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Hidden persuaders of business speaking and writing

What are the hidden persuaders in business speaking and writing? How do these function?

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angel profile image
Angel Paudel

Business speaking and writing form business communication is a medium to share information. One must be able to choose right words to get the message across to the mass clearly to be a good communicator. In any language, a same word can have multiple meaning like in English, when we speak ‘peace’ and ‘piece’, ‘principal’ and ‘principle’, ‘see’ and ‘sea’, they sound very similar but hold a completely different meaning. So, wise choice of words are necessary while speaking and writing in business.

Hidden persuaders in business speaking and writing is a subconscious message which influences the listener or reader’s behavior without they being aware about it. Many company believe that people have to consume more and more regardless of them wanting it or not and is good for the economy. Thus hidden persuaders are important as it create that want among the people (Brown, 2006).

Reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency, liking and consensus are major hidden persuaders in business communication (Cialdini, 2016). Each of these are described in detail below:

Reciprocity is something which makes you obliged to give back to the business something more. An example of this in personal linkage can be when someone invites us to his/her birthday but that’s someone who we personally doesn’t consider to be close; even then when it’s our turn (i.e. birthday), the person is certainly called as well. If the business thus gives and makes it personalized and unexpected like Zappos does to its customer by surpassing customer service, it persuades the customer to use more and more of company product and services.

Scarcity creates a sense of want in people as the general people want what they can have less of. An example of this can be when in 2003, British Airlines declaring that they won’t operate two flights per day using Concorde flight connecting London and New York due to the route being in significant loss. The announcement, cased a huge spike in the bookings and people started using more of it even though nothing as in term of service, speed or anything in general changed.

Authority is something which mentions that people are more likely to follow those who are knowledgeable and credible experts. Like when someone is having skin burn and need to see a doctor, the person looks for the expert in that particular field. The person won’t go to a gastroenterologist but rather to the one who knows about the subject matter and do accordingly.

Consistency says that if a person has said or done it previously, they’re more likely to follow. The statement is widely controversial. An example of it can be that if in a hospital, when you’re asked to write the time yourself for the next appointment from the provide dates and time, you’re more likely to follow through.

Liking states that people are more inclined to say yes to those they like. An example of this can be that, if you talk with people here in Kathmandu while commuting and you realize that they’re studying the same subject, working in the similar field or come from same home town, you might have a sudden affiliation. Similarly in the business context, this is used by companies like Deerwalk, Leapfrog and several other IT companies working in Nepal for international projects have their sales representatives connect with the business owners using the similar technology to get close to them and to get the project.

Consensus is something which states that people look at the behaviors of someone else when they’re uncertain how they’re to act. Like in a restaurant, a notice was posted stated that 75% of the people staying in this re-use their towels. That notice will prompt the customers to re-use their towels more often.

Hidden persuaders in business speaking and writing function by establishing credibility, framing goals on common ground, reinforcing the position vividly and by connecting emotionally. Taking consideration of all those in a single scenario, if an organization is sending out an advertisement, and if it shows that the organization is credible while it thinks about the customer and stress that fact along with the product and the no compromise on the quality while also connecting with the customer at an emotional level forms a effectively communicated advertisement. It also persuades the customer to use more of the company’s products (HBR’s 10 must reads on communication, 2013).


Brown, R. (2006). Understanding the Hidden Persuaders. Psyccritiques , 51 (26).

Cialdini, R. (2016). Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade . London: Random House.

Harvard Business Review Press. (2013). HBR’s 10 must reads on communication (pp. 76-77). Boston, Mass.

shantamilan profile image

Business is more about persuasion these days. The better persuader a person is, higher the chances of them getting what they want. Kotler and Kellar 2012 says, by catering persuasions through tailored arguments to the person that makes decisions can increase the chances of your proposal being accepted. But persuaders in business either spoken or written are hidden in nature. Robert B. Cialdini best describes these hidden persuaders as people having in born skills to motivate people to do their bidding and what is more amazing is that the people are eager to fulfill what is asked of them as if ‘it were a favour they couldn’t wait to repay. (Congner, 2013, p. 32)’

Cialdini further goes on to explain persuasions as reciprocate, scarcity, liking, authority, consistency and consensus. People reciprocate behaviors shown to them meaning if you do something, they will reply by doing something for you in return. For example medical representative gives free goods to doctors who reciprocates it by prescribing medicines of their company.

People are persuaded to buy thing that they do not even need when there is scarcity. For example if people hear that there will be shortage of petrol form tomorrow, it is highly likely that most people will start purchasing even though they have enough of it.

People respond well when they like others. This liking is based on similarities shared between them. It is also brought on by genuine complements and good words shared. For example if there are two vendors who sell apparels people tend to prefer the one who is soft spoken and is friendly in nature as opposed to the vendor who does not care whether you buy or not.

We are more persuaded by people in authority who are more experienced and experts at something. For example a compounder giving us medical suggestion as compared to a doctor. We will obviously be persuaded by a doctor and listen to him even if the medical compounder says the same thing.

Consistency is an interesting human nature. People want to be consistent. This can be utilized by the manager to his advantage. For example asking a small task at first that is asking for a bigger favor later will persuade the worker to accept as they have already accepted a similar task beforehand. People also respond to consensus. This means that people follow the crowd. As an innate human nature people tend to flock over places that have more people. For example two restaurants who serve similar food at similar price, but there are customers in one while the other is empty. New customers will tend to go where there are other customers as opposed to the one that is empty.

These are some ways in which hidden persuasion function and good managers can be model these factors for better persuasion.


Congner, J. A. (2013). Harnessing the Science of Persuasion. In J. A. Congner, HBR’S 10 Must Read (p. 132). Boston: Harvered Business School.

ncitujjwal profile image

A hidden persuader in business speaking and writing is a subconscious message that influences the behavior of the listener or the reader without being aware of it. It understands the importance of feeding that competitive urge, not only between individual but also to promote a sense of competition with us. It is not enough for people to come together in dialogue in order to gain knowledge of their social reality. They must act together upon their environment in order critically to reflect upon their reality and transform it through further action and critical reflection. The efforts used to insight from psychiatry and social science by providing all the willingly by cooperative psychologists to channel unthinking habits on purchasing decisions and through the process can be defined as hidden persuaders (David, 2014). It is a psychological action that takes place inside the mind. Suppose one person say something to another person what he/she says might be important, how he/she says can be much more important. For example, we know that the word "sorry” is used in polite requests when we did any mistake.

In the business field, marketers have to encounter in typing to persuade to buy the products of their companies could produce. Many businesses believe that for the good of the economy people had to consume more than more even they want it or not, hidden persuaders create the wants. From a several research of Vance Packard has identified eight compelling needs that advertising uses to promote their product. They are (Miller & Packard, 2007):

Emotional Security
We all start out as fragile emotional beings and very few of us achieve deep emotional security, so we all keep seeking it.

Reassurance of Worth
In a connected world, we can lose the sense of who we are and what we are worth. We thus seek reassurance that we are adding value and deserve our place in society.

Ego Gratification
Ego Gratification is related to worth in that they are both about the sense of identity, but this is perhaps a little more base, where we a need for praise and our egos to be ‘stroked’.

Creative Outlet
Many jobs have little creative content, leaving this need unfulfilled. We thus seek creative opportunity in other of our life.

Love Objects
Children and adults want both to love and be loved. Children have dolls and teddy bears, but what do adults have?

Sense and Power
When we can direct others we move up the social order and so are theoretically at least, safer, big cars, chunky tools, solid houses and old banks all make us feel safe and, when we own or use them powerfully.

Our roots are key parts of our sense of identity. Where we come from, our heritage, our family, our nation, are important for that feeling of who we are.

Perhaps the biggest fear we have is of death. Or maybe not death but or ceasing, of becoming nothing. We likewise seek to create meaning in our lives some may live beyond death.

The Major function of Hidden Persuaders are:

  1. Hidden persuader uses media and politics to convince us to the virtues of the indefensible, such as long commute time to work atomization across family, generations, single-use land planning, the social satisfaction of housing.

  2. Hidden persuaders work hard to get people to buy the idea that a good life exists outsides the village, in the marketplace.

  3. Hidden persuaders also use the argument of scale to great effect "how are we to react everybody and ensure that everybody’s needs are met if we stay small and local? To efficiently and effectively reach everyone we must go to scale.”

  4. The Hidden Persuaders have defined as the problem can secure the power to redefine the problem.

  5. The hidden persuaders have worked hard to assuage our pangs of guilt around outsourcing the care of our own imperfectability, and the fallibilities of own family and neighbors, to those who are the professional world, are suitably credentialed.


David, E. (2014). THE 7 TACTICS OF HIDDEN PERSUADERS. The Economist.

Miller, C., & Packard, V. (2007). The Hidden Persuaders. America: Brooklyn.

ujjwalpoudel profile image

Here, I would like to begin with my personal experienced. As I am enrolled for service oriented company (i.e. recruitment agency), I have to handle lots of business call from the companies. When companies have their requirements of the candidates in the company then they make a call. Most of the time, when there is only a telephonic conversation, I would explain about the process and service charge; then the company finds expensive and business gone. Later, when I communicate to the company arranging the meeting, then I got a business. This is because at the time of meeting I used to share all my past related experienced of fulfilling the requirements and the detailed process of screening the candidates.

In the above example, the detail information that I shared at the time of meeting is known as hidden persuaders. Hidden persuaders are relevant data’s, examples and the abstract of conversations which are used in business speaking and writing. It tries to subtly influence the behaviour and thinking of the audience through unintentional subconscious message. They can be actual details, examples, and stories that give life and substance to the claims. These hidden persuaders are important in business writing as they provide information, verify an assertion and illustrate an abstraction (Bell & Smith, 2014).

Commonly, hidden persuaders are used in marketing and advertising to help direct a certain kind of favourable behaviour from customers (Hodgson, 2003). In advertising, certain types of products and lifestyles are shown as more glamorous; therefore, the viewers will have more desire to obtain them.

To sum up, persuaders generally make the background for people to understand the context and believe in the statement provided the facts and figures. The persuaders provide answer to the dilemma created by the statement.


Bell, A. H., & Smith, D. M. (2014). Management Communication. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.

Hodgson, G. M. (2003). The Hidden Persuaders: Institutions and Individuals in Economic Theory. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 27 (2). 159-175.

sachitabhattarai profile image

Hidden Persuader is a message that is subliminal to advertise a product and influence the audience without them being aware. One must provide details, facts and evidence to persuade and make the customer believe to select their product among the various products in the market. The marketer must prove why their products are better than their competitors by supporting their information with evidence and facts. Hence, Hidden persuaders create wants among the customers.
The facts, examples and other details in favour of the product in business speaking and writing form act as a persuader for the customers to believe in the product and buying it. The company must choose the right words and languages while speaking and writing in the business.
The importantly hidden persuaders as stated by (Conger, 2013) are Principle of Liking, Principle of Reciprocity, Social Proof, Consistency, Authority and Scarcity.

1. Principle of Reciprocity
Reciprocity is giving what you want to receive. For example, your not so friend invites you on his/her marriage and you went for his marriage. Then you are obliged to call him on your marriage too. Similarly, if business provides good after sale services to the customer then the customer will be encouraged to use a similar product repeatedly.

2. Principle of Liking
This principle states that people more connect to similar nature of people who co-operate and praise them. People are far more likely to say “yes” to those they know and like (Rieck, 2018). For example, a customer instantly connect to the seller who is from the same city where the customer lives. In such case, it is difficult for the people to say no to the sakes person.

3. Principle of Social Proof
People imitate others behavior to model theirs. People look into others behavior to model their own. For example, if Deepika Padukone advertise Lux soap then people imitate her behavior and uses lux as deepika padukone uses it.

4. Principle of Consistency
This principle states that people like to be consistent on what they do. For example, if once you said Yes to lend money to your friend then you do not like to say No when the another time he/she asks money.

5. Principle of Authority
According to this principle, people believes in smart and knowledgeable persons. For example, the orders of the Chairperson are followed immediately in comparison to the orders given by immediate boss.

6. Principle of Scarcity
People gets attract to the things, which are scarcely available. For example, the techniques used by colleges to get more admissions “Hurry Up! Only two seats reaming” though there is no admission taken earlier.

Conger, J. A. (2013). HBR’s 10 Must Reads. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation.
Rieck, D. (2018, May 12). Direct Creative. Retrieved from Influence and Persuasion: The Rule of Authority, Liking, and Scarcity: directcreative.com/influence-and-p...
The Economist. (2011, September 24). Hidden Persuaders II. Retrieved from economist.com/node/21530076

dipadhungana profile image

Hidden persuaders can be defined as subconscious or subliminal message that tries to influence the behavior or understanding of people without them being aware about it. In business speaking and writing, hidden persuaders refer to the facts, data, examples, stories, experiences and evidences that make people believe what we are writing or speaking is true and relevant. People won’t be convinced by our ideas unless we present the ideas with supporting details that make them credible.

For example: If someone comes to us and say that youth these days are not as energetic as youth a generation ago, we might treat is as a random thought of that person. But if that person presented data, examples, research papers and facts to support his point, we subconsciously tend to believe the idea. Thus hidden persuaders verify our words through citation.

As stated by Bell and Smith, hidden persuaders make others believe our message by making our arguments:

  • Specific: They help to convert vague descriptions to precise and specific ones.

  • Clearly understandable: They help to build connection of written and spoken words with the things of daily use.

  • Brief: They help to filter and omit unnecessary and irrelevant information that may confuse the audience.

  • Focused: They help to keep the audience focused by directing audience to intended message through examples and citations.


Bell, A. H., & Smith, D. M. (2006). Management Communication. Wiley & Sons.