You are who you hang out with.
Persuasion is a big part of daily communication, even if we don’t realize it. It is easy to see persuasion at work in our jobs, from the pulpit, in the media and in the marketplace (think of a salesperson trying to make “small talk” in order to get you to buy that iPhone you can’t really afford).
When we think of persuasion, we think of these types of people who try to “connect” with us in order to gain a “yes” to a request. They are called compliance-gainers.
But, this is actually a very small part of the persuasive communication we experience. Most of it happens in our closest relationships and it happens in ways we least expect.
Persuasion occurs most often through identification (Burke, 1969). Identification is a natural connection or chemistry we have with others like us, one that we are not even aware of most of the time.
This connection is expressed in communication. In other words, everyday communication is persuasive in as much as we are persuaded to act in ways that mirror the behavior of our friends.
For me, this chemistry is felt when I hear someone mention a Nike+ SportWatch GPS, fly-fishing, communication, reading a great novel or seeing a great movie. I feel, at least at some level, an instant connection at the mention of these topics.
The word “like” is important. How do I decide who is like me? What traits or behaviors do I pay attention to?
Friendship is a bond. We bond ourselves to those with whom we share beliefs, desires or goals. But, what beliefs, desires and goals should I align myself with?
My answers to the above questions will determine who my friends are. This is why it is so important to be careful about the people who I identify with and how we relate to each other.
Proverbs 27:17 states it this way: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
A friendship based upon a mutual desire, a flourishing intellectual life marked by wisdom, worked out in virtuous living, is worthy of pursuing. Only with this foundation will the communication within the friendship that persuades a friend to “believe this” or “do that” be worthwhile.
We need to ask ourselves, “Is my friendship based on these marks of the good life: the desire for knowledge, holiness and righteousness? Am I supporting my friend in this pursuit with my communication?”
Our friendships are only as good as the communication supporting them. Communication can be an indispensable treasure or a source of great pain depending on whether it is thoughtful or thoughtless. We ought to value and respect the power of effective/ethical communication to foster lasting friendships and the power of ineffective/unethical communication to break relationships apart.
Burke, K. (1969). A rhetoric of motives. CA: University of California Press.
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.