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How to Persuade

Influential people in the world tend to be effective persuaders. To persuade another person is to change their mind; to influence them in some way. I’d like to share a few thoughts on how to become a more persuasive speaker with the help of Aristotle’s three rhetorical proofs.

Ethos (Character)
You must get your audience to believe that you are on their side. Demonstrate to them that you want the best for them. Your message must align, at least somewhat, with their views. You have to get them to believe that they can trust you.

It’s important that you embody your credibility too. You must speak and move with power. Project your voice, puff yourself out a little bit and take up space. You will be less persuasive if you are seen as hesitant or unsure of your convictions.

Pathos (Emotions)
You must arouse emotion in the crowd. We do not always behave rationally. Fear, empathy, and anger often guide our decisions. If you can stir up these emotions in your audience, you will be closer to getting them to accept your message.

Consider how many political events were precipitated by intense emotions. We passed the civil rights act after the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. We went to war after 9/11. Nixon resigned after Watergate. Our emotions drive us, and society, in many fundamental ways.

Logos (Reason) 
You must explain why your change is necessary. Give a good reason that people should change. It’s not enough to tell us to stop smoking. It’s important to add that we should avoid smoking because smoking causes cancer and many other terrible illnesses. Include plenty of evidence to support your claim.

Logos is often the most important means of persuasion. But it can be easily overshadowed by character and emotion. I think you’ll find that people are more often moved by confidence or fear rather than by logic. That’s why it’s so crucial to combine each these elements together to become as persuasive as possible. So demonstrate your credibility on the subject, seek an emotional response, and give them a strong reason to follow you.

The presidential nominees will have to persuade voters this coming November. The candidates this year represent these persuasive mechanisms in strikingly different ways. We shall see which means of persuasion turn out to be most effective. Will we vote on the basis of character, emotion or reason?