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 to refine the “truth” or meaning of each important term used in the opinion statement. This may take time, but worth it.
    • the unique skill of one who is knowledgable is be a sceptic and question everything in order to successfully move on …
  • 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.

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).

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).

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