• David de Souza

The Process of Persuasion Summary


If I had to distill this book into one sentence it would be: Understand the emotions that words carry for people, the better you can do this the better at persuading you'll become.

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Core Principles:


I have summarised 'The Process of Persuasion', distilling the book into 15 core principles:

  1. Self-preservation is the first law of persuasion.

  2. Self-preservation can take many forms: Satisfying Hunger Preserving youth and beauty Success Pride/vanity Kindness and Generosity Commanding

  3. How to Persuade A Group: Say very little, just a question to guide discussion when needed. Wait until everything has been said and people are tired and ready to go home. At the right moment: Give back the best of what you've been given. Raise your hand and extend your fingers and say: • 'It seems to be me that the matter under discussion involves 5 points...' The group will like your suggestions as it is mainly their own. A person can save face if at least one of the points can be used (even if partially) and credited to them.

  4. New ideas (and inventions) are accepted quickly when it affects people's self (or group) interest/preservation.

  5. Often there is a conflict between our desires and persuasions. This conflict is the basis of all drama and human character.

  6. The 2 great combos of persuasion are (security + hope) and (insecurity + fear).

  7. If we can control our desires we can safeguard from the tendencies that can hijack our health and relationships.

  8. We see what we've been conditioned to see. We accept the ideas that we've been trained to accept. Pressure to make us see differently will just make us frustrated and annoyed.

  9. If you know or can predict how someone feels towards a person, group, product or idea, you have an advantage when trying to secure their support, vote or business.

  10. When we have false maps in our brain, persuasion can negatively affect us. It is the result of living in a black + white world and allowing ourselves to respond automatically to words and symbols that we associate as either being good or bad. Just as someone with hay fever can have physical symptoms triggered by paper flowers, our mind can also play tricks on us so that we are triggered when we hear words such as communist, democrat, republican or capitalist.

  11. The more you understand words and the emotions they carry for people, the more effective you'll be at persuading.

  12. Virtue Device: Virtue words bring to mind pleasant images. For example democracy and freedom

  13. Poison Device: Use "bad" words/symbols to persuade us to reject by association, avoiding the need to present facts and arguments.

  14. Testimonial Device: Use people who are good, respectable, and successful to persuade people to accept (or vice versa). We have a reluctance to critically evaluate these symbols due to our instinct of self and group preservation. Rebellious individuals who do not confirm to the group threatened its survival. Therefore we have been conditioned to punish the rebellious and protect the obedient. We distrust nonconformity to protect our self-preservation. A logically flawed testimonial can still be persuasive. For example: This product is born in America and America is the home of democracy. To question the product is almost questioning democracy.

  15. Together Device: Use poison words, virtue words and testimonials to organize the group as one mind.


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