The Art of Persuasion Has a Long History

In fourth century bc Greece, Aristotle studied and taught philosophy, science, and other subjects. In one of his most famous works, The Art of Rhetoric (meaning persuasion through language), he contends that the ideal form of argument was through reason (called logos). However, he also acknowledged two other powerful techniques: an appeal to character (ethos) and an appeal to emotion (pathos). These same persuasion techniques are among the most successful and frequently employed ones in use today.

■ Logos: Appealing to Reason. This appeal is successful because most people believe themselves to be logical and reasonable. When you approach them as such, you acknowledge them positively, and then make your argument based on the assumption that any logical, reasonable person would see things the way you do. An appeal to reason might begin, "Of course we all know that if we don't do this, then that will happen as a result."

■ Pathos: Appealing to Emotion. Aristotle understood that there are non-rational components of human behavior; in other words, not everything we do is based on logic. Emotional appeals can work in three different ways. First, the speaker can express his or her passion on the subject, hoping to influence others. Second, the speaker can attempt to elicit an emotional response from the listener, which will work to persuade the listener. Third, the speaker can both express his or her own emotions and simultaneously work to arouse those of the listener. As an example, environmental groups frequently use this appeal. You have probably heard something like: "Thousands of baby seals are brutally murdered for the skins, in front of their horrified mothers, every day. Shouldn't we act now to save these innocent creatures?"

■ Ethos: Appealing to Character. In this technique, Aristotle refers to the character of the speaker, which must be proven worthy in the eyes of the audience. In other words, for persuasion to work, the person doing the persuading must be seen as trustworthy, honest, and/or intelligent. He or she earns credibility by displaying a worthy character, one that will be trusted and believed by the listener. For instance, "During my twelve years of service in the U.S. Navy, I learned how the military operates. I am the candidate with the most direct and personal contact with our armed services, and I know better than any other candidate how to maintain and improve them."

Practical Mental Influence

Practical Mental Influence

Unlock the Powers of Mental Concentration to Influence Other People and to Change Situations. Learn How to mold the mind one-pointed, until you have focused and directed a mighty degree of Mental Influence toward the desired object.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment