Persuasion, seduction and manipulation

“Persuasive strategies rarely come in a “one size fits all” variety. There probably never will be a single, unified theory of persuasion capable of encompassing all persuasive phenomena in every context.” (Seiter, 2006) As you go through our day whether you are climbing the corporate ladder, a full time student or a stay home parent it is close to impossible to avoid persuasion. At work and at school you are sure to come across a form of persuasion from a coworker or fellow student, and as a stay home parent it is literally unavoidable while watching cartoons with your kids or listening to the radio. What we may not realize is that persuasion comes at us in many forms. Learning to identify the difference between persuasion, manipulation and seduction can be extremely difficult, but as a society that thrives on communication it is something we need to learn. In this essay I will explore the definitions of persuasion, manipulation and seduction.

Using the definitions as a guide I will also explore how each one relates to the other and give examples of these strategies in action and the difference in who they target and why. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines persuasion as: the act of causing people to do or believe some thing: the act or activity of persuading people; a particular type of belief or way of thinking. Without even knowing it we are persuaded and also persuade other people. When your waiter/waitress comes to your table and asks you if you need anything else, they are causing you to consider a dessert or possibly another drink when it may not have even been on your mind before they asked. As students we are persuaded by grades, the higher quality of work we submit the better our grade will be for the assignment and the better our overall grade would be. Manipulation can best be described in this nature as the use or change (numbers, information, etc.) in a skillful way or for a particular purpose. (Merriam, 2006)

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Generally people see manipulation as a negative form of persuasion, but there are times when people manipulate others possibly without realizing it. In my 32 years I have been witness to many things President Clinton who “did not have sexual relations with that woman”, Desert Storm and the death of Princess Diana but the one major headline that will stay with me is 9/11. We all watched in horror as we lost so many lives when the twin towers fell and many have suffered since losing a loved one to the war on terror. April Eisman wrote an article about the news coverage following the attacks. The focus of her article was NBC, CBS and ABC. She compared the newscasts of all three stations and noticed that two of the stations “Both also quoted from George W. Bush’s response to the attacks, selecting phrases that further emphasized retaliation.

Brokaw chose to quote, ‘Freedom has been attacked by a faceless coward. Freedom will be defended’, while Rather quoted Bush as saying that we ‘will find and punish those responsible for these cowardly events’.”, while Peter Jennings described the events in a much more even tone, calling them a ‘horrendous attack on the United States’. (Eisman, 2003) As a nation we were glued to our TV’s and radios hoping for more information and seeking answers meanwhile both Rather and Brokaw used their news casts to not only relay the news but do it in a bias manner which in turn had people who may not have ever considered it thinking we needed to fight back. The media has been using these manipulative tactics for years, they report the aspects of a story that will make headlines and grab attention. They use specific words to evoke emotion from us.

CNN is a master in this art on Facebook, posting headlines such as “A 19-year-old woman was shot after apparently approaching a home for help. “My niece didn’t deserve to die like this. This is senseless.” Was woman killed on porch profiled?” (CNN, 2013) Most people never click the link to the story to get all the information (which in this case wasn’t much) they comment on when they can see in front of them and it gets quite intense on posts like this. The media will almost always chase ratings and do this by artfully using the persuasive form of manipulation. In our society seduction has been turned into something that is sexualized and is therefore seen in a negative light or as a tool only to be used in the bedroom; however the second half of Merriam-Webster’s definition of seduction is “something that interests and attracts people” (Merriam, 2006).

Seduction is a form of persuasion that taps into our desire of knowing what we want and our willingness to go for it, it requires confidence in ourselves because without confidence seduction really wouldn’t be possible and most important seduction is about body language. We can speak without saying a word and without realizing it we read someone’s body language and interpret the meaning. A facial expression, posture both are very indicative of our mood and what we want to say. Marketing and advertising agents are fluent in the art of seduction; they use it to sell us things on a daily basis. They show us things that we desire. People who are suddenly stronger, happier, healthier or in some way better after using a new product. Hotels with spas, indoor pools, Jacuzzi bathtubs and king size beds, cars that drive fast with sleek lines and a gorgeous interior or vacations to white sandy beaches.

Of course we can and are seduced in a sexual manor as well and not always in the bedroom, we have all heard of that one girl who “slept her way to the top”. In the end, cars are bought, hotel rooms are rented and many of us finally take that dream vacation, persuaded by the art of seduction to buy that fancy fast sports car or to go lay on a white sandy beach. In the end what I have found is that seduction and manipulation are both forms of persuasion, and while persuasion in itself is either good or evil, the use of manipulation or seduction techniques as a means to persuade someone is not seen in the highest regard. References

CNN (2013) “Detroit woman shot after apparently approaching home for help.” CNN. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Nov. 2013. . Eisman, A. (2003). The media of manipulation: patriotism and propaganda – mainstream news in the United States in the weeks following September 11. Critical Quarterly, 45(1/2), 55. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2006. Print. Seiter. Perspectives on Persuasion, Social Influence, and Compliance Gaining (1st ed). Pearson Learning Solutions. Retrieved from

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Persuasion, seduction and manipulation. (2016, Jun 14). Retrieved from