Virgil's Virtue

Direct, honest, compelling.

I think first-hand accounts are incredibly persuasive, don't you?

Love Animals, Don't Eat Them

This cow is destined for slaughter. Here's why >>


The Six Principles of Persuasion

In the book Influence by Robert B. Cialdini, six principles of persuasion are listed. Here they are:
  1. Reciprocation
  2. Commitment and Consistency
  3. Social Proof
  4. Liking
  5. Authority
  6. Scarcity
For a more in-depth review of the principles, read the book and also read the rest of this website :)



"vastly more persuasive" ???

P Q P \and Q P \or Q P \underline{\or} Q P \underline{\and} Q P \rightarrow Q P \leftarrow Q
Erik Marcus, undermining his own message, wrote:
"If every activist in the animal protection movement read and understood the Wikipedia link above [or here], we would collectively be vastly more persuasive and credible."
Sadly, Marcus doesn't seem to realize that persuasiveness isn't strongly correlated OR caused by an understanding of causal relationships.

Logicians are no more persuasive to the general human population than marketers. In fact, they're often less so.

Let's look up the Wikipedia entry for persuasion:
Persuasion is a form of social influence. It is the process of guiding people toward the adoption of an idea, attitude, or action by rational and symbolic (though not always logical) means. It is strategy of problem-solving relying on "appeals" rather than coercion. According to Aristotle, "Rhetoric is the art of discovering, in a particular case, the available means of persuasion."
Methods include appeals to reason as well as appeals to emotion, subliminal messages, seduction, peer pressure, etc.

McDonald's doesn't put toys in Happy Meals because it makes McDonald's appear more credible or reasonable, they do it to persuade children to desire Happy Meals.

(Read the updated version at Vegan Soapbox >> )

About People

Truths about humans:
  • People care about their family
  • People care about the future
  • People want to be involved in something that makes a difference
  • People prefer to work for something rather than against something
These truths were listed in the video Understanding Our Audience. They can be used to shape our discussions about animal rights.

Stages of Change

The Stages of Change were touched on briefly in Knowing Our Audience. Let's go more into depth on this subject...

Here's an overview of the stages:
  1. Precontemplation is the stage at which there is no intention to change behavior in the foreseeable future. Many individuals in this stage are unaware or underaware of their problems.
  2. Contemplation is the stage in which people are aware that a problem exists and are seriously thinking about overcoming it but have not yet made a commitment to take action.
  3. Preparation is a stage that combines intention and behavioral criteria. Individuals in this stage are intending to take action in the next month and have unsuccessfully taken action in the past year.
  4. Action is the stage in which individuals modify their behavior, experiences, or environment in order to overcome their problems. Action involves the most overt behavioral changes and requires considerable commitment of time and energy.
  5. Maintenance is the stage in which people work to prevent relapse and consolidate the gains attained during action.
An article about sticking to New Year's resolutions describes the change process:
"In this model, change occurs gradually and relapses are an inevitable part of the process of making a lifelong change. People are often unwilling or resistant to change during the early stages, but eventually develop a proactive and committed approach to changing a behavior."
Most vegans get to a point where they "gave in" and ate the cheese (or the sausage or whatever). They feel guilty and wonder if they can be vegan again. These people need encouragement. Of course they can get right back up on the wagon and be vegan again! Relapses "are an inevitable part of the process," remember?

Moreover, the presence of a few ex-vegans is not necessarily a sign of our movement reversing course, as some might say, but rather is simply a normal, natural process of change wherein some relapses occur. Over all, we're making great progress. For example:
  • "Nearly one-quarter of Americans say that they sometimes go meatless at restaurants" ... "10% of consumers say they largely follow vegetarian-inclined diets and 5% more are “definitely interested” in shifting to vegetarian-based diets in the future." (source)
  • “2008 per capita [meat] consumption stands to be at the lowest point in seven years” (source)
  • “The [poultry] industry has never cut production to this degree before, but demand for chicken has never contracted to this degree either,” (source)
  • "Fishermen are hurting and quitting the business" (source)
  • "demand for dairy products is stalling amid a global economic slowdown and credit crisis, even as supplies have increased."(source)
  • "[Americans] have become less accepting of medical testing on animals, and the use of animal fur for clothing" (source)
  • "A quarter of Americans say animals deserve the same rights as humans, while almost all of the rest agree that animals should be given some protection from harm and exploitation."
  • "38% of Americans express support for the idea of banning horse and dog racing altogether" (source)
More to come on this topic of "Stages of Change"... stay tuned.

Knowing Our Audience

This video is an excellent resource for learning how to sell compassion. I've watched it a couple of times already and I learn more each time I watch it:

Understanding Our Audience from Let Live Foundation on Vimeo.

Some take-away messages are:
  • We should create strong perceptions of credibility.
  • We are most effective at persuasion when we focus our message on a target audience.
  • 10,40,40,10 Rule: The general population is composed of four groups: Two "extremist" type of groups, 10% who agrees with you and 10% who disagrees. The other two groups are larger and one leans towards agreement (40%) while the other leans away from agreement (40%).
  • The best use of our time is to try to move the middle. Don't waste time arguing with the extremist nay-sayers.
  • The Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can be relevant to crafting AR messages.
  • Shame is a powerful motivating factor.
  • Stages of change: for example, most vegans were vegetarians first.
  • Every movement has its moment: pay attention to the news and social climate because opportunities will present themselves.
  • Almost by definition, our audience is different from us.
  • We should do more research. Here's one resource:

Doing Research, Having Good Sources

Following up on the idea of using the animal exploiter's words, images, and research against them, here's a video describing how to research animal abuse:

How To: Researching Animal Abuse from Let Live Foundation on Vimeo.

How to Win Friends and Influence People?

Food for thought...

Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People, written in 1936, is still widely used today as a basic sales manual. In it, he describes twelve methods of persuasion:

Win people to your way of thinking

1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
2. Show respect for the other person's opinions. Never say, "You're wrong."
3. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
4. Begin in a friendly way.
5. Get the other person saying "yes, yes" immediately.
6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
7. Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
8. Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view.
9. Be sympathetic with the other person's ideas and desires.
10. Appeal to the nobler motives.
11. Dramatize your ideas.
12. Throw down a challenge.
Things to consider:
  • Who are you trying to persuade? The person you're talking to or people listening to the conversation or both?
  • Is this the best method in ALL situations?
  • Are nobler motives really more effective? Is it so wrong to appeal to base motives?
I have this book and have read it. It offers some great advice, but be forewarned: some suggestions are NOT vegan. For example, he makes the same point I made in "Humans & Dogs: Not So Different" that positive dog training methods are effective with humans, too. Praise and treats work wonders. But in his example, he literally suggests giving people meat.


CopyBlogger describes six principles of persuasion. I'm addressing each one here at Selling Compassion with practical ideas for activism. This is the fourth of the series. Part 1 was: The Power of Reciprocation, part 2 was: Commitment and Consistency, part 3 was: Attracting Allies, and part 4 was: Popularity.

Today: Authority

Authority — In this age of specialization, we are more prone to respond to authority than ever before. Regardless of an independent spirit, we look to experts or those we perceive to be experts to give us the answers and show us the way. Even the mere symbols of authority, such as titles and specialized clothing, are enough to trigger a response. Example: Note how seeing someone with a white smock and stethoscope instantly suggests “doctor” and makes anything that person says about medicine seem more authoritative.

Application: Provide signs and symbols of expertise. Establish your expertise by providing solid information. Show your credentials. Create trustworthiness by admitting flaws or shortcomings and demonstrating lack of bias. Show similarities between you and your prospect or customer. Cite awards, reviews, speaking engagements, and books you’ve authored.
Here are some basic things you can do (in your own animal advocacy) to increase your authority:
  • Use proper grammar and spelling.
  • Cite your sources.
  • Don't use the passive voice.
  • Educate yourself: knowledge is power.
Regarding vegan advocacy, Matt Ball makes this claim:
"it is imperative that we present information the public won’t regard as ludicrous and from sources that they won’t dismiss as partisan."
In fact, some organizations recommend using the animal exploiters' information against them. When we use their own photos and articles, the public can't claim it's biased or isolated.

Exposing Institutionalized Cruelty from Let Live Foundation on Vimeo.

For example, this video below comes from the pig farming industry and can't be called pro-vegan whatsoever, yet the video clearly demonstrates the inherent cruelty in the industry:

  • Mother pigs (sows) don’t have enough room to turn around
  • Pigs (hogs) are confined indoors without access to sunshine, grass, or mud
  • Ear tags: a form of mutilation
  • Runt piglets are separated from their mothers
Another way to use authority to "sell compassion" is to promote the works of authoritative figures within the animal rights movement, such as:

Literally Selling Compassion

The newest Propagandhi album is out and as a promo they're releasing two singles that people can download. The cost: donate to one of three charities.

Using Popularity To "Sell" Compassion

CopyBlogger describes six principles of persuasion. I'm addressing each one here at Selling Compassion with practical ideas for activism. This is the fourth of the series. Part 1 was: The Power of Reciprocation, part 2 was: Commitment and Consistency, and part 3 was:
Attracting Allies.

Today is about popularity.

Social Proof — Most of us are imitators in most of what we do. We look to others for guidance, especially when we are uncertain about something. We ask, “What do others think about this? What do others feel? What do others do?” Then we act accordingly, all thanks to the power of social proof.

Application: Show others using your services or buying your products. List testimonials of satisfied customers or clients. Feature stories of those who have been “converted” from another service. Show pictures of people using your product. Provide case histories of some of your best customers. When people see that what you offer is okay with other people, they are more likely to give it a try themselves.

A classic example of this method of persuasion is the list of famous vegetarians:

Some bloggers who "sell compassion" use this idea almost exclusively:
  • Ecorazzi - a blog about celebrities and their environmentally-friendly or unfriendly actions.
  • Vegetarian Star - a blog about, you guessed, vegetarian stars.
Then, of course, there are the celebrities themselves who sell compassion:

One Video At A Time

Sometimes it just takes a few conversations with real people:

Porolita22 says she went vegan as a result of watching a YouTube video. So she made this video of vegan YouTubers who make vlogging videos about veganism. She and her video are "selling compassion."

Attracting Allies

CopyBlogger describes the six principles for getting to yes. I'll tackle each one here at Selling Compassion with practical ideas for activism.

This is the third of the series. Part 1 was: The Power of Reciprocation and part 2 was: Commitment and Consistency.

Today: Affection/ Attraction

Liking — No matter how reasonable we may think ourselves to be, we are always more likely to say “yes” to those we know and like. We readily comply with requests from those who are similar to us and for whom we have good feelings. It’s what makes refusing to buy Tupperware from a friend or relative next to impossible.

Application: Be personal and likable. This is one element of selling that most people know instinctively, but often fail to put into action. Getting people to like you in person is one thing. But how do you do it in print when people usually have no chance to meet you? Reveal yourself. Show your feelings. Tell a story that prospects can relate to. Use flattery and praise. Present your sales message in such a way that you are not just selling something but working with others as an ally with common problems, concerns, and goals.

Ani Phyo is a great example of exuding attraction:

Besides the above advice from CopyBlogger, here are some specific ways I believe can make anyone more likable online:
  1. Spread goodwill - Spend some time everyday giving people written praise. If you like a blogger's post, leave a comment of praise. If you like someone's pictures of videos, tell them.
  2. Return favors - If someone "friends" you on a social networking website like MySpace or FaceBook, friend them back. The same goes for blogging. If someone links to your blog, it's polite to link back.
  3. Criticism in moderation - Sandwich criticism in praise: praise, criticize, praise. It's a general rule of thumb to give positive feedback with all negative feedback.
  4. Use an alias when appropriate - The old rule is 'if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.' The new rule is 'if you can't be nice, be anonymous.' This can save your reputation. Just be careful because you're never completely anonymous.
  5. Use images - If you want to invoke warm fuzzies in your readers, choose images that create that feeling: playful puppies, cute piglets, or baby chicks.
  6. Choose your battles - Not every issue is worth losing a friendship or ruining your reputation. Choose your battles (and your enemies) wisely.
  7. Humanize your words - Use the avatar, icon, image options to show your face and make your online self a REAL person. A nice smile is hard to hate :D
More Ani, because she's just so huggable!