When you think of Aristotle, you may think of some brilliant old philosopher whose advice couldn’t possibly be useful in the modern age. But nothing could be further from the truth!
In fact, Aristotle is full of fascinating insights into what, exactly, creates the ability to be persuaded – things that affect us even today.
He described the three facets of persuasion as “Ethos”, “Pathos” and “Logos”:
- The speaker’s character (Ethos)
- The emotions stirred by the speaker (Pathos)
- The speech itself (Logos)
But what exactly does that mean? Let’s take a closer look.
Let’s say you’re an incredibly wealthy individual in the market for a new sports car. The first salesman is a suave, slick-looking guy and you can tell from looking at him that he has sold millions of dollars worth of cars.
He slides up to you and latches onto your gaze immediately. He spouts off all the reasons why you need to own this car. It’s powerful. It’s sophisticated. It’s rugged. It’s a sports car for a serious consumer.
He goes through his pitch effortlessly, as if he has it memorized. He certainly has the hustle – but not the subtlety.
The second guy seems smart. He’s not as in-your-face as the first, but more reserved. He stands back and lets you take your time. He glides from the manufacturer’s specs to what they actually mean.
The sheer power of this machine is sure to be the envy of everyone who sees it. You’ll look 20 years younger driving this beast. People won’t be able to take their eyes off of it – or you.
Who do you buy from? The second guy – of course! His character was more trustworthy, more credible and more worthy of your attention. He wasn’t interested in the hard sell but more interested in getting you a car that did what you subconsciously wanted – to look stylish, sexy and in control.
Whether you’re speaking or writing, you can’t do it without truly “feeling” what you’re saying. Let that passion or excitement or compelling behavior show through in the words you choose. Above all – watch and learn.
Watch and model (but don’t copy) great speakers, look at how their body language reflects how they feel, and how their feelings are evoked through their words.
Be a constant observer and develop your own style.
Aristotle believed that the words we used were equally persuasive. Rather than sharing a statement, give your readers a story that will make them sit up, take notice and devote all their attention to what you have to say.
In the analogy with the fellow selling the sports car, be the kind of person who persuades others by using power words like adverbs and adjectives to add depth and meaning to your content.
By following Aristotle advice, you’ll be able to draw on thousands of years of smart persuasion that have been used to pass laws, wage wars and rebuild empires.
I would love to hear your though on Aristotle persuasion principal.