2300 years ago, Aristotle wrote down the secret to being a persuasive speaker, the secret which forms the basis for nearly every public speaking book written since then.
Do you know the secret?
If you don’t, you might be wondering what a 2300-year-old theory has to do with public speaking in the year 2010.
In a word — everything!
In this article, you’ll learn what ethos, pathos, and logos are (the secret!), and what every speaker needs to understand about these three pillars of public speaking.
What are Ethos, Pathos, and Logos?
So, what are ethos, pathos, and logos?
In simplest terms, they correspond to:
- Ethos: credibility (or character) of the speaker
- Pathos: emotional connection to the audience
- Logos: logical argument
Together, they are the three persuasive appeals. In other words, these are the three essential qualities that your speech or presentation must have before your audience will accept your message.
Origins of Ethos, Pathos, Logos — On Rhetoric by Aristotle
Three Pillars of Public Speaking
- Ethos, Pathos, Logos - Introduction
- Ethos - Speaker Credibility
- Pathos - Emotional Connection
- Logos - Logical Argument
Written in the 4th century B.C.E., the Greek philosopher Aristotle compiled his thoughts on the art of rhetoric into On Rhetoric, including his theory on the three persuasive appeals.
Many teachers of communication, speech, and rhetoric consider Aristotle’s On Rhetoric to be a seminal work in the field. Indeed, the editors of The Rhetoric of Western Thought: From the Mediterranean World to the Global Setting call it “the most important single work on persuasion ever written.” It is hard to argue this claim; most advice from modern books can be traced back to Aristotle’s foundations.
In The Classic Review, Sally van Noorden points to George Kennedy’s modern translation as the standard reference text for studying On Rhetoric. Kennedy’s translation is the source that I use. (At the time of this writing, it is available from amazon.com for $24.56, 18% off the list price.)
Before you can convince an audience to accept anything you say, they have to accept you as credible.
There are many aspects to building your credibility:
- Does the audience respect you?
- Does the audience believe you are of good character?
- Does the audience believe you are generally trustworthy?
- Does the audience believe you are an authority on this speech topic?
Keep in mind that it isn’t enough for you to know that you are a credible source. (This isn’t about your confidence, experience, or expertise.) Your audience must know this. Ethos is your level of credibility as perceived by your audience.
We will define ethos in greater detail, and we will study examples of how to establish and build ethos.
Pathos is the quality of a persuasive presentation which appeals to the emotions of the audience.
- Do your words evoke feelings of … love? … sympathy? … fear?
- Do your visuals evoke feelings of compassion? … envy?
- Does your characterization of the competition evoke feelings of hate? contempt?
Emotional connection can be created in many ways by a speaker, perhaps most notably by stories. The goal of a story, anecdote, analogy, simile, and metaphor is often to link an aspect of our primary message with a triggered emotional response from the audience.
We will study pathos in greater detail, and look at how to build pathos by tapping into different audience emotions.
Logos is synonymous with a logical argument.
- Does your message make sense?
- Is your message based on facts, statistics, and evidence?
- Will your call-to-action lead to the desired outcome that you promise?
We will see why logos is critical to your success, and examine ways to construct a logical, reasoned argument.
Which is most important? Ethos? Pathos? or Logos?
Suppose two speakers give speeches about a new corporate restructuring strategy.
- The first speaker — a grade nine student — gives a flawless speech pitching strategy A which is both logically sound and stirs emotions.
- The second speaker — a Fortune 500 CEO — gives a boring speech pitching strategy B.
Which speech is more persuasive? Is the CEO’s speech more persuasive, simply because she has much more credibility (ethos)?
Some suggest that pathos is the most critical of the three. In You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard, Bert Decker says that people buy on emotion (pathos) and justify with fact (logos). True? You decide.
Aristotle believed that logos should be the most important of the three persuasive appeals. As a philosopher and a master of logical reasoning, he believed that logos should be the only required persuasive appeal. That is, if you demonstrated logos, you should not need either ethos or pathos.
However, Aristotle stated that logos alone is not sufficient. Not only is it not sufficient on its own, but it is no more important than either of the two other pillars. He argued that all three persuasive appeals are necessary.
Is he right? What do you think?
Next in this Series…
In the next article of this series, we examine ethos in greater detail.
Please share this...
This is one of many public speaking articles featured on Six Minutes.
Subscribe to Six Minutes for free to receive future articles.
Google+: Andrew Dlugan
Image credit: Temple of Castor and Pollux by Brian Jeffery Beggerly (CC BY 2.0)
Add a CommentCancel reply
Find More Articles Tagged:
Similar Articles You May Like...
Transcript of Ethos, Pathos, & Logos
Powers of Persuasion:
Ethos, Pathos, Logos
Rhetorical strategies that all of us use ...
every single day.
Pathos = Feeling
Logos = Logic or Reason
Ethos = Ethical or Moral
The author or creator's credibility, believability, and/or likeability
Can come from inside the text (intrinsic) or outside the text (extrinsic)
The speaker or writer must demonstrate credibility to the audience to be persuasive.
Stories, scenarios, or statements designed to create an emotional response.
When you are persuaded by pathos, you accept a claim based on how it makes you
without fully analyzing how valid the claim is.
You may be persuaded by
fear, love, patriotism, hatred, joy, humor, guilt.
The use of pathos can be extremely
Logos refers to any attempt to appeal to the intellect.
Logos appeals to the left side of our brain. We find certain patterns, conventions, and methods of reasoning to be convincing and persuasive.
Numbers, polls, facts and statistics are also examples of the persuasive use of logic.
For example ...
... when a trusted doctor gives you advice, you may not understand all the medical reasoning behind the advice, but you follow it any way because you believe the doctor knows what s/he is talking about. You trust him or her!
She has ethos!
How does this World War II poster use pathos?
Appeals to Pathos:
How is Logos Used Here?
Think about a really persuasive commercial.
How does that company get you to buy what they're selling?
Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasion
The history of rhetoric and the concepts of ethos, pathos, and logos began in Greece.
Argument and Persuasion:
Who was Aristotle?
If an advertisement or a commercial succeeds in making a person buy something, it has been PERSUASIVE.
Check for Understanding
Why do people trust these men when they talk about basketball?
Effective persuasion uses all three kinds of appeals
Are the following examples of ethos, pathos, or logos?
He was a famous Greek philosopher who studied the art of persuasion.
"Now the proofs furnished by the speech are of three kinds. The first depends upon the moral character of the speaker, the second upon putting the hearer into a certain frame of mind, the third upon the speech itself, in so far as it proves or seems to prove."
--Aristotle, Art of Rhetoric
Who can say no to these faces?
Both words and pictures can achieve this appeal.
Pathos is the use of emotional appeal.
What fact is emphasized?
1. "My three decades of experience in public service, my tireless commitment to the people of this community, and my willingness to reach across the aisle and cooperate with the opposition, make me the ideal candidate for your mayor."
2. "They’ve worked against everything we’ve worked so hard to build, and they don’t care who gets hurt in the process. Make no mistake, they’re the enemy, and they won’t stop until we’re all destroyed."
3. "More than one hundred peer-reviewed studies have been conducted over the past decade, and none of them suggests that this is an effective treatment for hair loss."
4. "Don’t be the last person on the block to have their lawn treated – you don’t want to be the laughing stock of your community!"
5. Using ethos, pathos, and logos, write a small paragraph convincing your parents to take away your curfew.
Ethos, Pathos, and Logos!
How do I use ethos, pathos, and logos
every single day?
I don't even know what these things are!
What strategies are used to create ethos with the product OxyClean?
Pretend that you are sick, go to the doctor, and she gives you a prescription for a pill that would make you feel better. Would you take the pill?
How would the situation change if you were at the mall with your friends, felt sick, and were offered a pill?
How is pathos used in this video?
What emotion are they trying to draw out?
Which advertisement was more effective? The video or this picture?