How to persuade others using guilt appeals
Persuasion is the process of changing minds. Persuasion is an everyday part of human discourse. It is used by salesmen, parents, teachers, and many others – basically all of us. Persuasion in mediation is a two-way street. Long before you try to influence another to moderate their demands or consider the other side’s point of view, chances are good that they will have tried to convince you to their position.
It’s my experience in order to be an effective mediator, I must engage in various forms of persuasion. I do not engage in coercive or manipulative persuasion practices by which pressure brought to bear on reluctant participants to get a settlement. I do use a range of potential mediator interventions to help the parties resolve deeply held or competitively bargained differences. *
All humans have an ingrained sense of justice. It is part of being human. We didn’t only learn it from our mothers. Though they learned to effectively use guilt appeals to persuade us to do what they wanted. All you have to do is to go to a pre-school play ground in any culture and the kids will be very forthright in pointing out why something is unfair. Therefore a guilt inducing suggestion of bad behavior and the solution – the recommended change that will restore the situation and relieve the guilt is common throughout the world in which we live.
What are the guilt appeals?
Guilt appeals are the pointing out of inconsistencies between behaviors and standards. In other words predicting how another person will be affected if the person fails to take a particular action.
As guilt becomes more intense and explicit it becomes less persuasive.
How they work
First, focus on the problem – the guilt inducing suggestion of bad behavior. Then, second, the solution – the recommended change that will restore the situation and relieve the guilt. The downside of this method of persuasion is that there is significant risk of resentment anger and a desire to attach the message and messenger.
Why they work
Guilt triggers unpleasant feelings, which we want to relieve by making amends for our self perceived transgression. In other words, it is a normal human response.
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*Stark, James H. and Frenkel, Douglas N., Changing Minds: The Work of Mediators and Empirical Studies of Persuasion (2013). Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution, Vol. 28, No. 2, Pg. 263, 2013; U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 11-07
About the Author: Ken Strongman (www.kpstrongman.com) has years of experience and a growing national reputation as a mediator and arbitrator. He has successfully resolved more than a thousand disputes in the fields of construction defects, real estate, intellectual property, and employment. He is also a Mediator and Arbitrator for FINRA.
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