Saturday, July 16, 2016

"Persuasion," in WRITE YOUR BOOK WITH ME

PERSUASION: Ethos, Logos, and Pathos

Ethos, Logos, and Pathos are not Alexandre Dumas’s Three Musketeers [Athos, Porthos, and Aramis], but rather the Greek for, approximately, character, logic, and emotion, three elements long identified as crucial for successful persuasive communication, important in our business and personal lives.

First, I must give credit where credit is due. I recently finished reading a fascinating and informative book: The Power of Communication: Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively, by Helio Fred Garcia (2012), available in a Kindle ebook edition and hardcover through  The lessons and examples are priceless, although I picked up the Kindle ebook for a song. I wish I could have read it when I was a debater in college eons ago.

To be persuasive, you must be credible. This is ethos. You must seem likely to know the topic you are addressing and to be committed to telling the truth about it. If you are attractive, in looks and personality, that helps. Dress appropriately. You seem likely to know the topic if you have the right credentials, including training, experience, and achievements. You seem likely to tell the truth if you have a history of honesty and no obvious reason to lie. If you are an interested, rather than disinterested party…if you will gain something by what you are “selling”…then you should admit that up front and hope that the power of your presentation will over-ride the tendency for your audience to doubt you.

Evidence and logic, the tools of rationality, help persuade others. “Logic” derives from logos. You can start from principles that your audience shares with you and proceed to show, by “deduction,” that they support your case. Some people will find this highly persuasive. Another approach involves “induction,” giving examples, evidence, leading to the conclusion you are offering. Often we try to do this with analogies, indicating that this is like that. The problem arises that no two situations are truly identical, so your audience may not find the comparisons compelling.

I have listed pathos, emotion, third because I am a retired scientist and I think that authority and reason should predominate, but psychologists tell us that emotional connection, empathy, must come first if we are to persuade others in daily life. We are ineffective if we approach them from “a mood apart.” We need to “feel their pain” or seem to, “rejoice with them” if we can….  In his book, Garcia gives the example of the BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward who, at the time of the major BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico from the oil rig Deepwater Horizon, said, “…there’s no one who wants this thing over more than I do. You know, I’d like my life back.” Hayward was widely criticized for seeming to be more concerned about his discomfort than the suffering of the Gulf Cost victims of that monumental oil spill. Here, displaying the wrong emotion doomed Hayward, and six weeks after this, he was removed from his CEO position.

To be persuasive, employ all three: ethos, be the kind of person who deserves to be believed; logos, present evidence and logic to justify your position; and most importantly, pathos, connect emotionally with your audience…be empathetic. You can do that, right?


Excerpted from my recent Write Your Book with Me, published by Outskirts Press and available from OP and other online booksellers like and The Amazon link is:

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