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Positive and Negative Persuasive Messages

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Persuasive messages may appeal to logic or to emotions. Negative persuasive arguments illustrate the bad things that may happen if people do not follow a particular course of action or if they do the wrong thing. Positive persuasive messages, however, point out the good things that can happen if people follow a course of action or if they follow the wrong path.

Negative Emotional Appeals

People use negative emotions -- fear, anxiety and disgust, for instance -- to craft negative persuasive messages. These arguments predict that something scary, disgusting or bad will happen if people don't follow a course of action or if they do the wrong thing. For example, anti-smoking messages are generally fear messages. The famous "this is your brain on drugs" advertisements played on the fear that a persons' brain would fry if that person took drugs. Ads calling cigarettes "Killaz" and ads showing teens with rotted out teeth and lesions on the body due to methamphetamine use also use fear to persuade. A photo of a mile-wide garbage island in the ocean promotes disgust, and can motivate people to recycle more to try to avoid polluting the oceans.

Negative Logical Messages

Negative logical messages show that negative results will follow a certain action or inaction. For example, an argument may use statistics from the March of Dimes to show that mothers who drink alcohol during pregnancy are more likely to have miscarriages or premature delivery, and women who have five or more drinks per week are 70 percent more likely to have stillborn babies. This kind of logical argument pointing out dangers and problems is a negative persuasive message.

Negative Persuasion in Business

In a business setting, a negative persuasive message generally threatens negative consequences as a means of motivation. For example, an evaluation for an employee with unsatisfactory job performance threatens disciplinary action, puts the person on probation or outlines negative qualities. For example, it may say, "Your constant tardiness and inability to contribute productively in meetings lead us to put you in probationary standing. If your performance does not improve in three months, there will be further disciplinary action." Another type of negative persuasion is threatening to turn an account over to a collection agency, or a sales appeal that says without a certain product -- such as an alarm system -- your family or business is in danger.

Positive Emotional Messages

The same kinds of messages can use positive appeals. For example, a positive anti-smoking campaign would show kids doing well in school, looking healthy and happy and having lots of positive friends. A positive recycling message would talk about how many natural resources are saved by recycling, what a positive thing it is for business finances and how recycling saves habitats for endangered species. Positive appeals emphasize the good and appeal to the listener's desire for good, happy emotions.

Positive Logical Appeals

Positive rational messages use facts, statistics and details, but instead of emphasizing the negative effects of not acting or acting negatively, they emphasize the positive effects of action. For example, a positive persuasive message on drinking during pregnancy would emphasize that those who choose not to drink have healthier babies who are three times more likely to have normal intelligence and twice as likely to be born healthy and alive.

Positive Business Messages

Positive persuasion in a business situation emphasizes positive action. For example, an employee evaluation could say, "I appreciate your insights, and look forward to hearing from you more often in meetings." A business may use positive persuasion for collecting payments, such as offering discounts for early or prompt payment. An alarm company using positive appeals would emphasize peace of mind and the knowledge that an outside person is looking out for the well-being and safety of your workplace or family.


Rachel Murdock published her first article in "The Asheville Citizen Times" in 1982. Her work has been published in the "American Fork Citizen" and "Cincinnati Enquirer" as well as on corporate websites and in other online publications. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism at Brigham Young University and a Master of Arts in mass communication at Miami University of Ohio.

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