies when trying to influence different people. Children in grades two and three adapt their persuasive messages by adding words like “may I” and “please.” Children who are in the fourth and fifth grades begin to adapt their messages to specific people. For example, they begin to use strategies when trying to gain favors from teachers that differ from those they use in trying to gain favors from friends. By the time most students are in the sixth grade, they can adapt their persuasive messages to specific listener characteristics. For example, one study found that most 12-year-olds use different strategies when trying to get a ball back from the yard of an angry-appearing man than they do when addressing a pleasant-appearing man. In senior high school students continue to grow in the number and sophistication of persuasive strategies used. The average high school senior, for example, anticipates and responds to arguments that disagree with his or her own. High school seniors, however, still have much to learn about influencing others and responding critically to attempts to influence them. Since persuasive communication is complex, learning about it is a lifelong process. Persuasive communication plays a central role in a number of professions. Lawyers, salespersons, advertising specialists, public relations experts, and politicians must use persuasive communication. While persuasive communication may not be the central ingredient in many careers, most people need to be able to influence others in work-related settings. The most talked-about form of persuasive communication in contemporary life is advertising. Consumers in a capitalistic society are bombarded by advertisements from a variety of directions. While newspapers are thought of as informative sources, local, national, and classified advertising take up about 65 percent of their average total space. In many magazines 45to 50 percent of the space is given to advertising. As people drive to and from work, radio advertising rides with them. Those few drivers who do not have car radios are still not protected from advertising; billboards, neon signs, and signs in store windows compete with traffic for attention. After arriving home and sorting through the advertisements in the day's mail, people still often view numerous commercials on prime-time television. Ritualistic Communication Ritualistic communication is the process through which people meet social expectations. The word ritual comes from the Latin ritual is, meaning “pertaining to rites.” At one time rites were seen as acts of religious or public ceremony. People were expected to perform the rites in a certain way. People still have strong expectations about how others should act in a wide range of social situations. Ritualistic communication is important because people who violate the rules and customs of social interaction have difficulty relating well with others. Children who do not recognize when other children are “kidding,” or overreact when other children are “teasing,” have difficulty adjusting to school life. Teenagers who have difficulty in engaging in light banter and responding to put-downs are considered by their peers to be odd. Adults who seem too stiff and formal or too loose and informal have difficulty in relating to other adults. Social expectations differ greatly across different cultures. In some cultures men are expected to embrace one another and kiss each other on the cheek. In other cultures such behavior is considered odd. In American culture most people feel free to express many of their feelings openly. In some Oriental cultures the open expression of feelings causes embarrassment. There are many different kinds of social rituals. In modern life people are expected to engage in such everyday speech acts as greeting one another, small talk, leave-taking, teasing, and joking. It is also expected that people use social amenities, or polite expressions, when relating to each other. People are expected to use such polite expressions as “May I please . . .,” “Yes, you may,” “Thank you,” “You're welcome,” “May I be excused,” and “Pardon me.” People are also expected to introduce others gracefully, use telephone etiquette, demonstrate good table manners, and write thank- you notes. In conversation it is expected that individuals take turns, change topics skillfully, and demonstrate interest inthe ideas that are expressed by others. In group discussions participants are expected to share leadership roles, meet the emotional needs of other group members, follow agendas, and compromise. In written communication people are also expected to conform to social expectations. Personal letters, business letters, letters to editors, limericks, sonnets, ballads, haikus, invitations, responses to invitations, short stories, novels, and editorials are all governed by rules or expectations.

Unit 4.  Contexts

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