Personal Development
Ethos, Pathos, Logos: 3 Pillars of Public Speaking and ...

Ethos, Pathos, Logos: 3 Pillars of Public Speaking and ...

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Using Ethos, Pathos and Logos for Effective Persuasion

For centuries, persuasive public speaking has been a valuable tool for communicating and influencing others. Dating all the way back to 2,300 B.C., Aristotle identified the three primary components of persuasive speaking, otherwise known as the three pillars of persuasion – ethos, pathos and logos. In this article, we discuss the important role these components can play in successful persuasive communication.

What is the Meaning of Ethos, Pathos and Logos?

Ethos, pathos and logos are all different methods of persuasion designed to encourage an audience to accept your views and take some form of action. When used together, these qualities will increase the likelihood that your message is understood and acted upon.

  • Ethos: credibility and character
  • Pathos: establishing an emotional connection with your audience
  • Logos: presenting a logical and rational argument

The Power of Ethos – Establishing Credibility

At its core, ethos revolves around conveying to your audience that you are trustworthy and can be trusted. If you fail to establish your ethos from the beginning of your speech, your audience will be less likely to pay attention and take your words seriously.

In some cases, building credibility can be a difficult task. For instance, if you are a CEO speaking in front of your employees, your audience will already regard you as an authority figure and, as such, they are already predisposed to listen to what you have to say.

Why is Ethos Essential?

  • A high level of ethos will ensure that your audience will remain engaged and attentive.
  • If your audience has a low opinion of your credibility, they will not pay attention and not be convinced by your arguments.
  • A high level of ethos will show your audience that your words are worthy of respect and they will be more likely to be persuaded.
  • If you have low ethos, your speech will need to be especially convincing in order to convince your audience.
  • Even if your speech is poor, if you have strong ethos, you will still be able to persuade your audience.

Characteristics of Ethos

In order to establish your credibility, there are four main characteristics of ethos you should consider: trustworthiness and respect, similarity to the audience, authority, and expertise and reputation.

1. Trustworthiness and Respect

Your audience is more likely to take what you say seriously if they trust and respect you as a person. This trust is formed through factors such as ethics and values, honest communication, good morals, and compassion.

For example, if you are delivering a speech on behalf of the NSPCC, your audience will be more likely to accept your message as they will view you as having a strong moral code and a genuine interest in their welfare.

2. Similarity to the Audience

If your listeners can relate to you personally, they will be more likely to accept your message. This could be due to similarities such as age and gender, values and beliefs, race and culture, hobbies, occupations, and/or personality.

If there are few similarities between you and your audience, there are still ways to bridge the gap. You can adjust aspects such as your attire, speaking style, mannerisms and gestures, and even visual aids if appropriate. However, it’s important to not overdo this, as your audience may view this as disingenuous.

3. Authority

In some cases, simply being in a position of authority can be enough to convince your audience of your point. This could be a political leader, a teacher, or almost any other role in which you are perceived as an authority in the field.

4. Expertise and Reputation

Your knowledge of the topic and your overall reputation will also influence how your audience perceives your arguments. Some of the factors which might impact this include awards and recognition in the field, your years of experience, contribution to the field through publications or products, and the level of authority you bring to the topic.

The Power of Combining Ethos

You don’t need to include all four characteristics of ethos to achieve a high level of credibility with your audience. Consider the example of a university professor who is speaking to her students. The lecturer is already in a position of authority and her students will already regard her as an expert in her field. As such, her trustworthiness and similarity to her audience may be less of a factor than for a different speaker.

Understanding Ethos: How to Improve Your Credibility

Though the lecturer may not be similar to her students, her job title and age is enough to establish her as a trustworthy figure in the eyes of her audience. Her 30 years of experience in the field and five-year tenure at the university further bolster her credibility and reputation. It's important to note that authority and reputation are usually predetermined before the speech begins, so it may be more challenging to alter the audience's opinion.

Rhetoric: The Ethos & Pathos

It is, however, easier to improve one's ethos through the actual presentation. Becoming an expert in the topics you talk about builds trust and increases your value to the audience. You can promote yourself by highlighting testimonials, reviews, and papers of your work. Being honest, ethical, and compassionate also builds credibility.

You can also benefit from researching your audience ahead of time in order to identify similarities that can be highlighted during the presentation. Showing up early to the venue and attending as much of the event/conference as possible also indicate your interest in the audience. When advertising your presentation, make sure to emphasize your ethos.

In your introduction, be sure to draw attention to your credibility and mention specific facts that demonstrate your qualifications relevant to that day. Utilizing facts, stats, and quotes from reputable sources adds to your credibility. You can also reference people in the audience or previous speakers/events at the event to create connections with the audience. Showing that you are open-minded and understand the opposing opinion increases your trustworthiness.

Sticking to your promises and staying as long as possible after the presentation shows your willingness to engage with the audience. This also helps increase the chances that people remember you.

Pathos - The Emotional Appeal

Pathos is a powerful tool for persuasion that appeals to the emotions of the audience. Utilizing personal stories and emotionally charged words are key to connecting with the audience on an emotional level. To effectively evoke emotion, choose emotional topics, utilize analogies and metaphors, and select vivid and sensory words to help the audience experience the emotion.

When speaking, positive emotions should be linked with your claims, and negative emotions should be linked to your rival's claims. Humour is another great tool for increasing the likelihood that the audience enjoys your speech and is more likely to connect with you.

The Power of Visuals and Storytelling For Persuasion

Visuals can be a powerful tool to achieve persuasion - showcasing an image of a scared small child, for example, will be more impactful than simply talking about the fact that children are victims of domestic violence.

Reach Your Audience's Values and Beliefs

To reach and influence your target audience, it is important to understand their shared values and beliefs as these are strongly associated with emotions. Storytelling is a popular method to create an emotional connection and link a key message with an emotional response. This technique is commonly used in adverts, for fundraising for example.

Match Your Body Language to Your Words

Matching your body language and facial expressions to your words is a great way to trigger the desired emotions. If you are trying to show sadness, for instance, use a soft voice; if you want to display excitement, increase the pace of your speech. It is also beneficial to stand as close as you can to the audience to make your speech feel more personal.

Choose Your Words Carefully

The words you choose for your message can make a difference in how they are received by the audience. For example, if you asked a group of men whether they would like to be called "tall", "lanky" or "big" - although they all mean the same thing, the most positive connotation would be “tall”. If you make a mistake and cause a negative emotion, be sure to apologise, and try and understand why it happened.

The Role of Logos

Logos is derived from the word “logic” and appeals to logic in your argument by relying on the audience's intelligence and offering evidence to support the claims. Using logos can increase the trust in your argument, as well as your own credibility. To assess the strength of your logos, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are my messages coherent?
  • Does the evidence support my claims?
  • Will the audience's actions lead to my desired outcome?

Improving Logos

Using logos involves being comprehensive, logical, and specific in your argument. Include facts and examples to back up your claims, use language understandable by your audience, as well as visuals, such as, objects and videos. Don't be afraid to engage the audience by asking questions - this is especially useful to understand their potential opposing views. Lastly, use commonplaces, accepted by the audience as facts, and apply them to a new situation.

Treat All Three Pillars with Equal Importance to Succeed in Persuading Your Audience

In conclusion, it is essential to ensure that all three pillars of persuasion - pathos, logos, and ethos - are tackled in equal measure to be successful in convincing your desired individuals.

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