The art of persuasion

October 21, 2021 by No Comments

Man-1: I came here for a good discussion!

Man-2: Ah no you didn’t, you came here to argue!

Man-1: An argument is not just a contradiction.

Man-2: Well, it COULD be!

Man-1: No, he can’t! An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.

Man-2: No it’s not!

– Monty Python


This is a topic close and dear to my heart. As a graduate of the College of

Communications at Ohio University, I studied interpersonal communications

which I found fascinating and has served me well in my entrepreneurial career. Currently,

I see very little emphasis on sharpening students’ oral skills. Institute

They generally spend little time in this area, as do universities (other than Communications

schools like the OU). Consequently, we are developing a generation of dysfunctional

people in the workplace who don’t know how to work with other people.

The key to speaking is the art of persuasion it takes to lead

people, sell ideas or products, negotiate and simply discuss

ready. However, instead of a quiet rhetorical speech, I have observed heated

discussions in the boardroom, in the office, and in life in general, with

personal relationships become victims of such debate. This was

very evident in the last presidential election, as well as in Congress today.

A substantial part of the problem is that people do not understand the

basics of persuasion. For some it is easy, for others it is

difficult to assimilate. First, we have to understand what to formulate

a persuasive speech is hard work. For example, Winston Churchill was

well known for his eloquence as a speaker. But few understood the amount

of effort that Churchill put into his speeches. I would work late at the

night writing and rewriting his talks. It was common for him to carry slips

of paper in your coat pocket to take notes of the key phrases you wanted

use. Also, he would rehearse his speeches over and over again until

the tone and inflection he thought would have the most dramatic effect. For

strangers, Churchill seemed to be a great extemporaneous orator with

creepy quotes and phrases; Everything was actually well rehearsed

in advance.


Preparations and rehearsals are important, but so is content. Formulate

persuasive speech, the speaker must know all three

ways of speaking: Ethos, Pathos and Logos.


Ethos is simply an appeal based on the character of the speaker. A driven spirit

speech is based on the credibility and reputation of the speaker. Basically a

the ethos-based discourse says, “If you trust me, you will support my point of

view. “
This is why sponsors are important in persuasion. For instance,

the reputation of a current or former CEO carries more weight on a board

discussion room than that of a secretary. This is also why we bow down to people with

more experience or seniority. However, the only caveat here is that

If the integrity of the speaker is questioned, his argument is also questioned. Also, no

become dependent on the use of ethically-based arguments, if ever proven

wrong, your reputation and credibility will be tarnished.

“A reputation that was once broken can possibly be repaired, but the world

always keep your eyes on the place where the crack was. “

– Joseph Hall


Logos is an appeal based on logic or reason. Commercial proposals and

Corporate reviews are often logo-driven, much like an academic thesis.

Basically, a logo-based argument exhibits geometric characteristics, such as:

If A = B

YB = C

Then A = C

The danger here is developing a weak or convoluted argument that is

perceived as illogical or difficult for the audience to understand. For


Communists are people.

Americans are people.

Therefore, all Americans are communists.

Logos is vital to the credibility of your argument, which must be carefully

built with basic common sense building blocks.

Logical speech is an effective way to communicate your thoughts,

But it is important to know your audience when presenting such ideas.

“It is dangerous to be right in matters where the

the established authorities are wrong. “

– Voltaire


Pathos is an emotion-based appeal. Sales and promotional advertising

makes active use of emotional appeal by mocking human desires, particularly

greed. The intention is to motivate people to act. As such, a pathos

Argument is probably the strongest canon of speech. Even if it is based on logos

argument is logically sound, it will fall on deaf ears compared to a

argument based on ethos. Motivational speeches are typically based on ethics. Trainers

managers and political leaders make extensive use of

speeches. As an example, consider Franklin Roosevelt’s “chimney cats,” which

assured the American public during the Great Depression and World War II.

The only problem here is that truth is not a requirement for a

argument. To illustrate, Adolph Hitler was able to motivate the German people

develop a military state, but his speech was often laced with lies. Too,

Advertising often substitutes substance for fa├žade and, as such, the public

you must exercise an “emptor warning” (be careful with the buyer). Apart of this,

pathos is a great way to get your point across.

“Whenever you find humor, you find pathos near his side.”

– Edwin P. Whipple


Rarely will anyone depend on a single canon of expression. Instead, a good argument

he uses all three to express his opinion. Churchill, for example, often trusted

in his reputation as a senior statesman to make his point understood, as well as to present

arguments that appeal to logic and emotion. A careful blend of the three canons of

speech, spoken at the right time and place, can work wonders.


Fundamental to all of this is a clear understanding of your audience in terms

of your knowledge, intelligence, “hot buttons”, moral values, interests,

and their place in society. The more you know about your target audience,

the better you can prepare an effective argument. Never forget that you

speak to communicate. As such, you must speak at the level of your

audience, neither above nor below it. I seriously doubt that you will impress a

group of grape pickers using a vernacular collected at MIT. If you want

persuade people, choose your words carefully.

“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but much more difficult

still, leaving the wrong thing unsaid at the tempting moment. “

– Benjamin Franklin


Finally, organize your argument carefully. I am a great believer in the

concept of “Tell your audience what you are going to say;

Tell them then; I’ll tell you what you told them. “A speech without

steering isn’t going anywhere fast. This means you must have an introduction,

a body and a summary to conclude your argument.


Obviously, the above discussion is equally applicable to both writing and

Spoken word. The important thing here is that the more we know about the

art of persuasion, the better we can oratory slogan or text suitable for

expressing our argument. To recap the points made here:

1. Know your audience

2. Develop a speech conducive to your audience, using the three canons

speech and with some form of structure.

3. Rehearse

Obviously, situations will arise where you will not be able to

prepare a formal speech but instead make an argument about the

place. As long as you know these elements, you will be more

effective in your speech.

More importantly, stay calm when making your throw and stay on

control. The debate should be moderated so that you do not get involved

anger of your audience (unless that is your intention). Cruelty must be

left at the door. Be organized, be prepared and enjoy the trip.

“In a republican nation, whose citizens must be guided by reason and persuasion

and not by force, the art of reasoning becomes of prime importance “

– Thomas Jefferson

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