Aristotle is famous for saying, “We chiefly rely on three kinds of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word.”
His “Ethos Pathos Logos” is perhaps the most famous rhetoric triangle. Ethos, pathos, and logos are all modes of persuasion or appealing to an audience under the rhetorical mode of argument. Persuasion is achieved by using one or more of these three elements.
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Ethos: Refers to the speaker’s or writer’s credibility and ethical character. One way to think of ethos is as “appeal based on trustworthiness.”
Pathos: Refers to emotional appeal – trying to get an audience to agree with you by stirring up their emotions. A sure way to think of pathos is “appeal based on emotion.”
Logos: Refers to an appeal to logic or reason. A good way of thinking about logos is “appeal based on logic.”
Read on for further explanation if you’d like to learn more about ethos, pathos, and logos.
While soldiers are trained to take action and fight for their country, they ultimately follow the orders of their political leaders. While soldiers can physically overpower a politician, the politician will always have the power to give the orders that the soldiers must follow.
Politicians have always been more powerful than soldiers. Why?
Actions always speak louder than words. But in some cases, words can be more powerful than actions. Words can inspire people to take action and make a difference, while actions can only inspire individuals. Thus, words have the power to create change on a much larger scale than actions.
The art of politics is to understand how to use both words and actions to achieve the desired outcome. Politicians use their power of persuasion to convince people to favor certain agenda items or support particular policies. They also use their power to enact change by passing laws or negotiating treaties.
Words have power, but not always. What gives words power? It is the context in which they are used. For example, a president can cause millions to die by proclaiming war, but a poet cannot cause a single person to die by writing a poem about war.
The poet does not have the power to make decisions that can lead to war, so the context in which words are used matters.
Still, a poet could cause a war with the right mix of ethos, pathos, and logos: the three main modes of persuasion. A writer or speaker can use all three modes simultaneously or separately, but they are not always effective in every context.
Rhetoric is the study of how writers and speakers use words to influence an audience. A rhetoric analysis can be written about many different subjects and forms of discourse, from advertisements and speeches to essays and editorials.
In rhetoric, ethos, pathos, and logos are the three main ways to persuade an audience. Of the three, ethos is the most important. Ethos is how you convince someone that you’re credible; you know what you’re talking about and are trustworthy.
Pathos is how you appeal to someone’s emotions, and logos is how you appeal to someone’s logic.
If you’re trying to persuade someone to do something, it’s important to use all three of these methods. You require a strong ethos so that the person knows that you’re credible; otherwise, they won’t bother listening to what you have to say.
Rhetorical analyses aim to question the purpose, audience, genre, stance, and media/design of the piece under analysis. You can analyze rhetoric for academic purposes, although ethos, pathos, and logos embrace a more pragmatic meaning when analyzing everyday speech and writing.
Ethos is an important tool in persuasion and manipulation. It’s using one’s character or credibility to gain trust and confidence from others. Ethos can be used in many different ways, but some common examples include:
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- Using celebrity endorsements to sell products
- Appealing to authority figures to gain support for a cause
- Sharing personal stories to gain sympathy or trust
Ethos is an incredibly powerful tool, but remember it can also be easily abused. Though it’s effective for persuasion, always be honest and transparent about your intentions.
Misusing ethos can damage your credibility and reputation, so use it wisely. Once damaged, ethos is challenging to repair. Without it, many great ideas and truths can go unheard.
Examples of ethos are all around us: in advertising, politics, and even personal relationships. Pay attention to how people use it, and consider how you can use it ethically in your own life.
If you’re a student, the best example of ethos is referencing peer-reviewed academic sources in your essays.
If you’re a business owner, an example of ethos would be highlighting your company’s awards and positive customer reviews on your website.
Members of Congress also use ethos often, especially when first elected. They’ll talk about their experience in the military or as small business owners to gain voters’ trust.
After gaining the vote, they’ll use their titles (Congressman, Senator, etc. ) to establish their authority on issues.
How about English royals? What makes their opinions so important? It’s their ethos! The English monarchy has been around for centuries, and they have a lot of experience (read credibility) when it comes to running a country.
As you can see, you can harness ethos in numerous different ways, both good and bad. It’s important to be aware of how it works to avoid falling into manipulative traps, and so you can use it effectively yourself when trying to persuade others.
Always question an argument’s logic and truth value, despite the sources’ credibility to avoid manipulation via ethos.
Do your independent research and think for yourself! It’s challenging, but it’s always rewarding to do the work required to have an opinion.
Logic is the study of the principles of correct reasoning. The word “logic” comes from the Greek word “logos,” which means “reason.” The study of logic branches into two parts: formal and informal logic.
Formal logic is the study of the structure of arguments. Informal logic is the study of the meaning of words and how people use them in arguments.
Logos, as a mode of persuasion, applies reasoning to appeal to an audience. It applies to formal and informal settings alike. Within formal settings, logos applies in conjunction with other modes of persuasion, such as pathos and ethos.
Logos is the primary mode of persuasion for formal settings because it’s the least susceptible to manipulation. It’s hard to beat facts within formal settings like Court or Congress proceedings.
Informal settings are more conducive to persuasion by means other than logos. People are more likely to be swayed by emotional appeals (pathos) or the speaker’s character (ethos) in these settings.
Politicians are usually professionals who understand that logic isn’t enough to sway public opinion because very few people do the work required to have an opinion. Most people rely on heuristics, or mental shortcuts, to make decisions.
These heuristics are based on emotion and past experiences, causing irrational decision-making. Thus, politicians often appeal to pathos and ethos in their speeches.
Logos can be an effective mode of persuasion, but it’s often not enough alone. Always use logos in conjunction with other persuasion modes to be truly effective.
Pathos is an emotional appeal that can be used in persuasion. It is a way of convincing an audience by appealing to their emotions. I find pathos the most compelling of the three modes of persuasion for common language use.
It’s also the most dangerous because when used skillfully, it can be very effective in manipulation.
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The feminist movement has used pathos extensively in its quest for equality. They have played on the emotions of women and men to convince them that feminism is about equality and fairness.
The anti-abortion movement has also used pathos extensively. They have appealed to people’s emotions against abortion by showing pictures of aborted fetuses and telling stories of women who have regretted their abortions.
The gay rights movement has used pathos to convince people that homosexuality is not a choice and that gay people should be treated with respect.
In each of these examples, the use of pathos has been effective in persuasion because it has appealed to the emotions of the audience.
Politicians and writers are also excellent users of pathos. In his famous speech, “I Have a Dream,” Martin Luther King Jr. appealed to the emotions of his audience by talking about the dreams he had for his children.
In her book, The Color Purple, Alice Walker appeals to the emotions of her readers by writing about the struggles of African-American women in the early twentieth century.
Unfortunately, pathos is dangerous because of its manipulative power over individuals and the masses.
For example, Adolf Hitler was a master of manipulation, and he used pathos extensively in his speeches. He appealed to the emotions of the German people by promising them a better future and by talking about the inferiority of the Jewish people.
Similarly, Joseph Stalin was also a master of emotional manipulation. He used pathos to convince the people of the Soviet Union he was their savior and that he would lead them to a better future.
Don’t forget American divorce proceedings. “The best interest of the child” is always based on emotional manipulation by both parents. How about falsified domestic abuse reports? Such claims heavily rely on pathos to garner sympathy.
What of toxic relationships? Why do you think they’re so many and powerful that it’s worth writing about them?
Toxic relationships are usually harmful to either or both partners involved. They are characterized by manipulation, power struggles, and a lack of trust and can be emotionally and physically damaging.
There are many reasons why toxic relationships form. Often, one partner is trying to control the other out of insecurities. Sometimes, both partners could be narcissistic, or one partner could trigger the other into such manipulative tendencies.
You can tell when you’re under emotional manipulation when your partner constantly tries to control what you do, who you see, and how you feel. They may also try to make you feel guilty or ashamed when you don’t do what they want.
You can also pick out emotional manipulation from strangers and friends, though it’s more difficult to identify. For example, manipulative pathos puts down logic and reason in favor of appealing to emotion.
Thus, someone could be manipulating you if you’re always questioning yourself and second-guessing your choices.
Politicians will invoke hope by making unattainable promises or playing on people’s fears to get them to vote for them. Always ask yourself just how feasible the claims are before getting too caught up in the message.
Manipulative ethos also attacks an opponent’s character rather than their ideas. It’s a dangerous and often effective tactic because it can make people question an opponent’s motives, even if they’re not doing anything wrong.
An argument can be defined as a set of statements, one of which is the conclusion and the rest are premises intended to establish the conclusion. An argument must be logically valid and have true premises to be compelling.
Speech acts are the basic units of communication. We need to understand how to put together these acts in an engaging and persuading way for our audience when structuring a compelling argument.
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A speech act is an utterance with a performative function; it’s not just an assertion or a statement of fact, but an action that does something. In other words, you’re performing an action and not just communicating information when you produce a speech act.
1) Assertives: these statements describe reality or declare something to be the case. “The sun is shining.”
2) Directives: these are commands or requests. “Please turn off the light.”
3) Expressives: these communicate an attitude or feeling. “I’m so happy to see you!”
We can use these three speech act types to structure a persuasive argument. We can establish our credibility and build rapport with our audience by beginning with an assertive statement.
We can then use a directive to give them a specific task or request, and finally, we can use an expressive statement to connect with them emotionally and create a sense of common purpose.
We create a persuasive argument more likely to convince our audience to take the action we desire to inspire by putting these three types of speech acts together.
A speech act must meet certain felicity conditions to be successful. These conditions vary depending on the type of speech act being performed.
1) The statement must be true.
2) The speaker must believe that the statement is true.
3) The speaker must provide evidence for the statement if asked.
4) The listener must not already know that the statement is true.
1) The speaker must have the authority to give the directive.
2) The directive must be something that the listener can do.
3) The listener must not already be doing what the speaker is asking them.
4) The listener must believe that the speaker is sincere.
1) The feeling must be real.
2) The speaker must believe that the feeling is real.
3) The listener must not already know that the speaker feels this way.
4) The listener must be moved by the feeling expressed.
While authorities can be more persuasive, it’s important to remember that anyone can be convincing if they structure their argument well and have strong evidence to support their claims.
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We are all authorities on our unique experiences, and we can use personal anecdotes to persuade others of our point of view. We can also draw on our expertise in a particular subject to make a more persuasive argument.
The bottom line is that anyone can be persuasive, regardless of their position or title. The key is to structure your argument in a way that will engage and convince your audience.
Persuasion is an art, with some science thrown into the mix. It’s useful to understand the basics of how persuasion works, but the real key is to practice and get better at it.
The best way to become more persuasive is to study the masters and see how they do it. Look for examples of iconic persuasive speeches and essays and analyze what makes them effective.
Go as far back in time as the era of Aristotle and study the great orators and writers. Move on to more modern examples, such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech or JFK’s inaugural address.
The best way to learn persuasion is to see it in action and then practice it yourself. So go out there, and start persuading people!
Cassie Riley has a passion for all things marketing and social media. She is a wife, mother, and entrepreneur. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, language, music, writing, and unicorns. Cassie is a lifetime learner, and loves to spend time attending classes, webinars, and summits.