Imagine a world without the art of persuasion. How would we get what we want? Clubs and fists? Name-calling and hair pulling?
That is a world I would not like to live in. Persuasion and the seductive arts have allowed our civilization to grow out the neolithic ages and into the modern era. It promotes civility, communication, and above all relationships.
Persuasion, after all, is the art of convincing people to want to do what you want. But that definition does the art of persuasion no justice at all.
The art is as much about understanding your own buttons and how to push them so you can stop procrastinating as it is about getting out of paying 50 cents for extra sauce at McDonald’s.
It is also about standing in front of a classroom of little tykes and getting them to understand why 5×5-2 is 23 and not 15.
Persuasion comes in many forms. It could even look like the friend who everybody always wants to hang out with. Of course, it may also land you that promotion you’ve always wanted.
It’s a tool, a hammer if you will. It can be used to build or destroy. The choice is yours.
With that said here is how you persuade anybody to do what you want.
Building Blocks of Persuasion
Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher, came up with three powerful tools of persuasion:
- argument by character or ethos
- argument by emotion or pathos
- argument by logic or logos
Ethos employs the persuader’s personality, reputation, and ability to look trustworthy. ie. As your doctor I advise you to take these pills once a day.
Pathos uses emotion to elicit a response from the audience ie. You should go, it wouldn’t be the same without you.
Logos uses the the beliefs of the audience and employs proofs to prove its point. ie. I don’t want to put pants on. Pants are uncomfortable.
5 Tactics to Develop Ethos
You persuade a man only insofar as you can talk his language by speech, gesture, tonality, order, image, attitude, idea, identifying your ways with his. – Kenneth Burke
Most effective arguments include ethos in them either implicitly or explicitly. For example you wouldn’t take financial advice from a bum, but you will be more likely to take financial advice from a guy with an Italian suit.
It’s how well the audience connects with you and how much they believe in you.
Here are some ways you can develop ethos.
Right isn’t always right. If you want the audience to take you seriously, you’ll have to use their own values to propagate the right decision.
Imagine being in a gang of thieves preparing to rob the house of an old lady. It’s easy money they said. But your sense of honor kicks in and you being to feel a bit queasy about the situation. So you decide to pitch your opinion:
She’s an old lady guys. Let’s leave her alone.
BZZZ. They’re going to look at you like you just blew wind.
But if you said:
I doubt she has much money. It’s not even worth the work. If we’re going to break in a house might as well break into a big one.
You’re going to look smart.
It’s about understanding the group and what they value so you can propose the right decision for them (or at that’s what they think).
Use the tactical flaw
Late in the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress was running into financial straits. Officers weren’t getting paid and they were threatening mutiny. George Washington came up with a solution. He requested a meeting in which he would show up with a resolution that would solve all their problems.
He pulled the document from his pocket and then fumbled with his glasses. Then he shocked the room with the following quote:
Forgive me, gentlemen, for my eyes have grown dim in the service of my country.
Men in the room were said to have burst into tears and swore their loyalty to Washington. By revealing a weakness attributed to something noble you magnify your ethos 10x.
Bend the rules
Back in 2015, they said it couldn’t be done. There was no way the Golden State Warriors could win the championship. It was an unwritten rule in the NBA, teams that rely on 3pt shooting don’t win championships. The Warriors that year broke the record for 3pt shots in a game and they were killing everybody. Analysts and reporters began to come up with excuses “Once they get into the playoffs, they’ll learn. Teams don’t win championships shooting 3 pointers.”
And in 2015, the Golden State Warriors, headed by Steve Kerr, took it all proving them all wrong.
Rules are guidelines for newbies. They’re general enough to be right…most of the time. But there always going to be case-by-case situations. There’s always going to be the kid who doesn’t study and still get A’s. When you bend the rules you show off your wisdom and expertise.
Take the middle
Being a moderate or closer to the middle wins points with the audience because it makes you seem reasonable. That’s why political issues always inch towards progress.
Recall the medical marijuana act of 1996 in California. It took the middle of complete legalization and a shut-out ban. This way people who are on the fence can support it in good conscience.
Don’t apologize at all
Apologizing always focuses on the negative on your faults and what you did wrong. This is different from acknowledging fault. If you slip you should always own up to it if you want to remain credible. But when owning up to the mistake, focus on the future instead of the past and how you failed to live up to your standards.
Boss, you know what a detailed person I usually am. In this case, though, I didn’t live up to that reputation. My mistake drives me crazy, and I’ll be even more fanatical about detail in the future. – Thank You For Arguing
Sounds a lot better than:
Boss, I screwed up, and I apologize. I’m really, really sorry, and I promise it won’t happen again. – Thank You For Arguing
Only the first answer makes you look capable. Don’t apologize at all.
5 Tactics to Develop Pathos
Emotion is still the most effective path to getting somebody to take action. You might have the most logically sound argument but if the other person doesn’t want to do what you want, good luck convincing that person.
Here are some ways you change someone’s mood so they’ll be receptive to your argument:
Tell a story
Aristotle said the best way to change somebody’s mood was to tell a detailed narrative. By painting vivid imagery into the minds of your audience, you place them there in the heat of the action. It’s why we watch movies, read books, and listen to music. They make us feel emotions.
Paint a picture of what the future will look like if they choose your choice.
If you’re at an interview tell them a story of how you’ll improve productivity by 17%.
Tell your friend a story of how much fun you guys will have camping out at Joshua Tree.
Anything that can get them to visualize the experience will have them expecting the outcome of the story you tell.
This sounds counter-intuitive since we’re looking to argue by emotion, but tone down your emotions when you’re speaking. Instead of a passionate outburst, act as if you’re holding your emotions back. Allow just a little to slip through. That slip conveys 10x more emotion because it signals that the emotion you’re feeling is too much for you to contain.
The self-control is what makes this so great. It tells people you’re not trying to manipulate their emotions with yours, but what you’re feeling is so strong that it has to come out.
Another version of this is to start quiet and build the volume as you go on. The increase is subtle but the effect is jarring. You see this used a lot in hoo-rah speeches.
Don’t announce the emotion
Social skills 101. Don’t tell somebody how funny a joke is before you tell the joke. You have nothing to gain. It’s like bragging. The best outcome is you live up to expectations…expectations that you raised. So where the joke might have been a belly flopper, it instead gets a “that’s funny.”
It works with everything else as well.
“The scariest thing happened to me today”
“You can’t believe what happened.”
Once you do that the audience starts measuring exactly how scary/funny it is instead of experiencing the story/joke.
Lets say your co-worker Bob comes over to you to complain about how somebody forgot to refill the coffee pot in the break room. You’ve heard this a million times and you’re swamped with work.
You might want to say:
Bob nobody cares. Stop bothering me with your pointless complaints.
He’ll go away…an enemy.
You don’t want that. The workplace is stressful enough as it is seeing as nobody wants to replace the damn coffee in the damn coffee pot. The more friends you have, the merrier.
So what you do is you over-sympathize. You say to Bob:
That’s outrageous. You know what? We should march over to the boss’s office and tell him what just happened so it never happens again!
Unless Bob lacks all self-awareness (and sometimes they do so you’ll have to change the words a bit), he’ll retract and say:
It’s not that big of a deal.
Use persuasive emotions
Anger, patriotism, and emulation are all great emotions to call upon when you want people to take action.
Anger: it’s an impulsive emotion that can be manipulated easily ie. Westboro Baptist Church
Patriotism: attach a choice or action to the audience’s group identity ie. If you’re an American, go and vote for Michael Jordan.
Emulation: call upon an audience’s desire to emulate role models. ie. If you want to be like Michael Jordan, you have to eat your vegetables.
3 Tactics to Develop Logos
Framing is like food presentation, an art within an art. It’s how you present issues such that they appear in an appealing light.
For example, abortion is pro-choice instead of anti-life. And arguments against abortion are pro-life instead of anti-choice.
It’s the details. What words connote and fighting them or inserting your own connotations.
When you’re trying to re-frame you’ll have to fight to re-define terms.
Let’s say you’re trying to persuade a friend to start going to the gym with you.
He fights and says:
The gym is hard work.
You can fight it and say:
But you’ll look and feel great.
But that wouldn’t be nearly as effective as redefining the terms:
If by hard work you mean looking and feeling great then sure, it’s hard work.
This type of stuff happens all around you and is highly effective.
Cheap becomes affordable.
Professional becomes stuffy and stiff.
It’s effective because it takes the argument and puts another perspective on it. Instead of directly opposing the argument, you go with the flow and judo flip it back into your corner.
A great way to argue is the red herring where you shift the argument away from the main point ala “if the glove don’t fit, you must acquit” defense.
Let’s say your buddies are giving you crap about your new car and how ugly it is.
You can flip it and say:
Ugly and it gets 80 miles per gallon.
You change the argument from looks to about gas efficiency. Suddenly how ugly it is doesn’t matter so much.
Yes it is a logical fallacy, but the beauty of the red herring is how subtle it is. Few will notice the interruption and even fewer have the skill to bring the original topic back gracefully.
This is another logical fallacy. You give the illusion of refuting an argument by replacing the original argument with the “straw man” and then refuting the “straw man.”
For example, somebody might argue against the legalization of weed by using a straw man:
If we start legalizing controlled substances, society as we know it will crumble.
Legalizing marijuana does not involve legalizing all controlled substances. But it’s relevant enough that to the untrained eye it looks like a perfectly safe argument.
Wrapping it All Up
Persuasion is the people’s sport. It seeks to understand and build relationships. Without it we are nothing but beasts.
It relies on emotion as much as it does logic because there is no action without emotion.
It depends on the credibility and trustworthiness of the speaker because nobody will follow a likable fool.
Rhetoric then is as much of an art of being a good person as it is an art of persuasion.
Your reputation is everything.