I read and listen to a lot of current events, news, sports, and I am interested in politics. There is a trend that I am concerned with — the total lack of persuasion in the message.
I see this in, of course, politics, but also such things as the climate debate and the discussion of world terrorism or Texas v North Carolina BBQ.
I found LSU’s thrashing of Clemson very persuasive.
Persuasion is that seductive, inveigling bit of cajoling that entices one to adopt a specific view of things, or a matter of policy, or an opinion. In its most pure form, it is the noble art of information. In is basest form it is a kissing cousin of propaganda.
I find persuasion to be a skill of smart people.
If you are a traditional Aristotelian devotee, you may be tempted to blurt out: ethos, logos, pathos. I am with you, brother and sister.
Say what, Big Red Car?
This worldly chap, Aristotle, said that persuasion was the rare cocktail concocted from:
1. Ethos — Ethos begins the process of persuasion by providing an imprimatur for the persuader based on their personal character and experience.
If someone has been a soldier, as an example, their views on war may be informed by their experience. The audience is asked to “trust” the persuader and may have faith in the persuader based on similar discussions on other subjects.
2. Logos — Logos is the logic of the argument, how it fits together, how it develops from fact to fact until one reaches a conclusion that is supported by that logical connection and factual bridge building. It is a journey, a process.
It may take the form of an analogy or a comparison to a similar situation that the audience already embraces.
3. Pathos — Pathos appeals to the emotional state of the audience. When an observer arrives at the discussion emotionally engaged — talking to you, politics — then a persuader will appeal to that state of emotional arousal.
To persuade, the persuader has to touch an emotional nerve and make it vibrate at the requisite frequency. If I appeal to your patriotism, and you are a patriot, we resonate with our common view before, during, and after the discussion.
Take a second to consider two things:
Are your arguments persuasive? If not, reconstruct them to conform to ethos, logos, and pathos (thanks, Ari).
When you find yourself as the target of persuasion, try to feel where the boundaries of ethos, logos, and pathos begin, end, overlap. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn to a conclusion based solely on, say, pathos.
One does not have to reject all competing arguments to be convinced of the right of a thing. Remember this.
But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car and everybody knows Big Red Cars are very trustworthy (and experienced).