In my very first statement on persuasion, I attempted to address the ethicality of persuasion, but I also raised the point that persuasion is in everything we do. This is interesting to think about because if being thoughtful enhances persuasion and persuasion is ethically hazy, is being thoughtful no longer thoughtful?
Rhetoric and persuasion can both be seen as manipulative. Whenever someone argues for something or tries to influence your behavior, morals should come in as to how it is done. People should not take advantage of other people. A persuasive act should be clearly labeled as one, even if it is well done persuasion (it shouldn’t be sneaky). But these “rules” are not always followed. This is when becoming a thoughtful and active audience is important, so you know when a tactic or persuasive act is being attempted and can think for yourself. But one could argue that being thoughtful has its own motives too. Think of the last time you did a “thoughtful” (in the kind sense) act. Did you do so hoping that the person would think well of you, maybe thank you? Was it because you wanted something else from it?
Being thoughtful typically implies that you did so without an ulterior motive, but even simply becoming a better, more considerate thinker is an ulterior motive whether intended or not. I make it a value to be more thoughtful, and with these new concepts of thoughtfulness, I am improving on my persuasive skills daily. This allows me to better conduct and analyze persuasive arguments or acts on a daily basis. And if I am becoming better at this, then I am most likely successfully protecting myself from others unwanted persuasion while simultaneously becoming more persuasive to my own audiences. When I thoughtfully consider which word to choose and which punctuation to emphasize I am altering my core argument’s purpose. I am enhancing it, making it the best possible choice for people to choose. I may not even necessarily need to have a sound argument to convince someone of something. It’s all about considering the right approach.
This theory reminds me of Gorgias. Socrates frowned upon Gorgias’s practice of rhetoric because it did not require Truth in order to be successful. Socrates looked at rhetoric and persuasion to be manipulative and a form of flattery. Gorgias looked at it to be a form of power and art. In this case, Socrates makes a strong argument for the abuse of rhetoric and persuasion (even if he is arguing himself) but I still believe in the good, art form of persuasion. It is all a matter of (active) intention which takes me back to “thoughtful” and how I used to always think of it as something “nice.”
The best persuasion combines the art and the sound argument which can be done through thoughtfulness. First, one has to be thoughtful in which argument they decide to make. Whether this be an actual argument or even just holding the door for someone, the facts and intentions behind them must be strong and True. To ensure this, one can thoughtfully listen to other information presented or persuaded, read it against the grain, and contemplate it in order to gather what is truly just. This does not necessarily have to be a long process either. In the example of holding the door for someone, maybe in that split second you saw the person coming your way had their hands full. That information led you to consciously act and keep the door open for someone who needed it. The receiver now may consider that action to be persuasive in representing you as a “thoughtful” person, and this is beneficial for both of you, even if your original intent was not to persuade that person to appreciate your kindness.
Additionally, once you have gathered sound information, thoughtfully arranging and considering the way in which you will argue or do something speaks to the art of persuasion. However, not to worry, Socrates, because a thoughtful person will try to represent only Truth in their persuasion. In this case, a convincing arrangement or excellent delivery only emphasizes an idea, not hides an idea.
Actively being thoughtful can alleviate most of the muddled areas of persuasion, but nothing is perfect. I would like to argue, though, that if someone is being thoughtful for only their own persuasive motives, that it can no longer be defined as thoughtful. I stand behind thoughtfulness because I believe in the power of overthinking (despite its negative connotation) and I also believe in the power of kindness. Thoughtfulness can encompass so many other values because thoughtful people consider both their self and others. Ideas like attentiveness, punctuality, empathy, thoroughness, etc., are all values people live by that can be addressed through a simple thought. In the world of persuasion, and kindness, the more detailed oriented thoughts, the merrier.