The Art of Persuasion. Lessons From Aristotle

Persuasion is an essential business skill. Whether we’re convincing our team to adopt a new strategy, or selling a new product, we’re always attempting to bring others round to our point of view. So how do we become more persuasive? What tools and techniques can we can draw upon? Luckily, the work of the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle is a source of inspiration. His work is as relevant today as it’s ever been.

According to Aristotle, there are three modes of persuasion - ethos, logos and pathos. Let’s explore each of them.

1 Ethos

Firstly, you need to convince others that you’re a person worth listening to. Ethos is all about demonstrating your credibility. Someone of good character, someone who’s trustworthy, likable and competent. As the saying goes, ‘people buy people’. You need to be a person worth buying.

So how do you prove your credibility?

The positive opinions of other people are vital. Testimonials, recommendations and references are of critical importance in providing objective validation.

Then you need to act in a convincing way. You need to demonstrate authority and expertise. Do you come across as someone who knows what they’re talking about? Are you able to respond to questions? People need to feel that you’re qualified and experienced enough to be trusted.

So, in the first instance, show your credibility. Provide evidence that you’re someone worth believing.

2 Pathos

Behavioural scientists have taught us that people make decisions with emotions, not reason. Pathos is the ability to appeal to someone’s emotions.

The start point is to get an understanding of the audience’s current emotional state. How are they currently feeling? Then think how you’d like them to feel in the future and develop arguments that will move them in this direction.

Ensure your arguments trigger positive emotions. Make them feel happy, uplifted, excited. Make them feel loved.

Develop arguments that appeal to their values and beliefs. Make people feel they will be doing something that’s valuable and worthy if they adopt your point of view.

Click here for suggestions on how you can trigger powerful emotions through storytelling.

3 Logos

Logos is all about appealing to an audience’s sense of reason, the rational side of their brain. it’s the flip side of Pathos. This is about providing facts. This is about providing data and information that support your arguments.

The key is to ensure your arguments make logical sense and are easy to understand. Make sure your sources of information are reliable. It’s much better to provide fewer, rational arguments. Don't bombard the audience with random facts and make sure there are no flaws in your arguments.

So to sum up.

The next time you’re about to fight for an issue that’s important to you, remember the lessons from Aristotle. The start point is ethos. Prove and show your credibility, that you’re a person worth listening to and worth believing in. Then focus your arguments on pathos. Tug at their heartstrings. Appeal to their emotions. Then finally focus on logos. Appeal to their sense of reason. Provide irrefutable facts and data that support your argument.

With Aristotle’s ancient pearls of wisdom, your contemporaries will be sure to adopt your point of view.