If you need to be persuasive, you need to know this secret. It’s how people who influence without authority improve their effectiveness. The secret is … character trumps emotion trumps logic. If you win the heart, the mind follows. On the other hand, if you win the mind, the heart doesn’t always follow. For an example of character, think about the impact of the right people in the room asking the right questions.
When you know this secret, it all makes sense. You didn’t need more data to make your point. You needed a moving story. When you walk into the room, it’s not what you say or how you say it … people will go with whatever Frodo says, so you better have him on your side. In Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion , Jay Heinrichs writes about arguments by logos, ethos, and pathos. I’ve highlighted some relevant points from Thank You for Arguing.
Key Take Aways
Here’s my key take aways:
- Character trumps emotion trumps logic. Don’t just go for the logical win, build rapport. Remember the golden rule of “rapport before influence.”
- Win the heart, the mind follows. If their hearts not in it, that’s a problem. Something is telling them that something is off. You need to know the concerns. It could be anything from fear to a lack of trust. One thing that helps is simply to ask, “what’s the concern.”
- Read the situation. This is crucial and there’s two parts. First, know the culture and what’s valued. You could be in a situation where logic is the highest value. This is more common in engineering organizations. You might be in a situation where emotions have a higher value. Second, know who needs to be on board. Social proof and character are powerful.
- Have the right people on your side. if you win the pillars first, it’s a domino effect.
- Win the brain, gut and heart. It’s the full-meal deal. It’s hard for somebody to really follow when they aren’t fully bought in. Their mind says one thing, but their heart says another. They want to believe you but they have this funny feeling inside that says something’s off. Congruence is a key to effectiveness. A good test is how well they tell your story without you.
- Know the emotional triggers. How does your audience feel about the topic? Throwing data at them won’t help if you don’t leverage your empathic listening skills and feel their pain or feel their fears. Build a bridge.
- Leverage metaphors. The right picture can make all the difference. Is it a bear of a problem or blue skies ahead?
- Know their convincer strategy. Do you know what your audience responds to? Some people like facts and figures. Some need to hear something multiple times. Some people believe it when they see it. The more you know their convincer strategy, the more effective you will be.
Logos, Ethos, Pathos
According to Heinrichs, Aristotle had a Big Three:
- Logos – argument by logic
- Ethos – argument by character
- Pathos – argument by emotion
Argument by Logic (Logos)
Logos is argument by logic. Heinrichs writes:
Logos is argument by logic. If arguments were children, logos would be the brainy one, the big sister who gets top grades in high school. It doesn’t just follow the logical rules; instead, its techniques use what the audience itself is thinking.
Argument by Character (Ethos)
Ethos is argument by character. Heinrichs writes:
Ethos, or argument by character, employ’s the persuader’s personality, reputation, and ability to look trustworthy. (While logos sweats over its GPA, ethos gets elected class president.) In rhetoric, a sterling reputation is more than just good; it’s persuasive. I taught my children that lying isn’t just wrong, it’s unpersuasive. An audience is more likely to believe a trustworthy persuader, and to accept his argument. “A person’s life persuades better than his word,” said one of Artistotle’s contemporaries. This remains true today. Rhetoric shows how to shine a flattering light on your life.
Argument by Emotion (Pathos)
Pathos is argument by emotion. Heinrichs writes:
Then you have pathos, or argument by emotion, the sibling of the others disrespect, but who gets away with everything. Logicians and language snobs hate pathos, but Aristotle himself – the man who invented logic – recognized its usefulness. You can persuade someone logically, but as we saw in the last chapter, getting him out of his chair to act on it takes something more combustible.
Brain, Gut, and Heart
What’s your gut say? What’s your heart say? What’s your mind telling you? Heinrichs writes:
Logos, ethos, and pathos appeal to the brain, gut, and heart of your audience. While our brain tries to sort the facts, our gut tells us whether we can trust the other person, and our heart makes us want to do something about it. They form the essence of effective persuasion.
Your Opponent’s Logic and Your Audience’s Emotion
You can play off logic, but remember to keep the emotional connection and trust. Heinrichs writes:
Logos, pathos, and ethos usually work together to win an argument, debates with argumentative seven-year-olds excepted. By using your opponent’s logic and your audience’s emotion, you can win over your audience with greater ease. You make them happy to let you control the argument.
Questions for Comments
- What are the keys to character that makes somebody influential?
- How can you use your mind, body, and heart to make more effective decisions?
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