Three Pillars of Persuasion: Ethos, Pathos, Logos

Three Pillars of Persuasion

Little progress has remained made in the art of presenting since Aristotle. He wrote more than 2,300 years ago in his famous Rhetoric that there are three types of persuasive arguments or modes of appeal in a speech: those connected to ethos, pathos and logos

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1. Arguments linked to the Ethos

They are of an affective and moral order and concern the issuer of the speech. They are, in short, the attitudes that he must adapt to inspire confidence in his audience. Aristotle wrote in Book I of his Rhetoric:

“ Good men we believe more fully and with less hesitation; this is generally true whatever the issue, and true where absolute certainty is impossible and opinions remain divided.

2. Arguments Referring to Pathos

They are of a purely affective order and fundamentally linked to the recipient of the speech. Seth Godin opines on his blog :

It is not the facts that change the behaviour of people. This is an emotion that changes your behaviour. It is the stories and irrational impulses that change behaviour. Neither the facts nor the bullet point lists .

To my knowledge, smokers don’t quit when they read statistics on lung cancer; they stop smoking when they or people close to them have cancer. Indeed, as emotional arguments, stories, anecdotes, analogies, metaphors, similes can remain used, all told with passion. Effective stories resonate in the hearts of the audience.

The Christian scientist, writer and philosopher, Blaise Pascal, correctly stated that “the heart has reasons that reason ignores.

3. The Arguments linked to logos

They stick to the theme and the message itself of the discourse, entering here the proper domain of the Dialectic. Logical arguments supported by solid evidence are used, appealing to reason and the intelligence of the audience.

Find the Balance Between Analytical and Emotional Exposure

Stephen R. Covey defines these three arguments very clearly in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People :

“Ethos is personal credibility, the faith that people have in our integrity and competence. It is the trust we inspire, our emotional bank account. Pathos is the empathic side, the feeling. It means that one remains aligned with the emotional impulse of another person’s communication. Logos is the logic, the reasoned part of the exhibition. ”

To maintain credibility with the audience ( ethos ) a speaker needs to strike a balance between their logical ( logos ) and emotional ( pathos ) arguments. It is necessary to present facts in a presentation accompanied by an emotional appeal. In our presentations, we often make the mistake of basing all our persuasive argumentation on data and facts ( logos ) neglecting the other two, especially the emotional appeal ( pathos ). We forget that emotion moves action more than reason.

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