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The Art of Persuasion

50 Psychology & Psychiatry Terms to Avoid“You can’t think about it. You just have to do it. You said you were gonna do it. Like I don’t get why you aren’t.” Michelle Carter, found guilty of manslaughter, encouraged her boyfriend over text messages to commit suicide.  

She texted him dozens of times saying things like: “You can’t keep living this way.” And, “Just do it, babe.” The messages continued for days until finally her boyfriend, Conrad Roy, died of carbon monoxide poisoning in his truck.

One of the reasons this case is controversial is because Michelle Carter was not at the scene of the crime. She was put on trial for the power of her own persuasion.

The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, listed several reasons for learning the art of persuasion. Some of them include:

  1. Persuasion is an excellent tool for teaching.
  2. Arguing both sides of the equation will lead to a more informed decision.
  3. Persuasion is an excellent way to defend oneself.

Elocution was the highest standard for a politician at that time, however many other professions benefited from persuasion. Business, sales, and certainly law have all used the art of persuasion to gain successful results. While many people expect the practice when dealing with various companies, relationships may also have their own form of persuasion.

A number of tactics may be used by persuasive partners who choose to manipulate.  Some of these include:

  • Emotional blackmail. Some partners may use rage or threats to control their significant other. Shame also works as a controlling method.
  • Using charm and money is another way to control a person or situation.
  • Lying. Whether the truth is completely misrepresented, or whether there is a grain of truth, bending the facts can often warp another’s decision or perception of a situation.
  • Denying. If a partner states a ‘fact’ that only has a grain of truth to it and is caught lying, they may try to deny it. They may say things like: You know what I mean. They may also deny they knew they were lying because their lie stemmed from a fractured truth.
  • Blame. By shifting the emphasis off a mistake, the distraction becomes the focus.  For instance, if the manipulator is caught lying, it may be in his best interest to say someone else was the cause for his behavior.
  • Guilt and Flattery. Often the two go hand and hand. By preying upon the social niceties that most of us follow, lots of people have a hard time refusing a favor if they were just paid a compliment.  If they do decide to refuse, they then may be guilted.

Often times it is hard for a partner to understand if they are being manipulated.  Common signs of manipulation include:

  • The partner’s words are twisted around to benefit the manipulator.
  • The manipulator accuses his partner of “not hearing things properly” when inconsistencies in stories arise.
  • The partner feels guilty and doesn’t know why.
  • The manipulator feels his partner’s problems or feelings do not matter as much as his.
  • The partner is afraid of the manipulator’s anger
  • The partner is unhappy in the relationship, but dreads losing it.
  • The partner is not sure where she stands with her partner.
  • The partner feels as if she is walking on egg shells.
  • The partner feels defensive.
  • The partner finds herself going against her values.
  • The partner’s boundaries have changed.

After Michelle Carter’s boyfriend was found dead in a K Mart parking lot, Michelle posted on Facebook: “Even though I could not save my boyfriend’s life, I want to put myself out there to try to save as many other lives as possible.”

It appears that Michelle Carter wanted attention from her boyfriend’s suicide and manipulated her way into getting it. Not only did she do nothing to prevent the suicide, she instructed him to continue the attempt until completion. Although some said she wanted to be of service to others by posting a supporting message on Facebook, most found Michelle to be manipulative to the extreme of severe abuse. Since relationships are often complicated, most of us will never know the exact nature of their connection. The total lack of control felt by one was the entire essence of power for the other.   

The Art of Persuasion

Rebecca Lee

Rebecca Lee lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. She has published with: Harvard, Adbusters, The Virginian Pilot etc. Her book, Object Relations, is due for publication in July.

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APA Reference
Lee, R. (2018). The Art of Persuasion. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 17 Jun 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.