How I structure my speech to persuade others?

The skill of persuasion is a trained cultural norm. We witness the sights of persuasion techniques through television commercials, debates, or to even witness my cousin Ramesh implementing his sales pitch on the family. We are subjected to it one way or another.

The philosopher Aristotle introduced a persuasive technique through the use of rhetoric. The persuasive appeal is defined by three modes of persuasion known as ethos, pathos, and logos also referred to as the rhetoric triangle.

Aristotle’s three modes of Persuasion

Ethos

Ethos is a Greek word that means character. It appeals to the credibility and the reputation of the author/speaker. The use of ethos as a persuasion technique is the attempted means to persuade the audience based on a speaker’s understanding or knowledge.

Creditability of a speaker can be instilled on the merit of their expertise and how well they can convince the audience on the subject matter. This is achieved through historical experiences or expanding on the notion of research that has shown promising results. The ultimate goal of ethos is to engender trust.

In the book Words Like Loaded Pistols written by Sam Leith highlights:

Your audience needs to know (or to believe, which in rhetoric adds up to the same thing) that you are trustworthy, that you have a locus standing to talk on the subject, and that you speak in good faith. You need your audience to believe that you’re, in the well-known words, “A pretty straight kind of guy…you will be seeking to persuade your audience that you are one of them: that your interests and their interests are identical in the case or, to be more convincing, in all cases.

Often you can witness the use of ethos in brand commercials by hiring a celebrity figure to promote their product. There is a natural inclination that the celebrity is a common household name; a trustworthy figure and the product they are promoting are credible.

Here’s an example that you could consider checking out.

Pathos

Where logic does not dictate, emotion does – pathos is the persuasion technique that allows a speaker to appeal through emotions (negative or positive) of the audience. It focuses on the values and beliefs of the audience. Once, the speaker can get a sense of its audience – they can evoke emotional reactions. In Greek, pathos means suffering or experience. The development of pathos is instilled through emotional tone and language that appeals to the personal experience of the audience. It can also be developed through implied meaning by sharing personal anecdotal experiences.

Implementation of pathos should be a natural process like bringing laughter in a situation. Within the book, the author highlights a tool called Aposiopesis which is –

A sudden breaking off as if at a loss for words – can be intended to stir pathos…it serves to commend the speech more easily to memory, to give pleasure to the audience. Delight is an end, as well as a means.

Pathos isn’t only about evoking emotions, it can also be used to counteract it. Let’s consider an example imagine a mother speaking to her annoyed children. Their annoyance is due to the fact they have to complete their homework instead of playing outside. The direction of the mother’s rule could work in two ways. She could abolish her children from playing outside, or she could work to alter their mindset. By transpiring calmness within her children and advocating if they complete their homework, they will then be able to go play outside.

An example of pathos can be highlighted in a well-renowned speech made by Martin Luther King, Jr – I have a dream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest—quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Logos

If ethos is the ground on which your argument stands, logos is what drives it forward: it is the stuff of your argument, the way one point proceeds to another as if to show that the conclusion to which you are aiming is not only the right one but soo necessary and reasonable as to be more or less the only one.

Logos is a Greek word that means word. Logos is the appeal to logic. It expands on the audience intellect based on the supporting information provided by the author/speaker. The basis of this persuasion technique entails:

  1. Facts – connectivity of facts to draw out clarity within the argument.
  2. Examples – through statistical data to support research
  3. Historical analogies – to highlight experience that are results of varied decisions.

There are two ways of approaching logos:

  • Deductive arguments
  • Inductive arguments

Deductive arguments: The assurance in achieving logos is through the connectivity of facts. Let’s consider a syllogism – a syllogism is a way of combining two premises and drawing a conclusion that follows logically from it. For instance, “All mammals are animals. All elephants are mammals. Therefore, all elephants are animals.” In this example, by proposing multiple statements that are connected with facts and are well reasoned to conclude.

Inductive arguments: These are based on generalisation. They initiate a type of hypothesis which can be tested for a valid conclusion, which doesn’t need to be true but provides a premise to be examined.

Another instance of logos to consider would be commonplace – in the book, the author highlights:

Any form of reasoning has to start from a set of premises, and in rhetoric, those premises are very often commonplaces. A commonplace is a piece of shared wisdom: a tribal assumption.

In the modern West, we’re confident that prevention is better than cure; that hard work deserves a reward; that no means no; that you are innocent until proven guilty, and that all men are created equal. But it would be a commonplace to a man of Aristotle’s generation and time that the opinions of women and slaves were quite irrelevant.

Commonplace are culturally specific, but they tend to be so deep-rooted in their appeal that passes for universal truths.


The metric of a speech should not just be subjected to only one of the modes of persuasion. It’s a skill that overlaps all three together by asking yourself does your message appeal emotion? Does it appeal logic? Does the audience find value in what you are trying to imply?

Productivity

Abhishek View All →

I am a writer and a graduate engineer working in Leicester, UK.

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