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Persuasion and parenting

April 23rd, 2004 · 1 Comment

Robert Scoble’s post How do you persuade? inspired response from Ted and also from Don Park who wondered whether the word “persuasion” is related to “pursue”. His question motivated me to do a little research. From what I know, I don’t think that the two words are related. But what I did learn about the etymology of persuasion surprised me:

From The American Heritage Dictionary:

ETYMOLOGY: Latin persudre : per-, per- + sudre, to urge; see swd- in Appendix I.

I looked up swd-

Indo-European Roots

ENTRY: swd-
DEFINITION: Sweet, pleasant. Oldest form *swe2d-, colored to *swa2d-, contracted to *swd-. 1. sweet, from Old English swte, sweet, from Germanic *swtja-. 2. Suffixed form *swd–. suasion; assuasive, dissuade, persuade, from Latin sudre, to advise, urge (< “recommend as good”). 3. Suffixed form *swd-wi-. soave, suave; assuage, from Latin suvis, delightful. 4. Suffixed form *swd-es-. aedes, from Greek dos, pleasure. 5. Suffixed form *swd-on. hedonic, hedonism, from Greek hdon, pleasure. (Pokorny sd- 1039.)

The root of persuasion seems to be related to “hedonism”, with flavors of “delightful” and “pleasure”. “Sweet, pleasant” “To recommend as good”.

How different these definitions are from what I believe! If I think that someone wants to “persuade” me of something, my first reaction is to run away. If you have to persuade me, you must want to get something from me. “Persuasion” seems a form of thievery with honey-tongued and untrustworthy words, evasive eyes and lies. If you have to persuade me, it must not be any good. My gut reaction is to flee!

But here in the etymology, persuade means “to recommend as good”. Do I think that people trying to persuade me want what is good for me? Do I see that they want to give me something good? Do I see hedonism related to persuasion? What if those who wanted to persuade me wanted me to be happy and have pleasure? Funny how I only imagine people wanting to take something from me like a sale. Is persuasion “sweet” and “pleasant”?

“I’m an authority on this topic and I’m looking out for your best interests” wrote Scoble.

Someone looking out for my best interests? Sounds too good to be true…I think what he is describing is relationship rather than right or wrong. Do I want to know whether this is the right car to buy or the right wine to enjoy? Or do I want a relationship with someone who cares about me and will guide me? If I know someone cares for me, I will trust and believe. How many sales people I meet in my life nowadays want me to be happy? How many want to give me something good? Or do they just want me to do something for them so they can get something good for themselves?

This discussion reminds me of whom I’d want to be my physician. I don’t necessarily want a doctor who’s had the best training and knows what to do in every situation by reading and reciting statistics. I want someone I trust. Someone sweet and pleasant. Someone who can interact with me where I am, show me both sides and explain her expertise and care for me. Don’t just tell me I need a C-section. Or hand me a prescription. First, convince me that you’re trustworthy. Be human and honest. Then I’ll follow whatever you recommend.

My favorite obstetrician is young, not too much older than me, but I like how personable she is. I trust her. If she’s not sure, she tells me and she also likes to do a test to confirm her concerns. She’s an authority but she also knows me. And she gives me freedom to disagree. I must say too that obstetricians and pediatricians who are parents themselves carry extra authority with me!

“I’m an authority on this topic and I’m looking out for your best interests”

I wish I had more people like this in my life, with experience and benevolence to share. For example, I wish I knew more older women who were ahead of me in life and could help guide me through these years. I wish I had more mothers…more parents…

Isn’t this what parenting is: persuasion?! Not that persuasion is what I employ at each stage and situation. I’m not going to try to persuade my child to wear her seat belt or keep her bike out of the street. There is a time and place for obedience. I tell my child what to do when she is young. However, as she grows older, has more indepedence and identity, persuasion will play a larger role in our relationship. I want my daughters to know that I am coming from this perspective of authority and goodwill. I want them to know that I want to give them something good. That I’m looking out for their best interests. I want them to trust me. Maybe they won’t always agree with me. But I hope, long after the years of car seats and training wheels, that they will still listen to me, believe that I want what is best for them, and hear my advice. I hope my relationship with them is sweet and pleasant. And it is these years when they are little – when I am telling them what to do – that our trust is being built for the future. The power of persuasion and its potential in the future depends on the humility and honesty I live with them now each day.

Parents who do a good job with their kids persuade others to have children. That’s how Ted and I ended up where we are. We saw other families whom we admired and we thought we’d like to be like them. Sometimes persuasion doesn’t use words: it speaks through life and little children.

Tags: journal

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Don Park // Apr 23, 2004 at 2:46 am

    It’s great that your ‘pursued’ the root of the word ‘persuasion’. I like to find out what the words mean and then imagine cavemen making those sounds to communicate in the stone age, way before written language was invented.

    ‘swd’ seems to hint that ‘persuade’ was built by adding ‘per’ to ‘swd’ to describe the act of ‘sweetening an offer’ as a caveman do while trading seashells. Nothing really deep there, just one cave man uttering a sound and another approximating a meaning within the context of a trade.

    This probably means that ‘pursue’ was derived from per-swd instead of being the root of the word persuasion since ‘pursue’ is an intent inferenced from the act of ‘persuasion’. Why else who the guy sweeten the deal?

    Of course, all this all make belief but I enjoy this sort of nonesense.

    Thanks Julie!