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A Model of Persuasion That Is Two Thousand Years Old

2300 years ago in a work called "On Rhetoric", Aristotle, one of ancient Greece’s greatest minds, wrote down the secret to being a persuasive speaker. The secret was the 3 "appeals" and they are the basis of every successful public speaking book written ever since. The 3 appeals are: ethos, logos and pathos.

How to Persuade with Ethos

Ethos is Greek for “character”. Ethos appeals are based on ethics and reputation. In a speech, this could include endorsements from key people, building your own personal credibility, and citing expert testimony. To build your credibility, you have to persuade others that you are of good character, that you are trustworthy, and that you are an authority on the topic of your talk. This is often a finely-balanced trick of how well you pitch your testimonials and self-promotion to ensure your audience believes you.

How to Persuade with Logos

Logos appeals are based on logic, and include statistics, facts and evidence in support of your case. Aristotle thought it was the most important of the three appeals. Today, "logos" appeals are sometimes called "push" arguments because they persuade people by the force of the evidence. A good persuasive talk will have a good amount of logical evidence that convinces an audience that your proposition makes sense and is the best and most reasonable course to adopt.

How to Persuade with Pathos

Pathos appeals are based on emotion. In a persuasive speech, you could use pathos in two ways: either to attract people towards what they want to happen or frighten them away from what they don't want to happen. Today, pathos appeals are sometimes called "pull" arguments because they persuade people by locking in to what they need and then offering some resolution of these needs. Pathos speakers use empathy and emotion to connect with their audience.

The Most Persuasive Combination

Many teachers of communication, speech, and rhetoric consider Aristotle’s On Rhetoric to be the most important single work on persuasion ever written. It is hard to argue with this claim. For when you try to persuade others, people first buy into you (ethos), then into your arguments (logos) and finally into their own conviction (pathos).