Is it Unethical to Persuade, Convince, or Influence Someone? Lets Debate!

I get several emails everyday usually talking about the same thing.

“using persuasion to make people buy something or do something is unethical”

Okay, so let’s have a good ol’ fashion debate about this.

Topic: Is it Unethical to Persuade, Convince, or Influence Someone?

Example: If you call someone out of the blue (cold call), and you are soliciting your product or service, is it wrong for you to “sell” someone on it, even if they don’t need it?

33 thoughts on “Is it Unethical to Persuade, Convince, or Influence Someone? Lets Debate!

  1. Mark Lewis

    I agree. If your persuasion is harmful to the other person and you know it, it's unethical. I hung

    Persuasion really isn't a bad thing. After all, I would consider matching the needs of the consumer with one of your products as persuasive. And it's exactly what they want.

    1. AJ Kumar Post author

      Right, this is the up to the sales person or whom ever to figure out a persons needs first. If there are legitimate “needs”, then pursue to persuading / convincing them as to why it would make sense to move forward with the purchase.

      1. Harnish

        Persuasion is a very important thing in business or personal life. The people who are able to derive most satisfaction out of the life they live are usually very good at this.

  2. axel g

    That's an interesting topic.

    Perhaps one could say that under certain circumstances it would be down right immoral to attempt persuading someone…

    Nice post AJ!

  3. Mike

    It’s a way to match their needs with the product. Most people went in there wanting the product, but get cold feet when they talk to the salesperson. You're breaking through the barrier to see what it is they want. People, get over it…lol

    1. AJ Kumar Post author

      Makes sense to me Mike. The fact that a person comes into a place usually says to oneself that they are genuinely interested. However, what about when you prospect for customers, meaning you find them.

  4. Harnish

    I agree with you. Any thing can be used for the improper reason. Fire is needed to cook food. It can also be used to light an inferno as we often see here in CA.

  5. Vladimir Tsvetkov

    What's the difference between ethics and moral, AJ?

    Being ethical means taking spontaneous decision in a particular situation, while moral means taking a decision predefined in system of moral rules.

    So, my answer is persuasion is ethical depending on the situation and whether your gut feeling tells you that being persuasive is OK.

    Check this TED talk: “Dan Ariely asks, Are we in control of our own decisions?”:

    Dan Ariely shows some really interesting cognitive illusions that can be used as a way to manipulate people's decisions (and that's what is all about). But being aware of people's imperfections you know that the line between being persuasive and being harmfully manipulative is very very thin.

  6. AJ Kumar

    Hi Vladimir,

    thanks for sharing that video, it was exceptional! I'm very “wow'd” with some of his examples and frankly, I'm interested in testing it out ;).

  7. Dustin

    If it is a win-win transaction, then it is perfectly ethical. To gain a value via sales without returning a comparable value would be unethical though. An example would be the debt consolidation services that are all around. Their whole model is built upon selling a service that can be made to sound good by a salesperson, but at the end up the day are really just scams where very little to no value is returned for the consumers investment.

  8. foresta_gump

    Ques. Is it unethical to persuade, convince, or influence someone?

    Ans. It is not unethical to convince someone they are wrong. It is not unethical to influence anyone for the good, but it is unethical to influence them for the bad.

    It is not unethical to convince someone they've made a good decision if it is one which benefits.

  9. AJ Kumar

    Right I agree. Unfortunately there are some people who are so caught up in their own lies that they believe in something so strongly, even though it may be obviously wrong. I had this happen to me in a personal situation. Even though the guy was obviously wrong, he persuaded everyone that he was right. He believed in his lie so much he thought it was true!

  10. foresta_gump

    If the guy was obviously wrong, then how could the guy persuade everyone? He would only be able to persuade those who believed him and he wasn't obviously wrong to them.

    But, I do hear what you are saying, and although I'm no LIAR, I believed with every fibre of my being that I am genius and wouldn't let up until everyone knew. I have since learned the truth about myself. Although I presented knowledge and facts people refused to acknowledge the true meaning of genius. It's the same thing with Enlightenment, people go on the premise that Enlightenment is something they strive to achieve, but it's not. You're either logical or your not. Most people have no clue that Enlightenment is nothing more than the ability to reason, which is logic.

  11. Lilly Paloma

    Intent, in persuasion as well as under the law, is what makes the deed ethical or unethical – or technically, legal or illegal. If the persuader truly believes in his premise, and believes it will benefit whomever he's trying to persuade, can he really be deemed unethical? Preachers do more persuading in one day than salespeople do all week, with no hard evidence to back up their pitches — just the strength of their personal convictions. Yet, none of us will openly call them unethical unless they try to persuade your fixed-income grandma to send in a big fat check.

  12. foresta_gump

    Hello Everyone

    I really started thinking about this question Is it Unethical to Persuade, Convince, or Influence Someone?

    I wondered how people could think it unethical to persuade, convince or influence someone. I pondered this momentarily and came up with perhaps people think it as an invasion upon one's being, to inflict upon them unwanted opinion, when they think theirs is best.

    Perhaps they shudder when they feel coerced into having to listen to insufferable bores.

    Perhaps it is a good thing to persuade, convince or influence people, because many people need direction in their lives and welcome it. We could get into environment and the influence it has over all of us. We have all been influenced, convinced or persuaded as children growing up.

    As an adult we have the control of who we allow to persuade, convince, or influence us.

  13. AJ Kumar

    I know exactly what your talking about. I had a buddy who worked for a company that did that. They made it appear to be magic pill, when it was far from it.

  14. AJ Kumar

    It was a weird situation that dealt with family. So there was a lot of ego/pride that got in the way of many people. If more people were only open minded, I think a lot of arguments would cease to exist. I agree with your thoughts on enlightenment.

  15. AJ Kumar

    wow…I love the argument! Who is to say what is ethical or not? A preacher can preach whatever all day long and a million people can call it bull while another million call it the truth. How would you say we regulate this?

  16. AJ Kumar

    Nice, I like it. We do make our own decisions, however, some times we are mislead to believe something is true, even if it's impossible. Happened to me before and it ended up costing me over $50,000 !

  17. foresta_gump

    Misleading is a low blow. People who do that are not honest.

    It's to bad you were misled which cost you $50,000. Did you think it was impossible at the time?

  18. AJ Kumar

    I was stupid. It was my cousin, a speaker in the personal development industry. However, A lot of what I know right now was because of what happened to me, so it may not seem like its worth it right now, but I know my time spent will make several times more in the future.

  19. thegnu

    I feel like the techniques of persuasion are not inherently evil. If I offer a valuable service, and believe I do a better job than my competitors, that still won't necessarily get me the sale. So learning how people form positive opinions, and utilizing that to convince them is not bad in and of itself. I am a horrible salesperson if I don't believe in my product because I don't believe in fooling people. However, if you believe in your product, and you are leading someone towards something that is good for both of you, there is no problem.

    Lying or implying false information, however, is a no no, even if the product is good.


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