Using Anecdotes to Persuade an Audience

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  • 0:04 What Are Anecdotes?
  • 0:40 Using Anecdotes to Persuade
  • 3:37 Why Anecdotes Are Effective
  • 4:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
In this lesson, you're going to learn about anecdotes. First, you'll learn what they are. Then, you'll learn some tips on how to formulate good ones for yourself. Finally, you'll learn why they're effective tools of persuasion.

What Are Anecdotes?

All of us use anecdotes, whether we realize it or not. Anecdotes are short stories, commonly amusing or thought-provoking in nature, about some sort of event or person. Perhaps you've told someone about the time your uncle fell asleep in the middle of a wedding ceremony. Or maybe you mentioned a story about how you made it through a tragedy at some point of your life and came out stronger than you ever were before. Those are all examples of anecdotes. Anecdotes can be used to persuade an audience. In this lesson we'll discuss how and why they may be effective.

Using Anecdotes to Persuade

When trying to persuade someone, it's best to avoid telling them what to do. People don't really like that. Using raw statistics to persuade someone isn't much better either. Stats are easily forgotten or even forged. And, besides, how often have you been impressed by numbers alone to make some sort of change in your life? And simply giving your opinion can be quite polarizing for a lot of people.

People, by nature, tend to feel instead of analyze. If you can make them feel something as opposed to think something, or pure logic in other words, then they may be more likely to be persuaded to move towards some sort of action or change. And one great way to get people to feel what you've got to say is to use an anecdote. This anecdote can use rhetoric, facts, even a stat here or there, so long as all of those things are woven into the story you're telling in an interesting way that doesn't seem out of place.

Here's how:

1. Have a message to your anecdote.

Again, the messages shouldn't tell people what to do! Instead, it should imply the reasons for why it might be beneficial for them to follow a course of action or think a certain way. Great stories don't list these reasons. Instead, the message itself makes it clear what the benefits are or aren't.

2. Use the correct example in your message.

If your message is about fire safety, talking about swimming in the water is not the best idea. Tell a real story about a person who didn't follow the right fire safety protocols and what happened to him/her.

3. Tie everything together.

Start with the problem or situation at hand. Describe the example that tells us what happened in the real-life story. Tie all of that together into a pitch that explains the benefits.

4. Don't be a robot.

The best stories, even they're only kind of interesting in terms of details, are told by people who display passion about a topic. It's one thing to listen to a person listing the reasons for why prison is bad. It's a whole other thing when that same person is emotionally involved in his or her story or the examples of others who went to prison.

5. Use facts and statistics in the right way.

The old school way of trying to convince someone was to blast them with stat after stat after stat or fact after fact after fact. Let's be real. That can be really boring. Instead of listing stats and facts, weave them into your story! Don't just mention a number, like '50% of people in our town are addicted to something.' Instead weave everything into a nice narrative, like 'I went door to door and every second home I knocked on had a tragic story about how addiction ruined someone's life.' Still the same 50% stat, right? But far more interesting to listen to.

Why Anecdotes Are Effective

Storytelling and listening are part of who people are. Before the advent of recording media, people told stories to recall, impress, and persuade. We love to listen to stories even today. It may not be a warrior telling us a campfire story, at least not for most people, but things like an episode of a TV show, a YouTube episode, or a podcast does much the same.

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