Persuasion Tactics that Can Derail Your Decision-Making Process

By Canadian Management Centre

Persuasion tactics image

Persuasion is one of the most valuable and widely used skills in business. Essential to sales, marketing, and negotiation, persuasion also plays a critical role in getting co-workers to support your ideas and advocate for your suggestions, aligning team members with project goals and the company’s values, and keeping suppliers and vendors providing great services at fair prices. Persuasion and influence go hand in hand in the workplace, for overwhelmingly positive gains. 

Some persuasion tactics can stop us from thinking critically and making good decisions, because the person using them seeks to bend decisions their way by provoking fear, anger, and confusion. While the user may not always be deliberate in manipulating others’ emotions for their own benefit, the result is the same. When on the receiving end of such tactics, you’re more likely to make decisions that clash with your vision, undermine your objectives, and leave you at a disadvantage.

Remaining objective and thinking critically when faced with making decisions that affect your career, your team, and your business starts with becoming aware of persuasion tactics that prey on your emotions. To give you the advantage, here are nine of the most common persuasion tactics that illicit strong emotions, what to watch out for, and how to safeguard your clarity of mind from being hijacked:

#1: Slippery Slope, the suggestion that if A happens, B, C, and D will happen, inevitably leading to E—the extremely negative outcome. Defense: Don’t fall into the trap of accepting the domino effect. Step back and assess each component independently.

#2: The Band Wagon, a.k.a. FOMO: Fear of Missing Out, an attempt to coerce a course of action by playing on the fear of being left out of something everyone is doing or buying into. Defense: Find the courage to opt out. You’re a grown-up now—you won’t be made fun of. And even if you are, so what? Shake it off.

#3: False Dichotomy, an attempt to “black and white” a decision, promoting one solution by suggesting extreme consequences will happen if another course is pursued. This tactic is typically used to force the hand of someone who is indecisive or insecure. Defense: Trust your instincts and the value of your ideas, and stay firm.

#4: Red Herring, a diversionary tactic meant to distract you from the key issue. Defense: Don’t let yourself get sidetracked. Purposefully redirect the conversation back to the matter at hand.

#5: Circular Reasoning, an argument that merely restates the conclusion rather than proving it. This tactic is often used by someone who has not done the research and data gathering needed to construct a solid proposal. Defense: Question their assertion. Ask for proof and validation.

#6: Ad Hoc Reasoning, an attempt to persuade you at any cost, by having a quick answer for each objection you raise. Defense: Use logic. For a conclusion to be true, there must be some circumstance under which it could be false—otherwise, there is no way of telling the difference between true and false. Be persistent.

#7: Genetic Fallacy, when a proposal or conclusion is rejected simply because of who it comes from. Defense: Shut down any assumptions about the individual or group raising the issue. Insist that the idea or solution be judged on its own merits—the strength or weakness of the supporting data—and be allowed to speak for itself.

#8: Ad Hominem, when the personal traits of the individual or group making a proposal are critiqued instead of the proposal itself. Defense: Remain objective and manage your own amygdala. Just because another person tries to make the issue “personal” does not mean that you have to follow them. Coolly but firmly, redirect their focus back to what’s relevant: the proposal or idea being discussed.

#9: Tu Quoque, an attempt to deflect criticism of an idea by suggesting the person making it is the real problem. Defense: Again, remain objective and manage your own amygdala. Redirect with a reminder—this is not about assigning personal blame but about resolving a business issue.

Scare tactics, attempts to confuse you, personal attacks—you’re bound to encounter them all as you take on the challenge of making business decisions. But you don’t have to let them shake your confidence or get under your skin. With awareness, you’ll be able to recognize these persuasion tactics and the emotions they can bring up. That way, you can remain objective, think critically, and arrive at the best decision possible.

This article first appeared on and adapted for CMC. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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