Part 1: Why Do We Communicate? - Persuasion
By Josh Fowler
"Persuade" comes from the late 15th century Latin "persuadere" with "per" meaning through or to completion and "suadere" meaning to advise.
The question, “Why do we communicate?” at face-value sounds silly; however, if we don’t ask, how do we know we communicated effectively? While there are infinite possibilities, you can can pretty much group our motives into four separate groups. In this installment, we will touch on one of those groups – Persuasion.
Defined, persuade is to cause (someone) to do or believe something through sustained effort and reasoning.
We communicate to persuade. When we need or want something, we communicate that desire. Aristotle suggested that any communication (written or spoken) intended to persuade contains three key rhetorical elements: logos, ethos, and pathos.
When using logos for persuasion, the individual is utilizing logic and reasoning within communication. This act of persuasion comes through reasoning based on the evidence provided by the sender. Communication intended to persuade will require clear allegations proven by evidence. This evidence can manifest itself in multiple ways to include examples, facts, and figures to name a few.
Ethos refers to the character and credibility of the one communicating to persuade. Perception is reality and how others view the one communicating has tremendous influence on the success or failure of persuasion. If the receiver of the message is not convinced by the sender, they will most likely remain unswayed by any argument. Ethos becomes the credibility or trustworthiness that is or has already been established by the communicator. It is the scope of which the one communicating is perceived to be whether it be ethical, trustworthy, and sincere.
A call to an audience’s beliefs, feelings and emotions is pathos. It is the emotional dimension to persuasion. When logical persuasion fails, emotional persuasion tends to cause the receiver to respond. When a communicator recognizes which feelings and desires to touch on and which ones to avoid altogether, they have identified one of the most important aspects of communication strategy. Now, they only need to interpret the receiver’s needs and concerns to determine what was most effective regarding emotional appeal.