• Carlien Serfontein

May the "force" be with you

Updated: Dec 3, 2020

When we decided to take the leap and commit to becoming dog-moms, we investigated different breeds and their habits, personality types, shedding rate and a host of other doggy-style values. We had our hearts set on the Scottish Terrier breed and the one thing that we were warned about from the first google search was that of “Scottietude”… Yes - it’s a real thing. Research and community groups all speak about the fact that scotties have ears for visibility only. But, being the confident and informed person that I am, I persuaded my partner to take on this challenge as I have sufficiently researched dog-training and am now a self-proclaimed “expert”.

Walking my two scotties the other day I was struck by the idea of the need we have to control the behaviours of others. In that moment, I had two beings, each with their own will without the rationality of human thought, and all I had to direct them to do my will was bribes in the form of chicken. But, if they did not want to do what I wanted them to, there was no way I could persuade them (hello, scottietude). I was struck by how similar that is to dealing with other individuals.

Forbes (2013), released an article on “The 21 principles of persuasion” evaluating how certain people just have that ability to persuade you to do their bidding; and more importantly, how you could harness those skills. Katie Gilbert in her article “Get what you want” (2016), further suggests that it is not only good to know how to do the persuading but also to be able to identify the techniques if they are used on you.

How does persuasion differ from manipulation? “Manipulation is the coercion through force to get someone to do something that is not in their own interest. Persuasion is the art of getting people to do things that are in their own best interest, but that will of course also benefit you” (Nazar, 2013).

Aristotle, in his work Rhetoric, outlined the formula to master the art of persuasion more than 2000 years ago (Gallo, 2019) and all of those principles are the same to this day. So, here they are:

  1. Your character

When your actions match your words, people can gain insight into your character. You will be seen as credible, reliable, safe and build trust with the other individual (Gallo, 2019).

We sometimes seem willing to reschedule, break our word and/or speak euphemistically when it comes to our family and friend, on the assumption, that they’ll understand and it won’t matter. I’d like to challenge this belief, and suggest that that is exactly where your character is build, honed and shaped. The credibility and reliability of your character starts at home.

2. Reason

So this can be seen as a pun for a reason ;-) You can have a clear, well thought through and passionate reason for trying to persuade someone to do something but this also refers to logical reasoning based on facts, research and data. If you have both sides of this pun covered, you are well prepared to persuade another in following your command.

3. Emotion

Remember the old saying about how people will not remember what you did, but they will remember how you made them feel (Maya Angelou)? Aristotle is of the opinion that you cannot persuade someone in the absence of emotion (Gallol, 2019). Through the rhetorical device of storytelling, it has been proven on a neurological level, that people will connect with you on a deeper and more emotional level. What does this mean? Tell a story of failure, awkwardness, misfortune or disaster; something that is real and raw.

4. Metaphor

Warren Buffet, the American investor and business tycoon, never gives an interview without making use of a metaphor. He uses “verbal beauty” to make his statements relatable to the listener. Most notably the use of a metaphor transforms an abstract idea into concrete understanding. Here lies the power of persuasion - make it personal in the context of the listener.

5. Brevity

Being concise and starting with your strongest point will pack the punch you need to persuade. It is also essential to keep your arguments as concise as possible. If it becomes too long, attention will be lost. Less is always more.

The fact of the matter is that none of these techniques will be effective on my scotties when we go for a walk. But, what I can say, is that you have the tools now to persuade someone to do your bidding - use them for good instead of evil.


Gallo, C. (2019, July 15). Communication. Retrieved from Harvard Business Review:

Gilbert, K. (2016, June 9). Get What You Want. Retrieved from Psychology Today:

Nazar. (2013, March 26). The 21 Priciples of Persuasion. Retrieved from Frobes:

Zwilling, M. (2016, January 27). 7 Steps to Master the Art of Persuasion. Retrieved from Entrepreneur:

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