Aristotle on the Art of Influencing

aristotleWhat did we ever learn from those Ancient Greeks? Well, quite a lot actually. Just take Aristotle for a start. He was interested in rhetoric and believed there were three aspects to the art of influencing. In his language these elements were called:

  • Logos
  • Pathos
  • Ethos

You might recognise these words. Our word ‘logic’ comes from Logos. We get ‘empathy’ from Pathos and ‘ethics’ derives from Ethos.

To be logical implies you’ve got the facts and figures to support your argument. It implies that you know your stuff – that you’ve not just been there, but you got the tee shirt! It means you’re credible. For me the vital element often missed in being credible is that your demeanour matches your message. Your voice and body language has to exude the fact that you are confident about your assertions.

Most of us think we’re persuaded by logic but the truth is that emotions are usually more powerful, particularly to our subconscious. That’s where the empathy or rapport comes in.

Emotional appeal can be accomplished in a multitude of ways: by a metaphor or storytelling, by a general passion in the delivery and an overall number of emotional items in your proposition Rapport can be particularly powerful if used well. But most presentations do not solely rely on empathy. Rapport is most effective when you have made the effort to get to know your audience and their values.

To the Greeks ancient and modern, the meaning of Ethos is quite deep – they saw it as the inner source, the soul, the mind, and the original essence, that shapes and forms a person. It appeals to the audience’s sense of honesty. For me a key word is trust. Will you put the considerations of others at the highest level. Do you have integrity? Do you do what you say – even if nobody is looking? How can you convince them of that?

So, Aristotle was pretty wise, at least on the influencing front.

For more on power and influence, see

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1 Response to Aristotle on the Art of Influencing

  1. Pingback: Power in Law Firms and How to Get it | Tony Reiss

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