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Persuasive Communication

Persuasive communication

Communicating persuasively in the workplace

The exposure to simple message cues such as credibility, attractiveness, and personal involvement has shown to increase the persuasiveness of the communication.

But this concept of applying a structured approach to communication is not new.

The concept of persuasion dates back to Ancient Greece. There were three practicing propagandists – the philosophers, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

Socrates (469-399BC) left no writings but his philosophies are known through the dialogues of Plato. It appears that Aristotle’s teachings of rhetoric and persuasion, even then, appeared to cause moral conflict with Plato.

Aristotle said, “You can persuade someone through direct evidence such as producing witnesses and documents, or through the use of ethos, logos and pathos.” An audience can be persuaded by:

  1. A speaker’s character (ethos)
  2. The reasoning of their arguments (logos)
  3. The speaker’s passion (pathos)

Aristotle’s premise is to persuade your audience that your ideas are valid, or more valid than someone else’s.

Propaganda vs communication

Any discussion about propaganda will usually conjure up negative images that stem back to World War I.

Images and messages were created to recruit young people to a war that they seemingly knew nothing about. As a result, young men were persuaded to travel great distances to ‘fight for their country’.

The negative image of propaganda, using persuasive tactics to change the behaviour of large audiences, was a specialty for the Word War II Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. It was he who said propaganda had no fundamental method; its only purpose was the “conquest of the masses.”

After Word War II researchers stopped using the term “propaganda” and started to use the term “persuasion”, and to a lesser degree, “information” and today, more commonly, it is simply labeled, “communication”.

Applying persuasion today

Even today, Aristotle’s principles are applied in politics, media, advertising, marketing, law, public relations and organisational communication.

So, when you are preparing for your next presentation, consider the three guiding principles set in stone by Aristotle:

  1. Ethos (Credibility), or ethical appeal. Convincing by the character of the author. We tend to believe people whom we respect. One of the central problems of argumentation is to project an impression that you are someone worth listening to, in other words, be an authority on the subject (Subject Matter Expert), as well as someone who is likable and worthy of respect.
  2. Pathos (Emotional). Persuading by appealing to the recipient’s emotions. Language choice affects the audience’s emotional response, and emotional appeal can effectively be used to enhance an argument.
  3. Logos (Logical). Persuading by the use of reasoning. What are the effective and persuasive reasons to back up your claims.  Emphasising the consistency of the message, the clarity of the claim, the logic of its reasons, and the effectiveness of supporting evidence. The impact of logos on an audience is sometimes called the argument’s logical appeal.

When you are next preparing for an important presentation, remember to use the same three principles to communicate more effectively.