Is Coercion A Form Of Persuasion? No, It’s Not!

by Dr. Rick Kirschner on March 12, 2012

Insider's Guide To The Art of PersuasionPerhaps the most damaging kind of negative influence occurs when someone has power over you and requires your compliance.  Whether that’s a boss, a manager, a political leader or party, you have to do what they tell you to do.  It’s called coercion, and it comes with a price. The cost of coercion is the loss of trust.

Parents may fall into the coercion trap, when they force their children into compliance instead of using persuasion to build trust. “I’ll give you something to cry about,” shouts the mother in the supermarket line at her out-of-control baby.  Children may be cowed by coercion, but then they become teens.  The hormones hit their brains, they go temporarily insane, and their parents find themselves facing the serious repercussions of having no influence at all.

Employers and managers may intimidate their employees into apparent obedience, only to find themselves dealing with sabotage, subterfuge, backbiting and backstabbing.

In business, from the boardroom to the assembly line, coercion is far too common.  The boss stakes out a position, and her track record shows agreement is the desired response, and people who challenge the position aren’t around for long.  The manager or supervisor makes it clear that dialog isn’t an option. “If you want to keep your job, you’ll shut up and do what your told!”

Coercion restrains and inhibits. Coercion uses threats, isolation, deprivation and punishment as a means of control.  Among its effects are phobias, anxiety attacks, and other behavioral disorders.  Think this through and you’ll realize just how nasty coercion can be.  The threat of punishment, of disapproval, of provoking anger may gain compliance in the short term, but in the long term trust is lost and may be difficult, even impossible, to regain.  Coercion almost always comes with a high cost, the loss of significant trust.

Ever been coerced?  I’d love to hear about it in the comment section below.  Your stories are welcome.
Be well,


GET THE GUIDE!  The Insider’s Guide to the Art of Persuasion is now available as a digital download of MP3s here. 

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