The art of persuasion
Man-1: I came here for a good discussion!
Man-2: Ah no you didn’t, you came here to argue!
Man-1: An argument is not just a contradiction.
Man-2: Well, it COULD be!
Man-1: No, he can’t! An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.
Man-2: No it’s not!
– Monty Python
This is a topic close and dear to my heart. As a graduate of the College of
Communications at Ohio University, I studied interpersonal communications
which I found fascinating and has served me well in my entrepreneurial career. At the moment,
I see very little emphasis on sharpening students’ oral skills. Institute
They generally spend little time in this area, as do universities (other than Communications
schools like the OU). Consequently, we are developing a generation of dysfunctional
people in the workplace who don’t know how to work with other people.
The key to speaking is the art of persuasion it takes to lead
people, sell ideas or products, negotiate and simply discuss
ready. However, instead of a quiet rhetorical speech, I have observed heated
discussions in the boardroom, in the office, and in life in general, with
personal relationships become victims of such debate. This was
very evident in the last presidential election, as well as in Congress today.
A substantial part of the problem is that people do not understand the
basics of persuasion. For some it is easy, for others it is
difficult to assimilate. First, we have to understand what to formulate
a persuasive speech is hard work. For example, Winston Churchill was
well known for his eloquence as a speaker. But few understood the amount
of effort that Churchill put into his speeches. I would work late at the
night writing and rewriting his talks. It was common for him to carry slips
of paper in your coat pocket to take notes of the key phrases you wanted
use. Also, he would rehearse his speeches over and over again until
the tone and inflection he thought would have the most dramatic effect. TO
strangers, Churchill seemed to be a great extemporaneous orator with
creepy quotes and phrases; Everything was actually well rehearsed
THE THREE CANONS OF SPEECH
Preparations and rehearsals are important, but so is content. Formulate
persuasive speech, the speaker must know all three
ways of speaking: Ethos, Pathos and Logos.
Ethos is simply an appeal based on the character of the speaker. A driven spirit
speech is based on the credibility and reputation of the speaker. Basically a
the ethos-based discourse says, “If you trust me, you will support my point of
sight. “ This is why sponsors are important in persuasion. For example,
the reputation of a current or former CEO carries more weight on a board
discussion room than that of a secretary. This is also why we bow down to people with
more experience or seniority. However, the only caveat here is that
If the integrity of the speaker is questioned, his argument is also questioned. Also, no
become dependent on the use of ethically-based arguments, if ever proven
wrong, your reputation and credibility will be tarnished.
“A reputation that was once broken can possibly be repaired, but the world
always keep your eyes on the place where the crack was. “
– Joseph Hall
Logos is an appeal based on logic or reason. Commercial proposals and
Corporate reviews are usually logo-based, much like an academic thesis.
Basically, a logo-based argument exhibits geometric characteristics, such as:
If A = B
YB = C
Then A = C
The danger here is developing a weak or convoluted argument that is
perceived as illogical or difficult for the audience to understand. In order to
Communists are people.
Americans are people.
Therefore, all Americans are communists.
Logos is vital to the credibility of your argument, which must be carefully
built with basic common sense building blocks.
Logical speech is an effective way to communicate your thoughts,
But it is important to know your audience when presenting such ideas.
“It is dangerous to be right in matters where the
the established authorities are wrong. “
Pathos is an emotion-based appeal. Sales and promotional advertising
makes active use of emotional appeal by mocking human desires, particularly
greed. The intention is to motivate people to act. As such, a pathos
Argument is probably the strongest canon of speech. Even if it is based on logos
argument is logically sound, it will fall on deaf ears compared to a
argument based on ethos. Motivational speeches are typically based on ethics. Trainers
managers and political leaders make extensive use of
speeches. As an example, consider Franklin Roosevelt’s “chimney cats,” which
assured the American public during the Great Depression and World War II.
The only problem here is that truth is not a requirement for a
argument. To illustrate, Adolph Hitler was able to motivate the German people
develop a military state, but his speech was often laced with lies. Also,
Advertising often substitutes substance for façade and, as such, the public
you must exercise an “emptor warning” (be careful with the buyer). Apart of this,
pathos is a great way to get your point across.
“Whenever you find humor, you find pathos near his side.”
– Edwin P. Whipple
Rarely will anyone depend on a single canon of expression. Instead, a good argument
he uses all three to express his opinion. Churchill, for example, often trusted
in his reputation as a senior statesman to make his point understood, as well as to present
arguments that appeal to logic and emotion. A careful blend of the three canons of
speech, spoken at the right time and place, can work wonders.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Fundamental to all of this is a clear understanding of your audience in terms
of your knowledge, intelligence, “hot buttons”, moral values, interests,
and their place in society. The more you know about your target audience,
the better you can prepare an effective argument. Never forget that you
speak to communicate. As such, you must speak at the level of your
audience, neither above nor below it. I seriously doubt that you will impress a
group of grape pickers using a vernacular collected at MIT. If you want
persuade people, choose your words carefully.
“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but much more difficult
still, leaving the wrong thing unsaid at the tempting moment. “
– Benjamin Franklin
THE NEED FOR ORGANIZATION
Finally, organize your argument carefully. I am a great believer in the
concept of “Tell your audience what you are going to say;
Tell them then; I’ll tell you what you told them. “A speech without
steering isn’t going anywhere fast. This means you must have an introduction,
a body and a summary to conclude your argument.
Obviously, the above discussion is equally applicable to both writing and
Spoken word. The important thing here is that the more we know about the
art of persuasion, the better we can oratory slogan or text suitable for
expressing our argument. To recap the points made here:
1. Know your audience
2. Develop a speech conducive to your audience, using the three canons
speech and with some form of structure.
Obviously, situations will arise where you will not be able to
prepare a formal speech but instead make an argument about the
place. As long as you know these elements, you will be more
effective in your speech.
More importantly, stay calm when making your throw and stay on
control. The debate should be moderated so that you do not get involved
anger of your audience (unless that is your intention). Cruelty must be
left at the door. Be organized, be prepared and enjoy the trip.
“In a republican nation, whose citizens must be guided by reason and persuasion
and not by force, the art of reasoning becomes of prime importance “
– Thomas Jefferson