Attending to Persuasion

Aristotle mentions these rheotrical methods:

  • Ethos: declare credibility
  • Pathos: emotional appeal
  • Logos:employing reason, logic

This post is a quick share of my appreciation for those who possess the skill to persuade. My respect for the acient Greeks is woven into the fabric here. I fall short of those who are gifted in this area.

Pay attention to overal structure, wording, articulation, rhythm, and style.

  • before engaging, establish some rules; avoid illogical falacies and emotive responses, keep it logical
  • admit that objective true dialog is rigorous and can be challenging (to explore properly takes time)
  • mention that the goal is for all to be enlightened, and possibly move closer to the truth; not to vanquish
  • Ask their opinion, listen carefully
    • Use “Socratic” questioning (dialectic) to refine the “truth” or meaning of each important term used in the opinion statement. This may take time, but worth it.
      • Keep in mind that Socrates spent his life trying to find someone with more wisdom than himself - that is the way he questioned others
      • The goal is to clarify, clarify again, and clarify every key word to establsh a commonly agreed upon truth as afoundation to move forward
    • the unique skill of one who is knowledgable is be a sceptic and question everything in order to successfully move on …
    • Here is the essential element of successful dialog. The participants need to first establish a truth they all agree on. The dialog can’t successfully move forward if the basic truthful facts can not be agreed upon.
  • Discover what you don’t understand
  • Acknowledge their strengths - you know this at least… that I tell the truth…
  • Admit your own short comings
  • Share your strengths, and cedibility
  • share why it is important to discuss
  • Begin with a core truth that both can agree on
  • If challenged - analyze the challenge first before responding
    • acknowledge the point and find a part you can agree with
    • is it relative, is it on point, acknowledge what is relative, in fact or emotion
    • is it logical, if not how is it illogical
    • what examples might expose it’s weakness, is the weakness by degree
  • is there an emotional component that demands attention - why?
  • summarize what can be agreed upon
  • thank the listener, appeciate the rules being honored, and their tolerence.
  • show respect - right down to the way you dress or your posture and gestures. Show respect, always, and all ways.

Many Great Greeks built upon each other to refine the art of speaking and rhetoic. This starts with the important fact that citizens were expected to participate in politics and civil goerning. Classic rhetoric was a highly valued virtue. This skill involved articulate use of grammer, diction, and logic strategically designed to persuade. It employed first and foremost in politics but enjoyed in all areas of discussion. The Romans further developed the rules to add invention (or discovery), arrangement (or organizational structure), style (clear, articulate elocution), memory, delivery (disiplined, crafting of wording). They understood the power of poetry, repetitive phrases, metaphor, choice of words, structure with intent, emotional conclusions, all the “tricks” that move the listener to a different perspective position.

Aristotle’s writings on rhetoric where designed to explore a system for developing effective speech. He would use the consequences of similar past events as suggestive of the path going forward (deliberative). He also coined the term forensic which focuses on past facts and the term has evolved to now be associated primarily with law. He had another term or category of speech the either praised or placed blame (epideictic). Aristotle mentions three means of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos. Pathos is probably used more by people than the other two because it comes naturally - it is the appeal to emotion. The other two demand a bit more of one to achieve (in my humble opinion). Logos is based of reason and fact, logic and that really takes study and a healthy does of knowledge. Lots of reading, study and practice are essential. The last means of persuasion demands the most from one and is affected by devery decision they make throughout their life. For my sake stop and think about that. Ethos is based on the speaker’s (or writer’s) credentials to share on the subject. It is based on the character of the one who delivers the dialectic. Or put in another light, one’s who lacks the credibility to share on the subject starts on a weakened platform. Benjamin Franklin understood this and wrote about it. I recommend reading his biography. From an very eary age he structured his life with his “13 virtues”. From that character building platform his orations carried far greater weight.

Cassandra, who had the powerful gift of prophecy, but it was combined with a terrible curse, that is she lacked the skill of persuasion and was therefor never believed. She was the daughter of King Priam of Troy. She predicted the fall of Troy, no one believed her and, well, we all know the history. She predicted murders and again lacked the ability to convice her listeners. Ultimately she took her own life in dispair.

The Greeks of course had to have a goddess of persuasion. Peitho, was sometime considered on of the Charities (from the Greek word for grace: charis) which included: Aglaea (“shining”), Euphrosyne (“joy”), Thalia (“blooming”)… and others as well which wikipedia lists as Damia (“Earth Mother”), Auxesia (“Spring Growth”), Cleta (“Renowned”), Phaenna (“Bright”), Hegemone (“Leader”), Peitho (“Persuasion”), Paregoros (“Consolation”), Pasithea (“Relaxation”), Charis (“Grace”), and Kale (“Beauty”). I mention these because they all draw us in with their charm. You are moved, changed, and conduct yourself differently when in their presence. The persuasive goddess uses a seductive appeal to move you or change you. By the way, some of the Charities get intermingled with the mythologic Muses (Calliope, Clio, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Terpsichore, Thalia, and Urania) who were associated with the sciences and the arts. The Muses inspired poets while the Graces add to the beauty of life.

In book “The Five Rings” (which is recommended reading!), the rhythm and use of short stochastic repetitions resound in your ears and leave a lasting impact. It is along the lines of “Remember the Way of the masters, study them, learn and practice their teachings well” (a very liberal paraphrasing).

It might be argued that real change comes first by persuasion.

Geoff McNamara

"Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.” J.R.R Tolkien

Elizabeth City, NC