Persuasive communication

Persuasive communication: better email or face-to-face?






You need to ask a favor. Do you do it by email or face-to-face?

The research on persuasive communcation by Guadagno & Cialdini (2002) has an answer to it. Let’s look at what has been discovered.

1. Channel of communication and gender

Persuasive communication - email vs face-to-face

Email can bypass men’s competitiveness

Would it make a difference if the person you’re trying to persuade was man or a woman? When it comes to whether you use email or speak to them face-to-face, the answer is yes!

Men seem to be more responsive to email. Researches point that this channel of communication allows men to bypass their ego and competitiveness. This “less human” medium allows them to focus on the message rather than on proving anything.

For the same reason, it is better to approach women face-to-face rather than through email. We are more relationship-focused, and need to bond with another person before making a decision. Emails don’t allow that, but a conversation in person does.

2. Channel of communication and social roles.

Persuasive communication - email vs. face-to-face

Face-to-face allows women to create strong relationships

We all play social roles, be in a father/mother, a spouse, a child, a brother/sister, an employee, an employer, a boss, a perfectionist, a traveler, a dancer, a ‘good-in-math’, a friendly type, etc.

These are relative to our age, school, work, gender, family size and so on. A social role “woman” states that you need to think of relationships with others and work towards agreement and bonding. A social role “man” states that you are task-oriented and you make things done.

This is another reason why emails are a better channel when communicating with men, while face-to-face will work better for women. They allow each side to play their social role according to socially accepted stereotype.

What has not been included in the research is the impact of the rapports that the 2 sides have. If you are good friends or a couple, face-to-face communication will have one additional advantage: we agree more with people we like. So if you want to persuade your significant other or a good friend, approaching them in person will give you leverage. If a person you’re trying to convince is a stranger to you, then you are not getting this additional advantage.

What is probably the most interesting take away front his research on persuasive communication is that if you need to make a request, but you know that it might hurt somebody’s ego – it’s better to use email. Email allow to bypass our natural tendency to prove our worth.

To sum up, if you want to persuade someone with whom you have a competitive relationship – use email. But, if you want to persuade someone with whom you have a good relationship, then talk to them face-to-face.

If you’d like to learn more about persuasive communication and how to influence people’s behavior, then you will love the new course I’m working on: The Power Of Persuasion. It will be ready for public by the end of August.

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