I signed up the class for second-year writing course as it is one of my degree requirement. Because I thought the area of communication was an area I never really know about, and I do want to learn more about it. However, I never thought I could walk away with this much knowledge about persuasion and persuasive communication out of this class.
Before the first class, I had a misconception that only people who involved in sales, marketing or media need to learn how to persuade people. Surprisingly, the first day of the class made me realize that persuasive communication is a more commonly used tool than I thought. Persuasion can be found almost everywhere in our society nowadays. Regardless of age, profession, religion, or philosophical beliefs, people are trying to persuade each other all the time. One of the points brought up by Professor Sigler about why should people study persuasion which really inspired me: If we don’t want to be persuaded by the people who want to influence us through their persuasive messages, like media, we should understand persuasion. Thus, I learned that we have two situations may occur often in our modern society: we can try to persuade others or other people can persuade us. There is a Chinese proverb by Sun Tzu Art of War saying “Know yourself and know your enemy, and you will never be defeated.” In order to for me not getting persuaded I have to understand persuasion; in order for me to influence others through my messages; I need to learn about persuasive communication. This reason became the major motivation for me paying close attention in class, taking notes on the PPT slides, and read the lecture materials. For all the materials I learned in the past four months, I developed my own perspective on persuasive communication and made me become a better persuader.
The amount of knowledge about persuasion I have learned in this class is immense, if I have to summarize what I learned the most important, I would have to claim that I learned the key of persuasion is my audience. As much as other factors in persuasion are important, but in my opinion, the key to success in persuading people is to know my audience and to make my argument that is mainly focused on my audience rather than the material itself. Most of the persuasive theories and persuasive models are built around with the audience.
For example, after our town hall meeting surveys were handed out, I figured out which was the problem my audience is likely to be concerned with. By figuring that out, I know how much interest my audience have in my particular problem which leads to a better chance to persuade my listeners when I have more information they interest or concern to talk about. In doing that, I will largely increase the likelihood of my message to be more persuasive.
Understanding my audience could also help me to know what the majority of audience attitudes are, and really develop my speech using the strategy to go along with them. For example, if they hold negative views on my argument, I may start off with small points that make them agree with me and prepare well enough to explain my position.
Through one of my presentation homework, I focused on the concept of “Ability to process”. I did extensive research on the topic beyond the book on this specific concept. I learned that I need to address my audience at the level of their knowledge because in order to persuade them I have to know what they already know or what they do not know.
If given the opportunity to retake the course, I would make some adjustments given the information or experience I have now that I did not have then. For example, I would not begin the course thinking that I am already a good communicator hence the course was a formality rather than a learning experience. When one assumes that he or she already knows something, the chances of learning are reduced. Therefore, I would exploit every learning chance that I get, for example though being attentive and asking questions during class.
During lectures, I enjoyed our group discussions. I noted that the working in the communication class’ groups was different from that of other groups. The class’ group work sessions were more organized and productive than that of others, probably because we understood the tenets of excellent communication. While we disagreed at times and as expected in a group setting, it was usually within reasonable limits and were quickly resolved. An instance is noted on different persuasive speeches used. While in my group, we focused on policy persuasive speech, factual and value persuasive speech. Though connecting the three types of speech was essential, most of us noticed we had to add effort to properly integrate the speeches in our persuasion practices.
Working in groups and in class has revealed aspects about me of which I had not been aware. For example, I noted that i was good at persuading only that I did not know that I was. After learning the course, I realized that I had an easier time persuading those around me. I also learnt that I tend to assume that I already know what seems ordinary at the first glance. This was evident from my failure to take the class seriously at first because I thought that I was already an excellent communicator.
Through the course experience and shortcoming, the class challenged me to be assertive in my day-to-day communication. Before it, I was a bit reluctant to ask for some of the items and favors that I needed from others because I feared that they would be rejected. However, having been equipped with ways of shifting opinions to my favor, I realized that I could achieve a lot thus not be afraid of trying. Secondly, I had to go an extra mile in researching the relation between the course and the audience. Though a challenge in finding the details to use during practice, I identified such key aspects as eye contact, body language and providing the audience with logic based evidence. These aspects improved my knowledge on persuasive communication, enabling me to persuade course mates and others easily.