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Persuasive Argument Strategies Logos, Ethos and Pathos

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Explained in his highly revered written work “Rhetoric”, Aristotle laid out persuasive strategies to support a case and respond to opposing arguments.  Using these three appeals in combination will make a good approach to any argument.

Logos is based on facts, reason and rationality. It’s an academic approach to proving your side of the argument. Logos appeals to the logical side of reasoning so think of facts. When reasoning with people, provide them with factual reasons why they should believe you. You can also use aids like charts, data and bar graphs to bolster your logos. It’s like the mathematical proof to your argument.

Logos uses two main forms of arguments which are inductive and deductive. The inductive argument begins with the specifics and then moves to the general. The deductive argument begins with the general and moves to the specific.  Whichever form you use there must be a sufficient amount of reliable evidence that represents the situation for logos to work.

Ethos, a Greek word meaning character, is based on the speaker or author’s character and credibility. A key thing to remember about ethos is that your level of credibility is based on how your audience perceives you. Some aspects are respect, good character, trustworthiness and authority on the topic. Using the power of authority with quotes can help credibility.

You can use quotes by famous people like doctors, judges, presidents and engineers. Quoting someone who has good social acceptance and is thought of to be a persuasive person will add power to your argument. So if you are persuading a group of people about leadership you could give a quote by Norman Schwarzkopf like,

“Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy”.

Pathos is an appeal to the emotional sensibilities of your audience. Essentially you want to associate pathos with pity. It can appeal to the senses, memory and common experiences. This is the poetic feel of your argument and will give people a reason to be on your side. To get an emotional response from an audience you can use storytelling, metaphor, analogy, anecdote and simile. Some of the emotional aspects for evoking feelings are love, sympathy, compassion, envy, hate, contempt and fear.

Understanding the persuasive appeals gives you the tools on how to persuade people. Think of them as guide lines when it’s you job to change people’s minds. An if you’re the audience its helpful to understand these persuasive appeals so that way you will know when someone is trying to use these tools on you.