The Art of Persuasion continuing on from the third post I made the other day, using the art of rhetoric within the art of persuasion. We are now on the third element, we’ve already discussed Pathos and Logos, now we have Ethos. Ethos is persuasion in argument by character. It can be the use of your reputation or somebody else’s as the basis for that argument. Ethos belongs to the audience therefore it is the audience that decides the ethos of the speaker/orator. This is the most important out of the three according to Aristotle and the most appealing, though a master orator would use all three.
You start off with Decorum. This is your ability to match the expectations the audience/listener has of you being a worthy leader. Act the way your audience want’s you to act, not like your audience. Eminem used decorum in 8 Mile in the final scene when he was more in sync with his inner-city black audience than his black opponent who attended a prep school. He is also displaying code grooming, he displays the language that is unique to the audience and wins in the act of persuasion. Kids use code grooming in their instant messages with acronyms, abbreviations and lower case shite.
Having an Identity Strategy is a way to commit an audience to an action by identifying them with it. To see the choice as one that defines them collectively. You can use this in conjunction with Irony. Irony is saying something to those outside your audience that only your audience will understand the meaning of. It welcomes every member of the audience that get’s it.
Arete otherwise know as Virtue is one of three essentials of ethos in persuasion. It’s about your appearance living up to your audience’s values. What seems virtuous to you can be seen as offensive by another. The French did not understand the impeachment of Bill Clinton for an affair as at Mitterand’s funeral both his wife and mistress attended. Bragging is the straightforward and of course the least effective way to create virtue and persuasion. It’s possibly only someone like God or a powerful worshipped leader who already has all the virtue he requires is able to get away with this. Witness bragging however is best, you could call it a character reference, a good wingman would understand this and would increase the virtue of the man in charge of a set.
Tactical Flaw is another method which could increase your virtue. You reveal a defect which show’s your dedication to the values of the audience. If you make a mistake, turn it into a tactical flaw by putting your error down to something noble. You forgot to clean your room after your mother’s instruction two days ago because you had a test to study for.
Finally switching sides is a tricky situation but it can polish your virtue. By using Changing your position you can show how the audience or someone else showed you some new information which made the switch inevitable to anyone. If you can get away with it you can assume the mantle that you were always for the new side anyway, Bush did this recently with the Homeland Security, being initially against it than for it once it’s inevitable creation become apparent. He didn’t apologise or backtrack, he just carried on as normal.
Phronesis is practical wisdom and the second major element of Ethos in the act of persuasion. This is where the audience knows you know how to get to the conclusion/solution required, they believe you will apply their values to whatever choice you make. Show off your experience to show that you are the one for the task at hand. “I’ve led a team to 3 super bowls” will trump a man who has read and immersed himself in all tactics involved in American Football.
Bend the rules and if they don’t apply, don’t apply them unless ignoring rules violates the audience’s values. Bring a pistol to a sword fight with a master swordsman.
Appearing to take the middle course – Everyone instinctively likes decisions that lie in the middle path, away from the two extremes. You can use it show your opponent’s argument/position is extreme to make yours look par for the course. Leaders use this all the time by having their deputies show extreme opinions, so that when a course is taken it seems moderate in comparison to what his subordinate had intimated in public previously.
Eunoia is goodwill and disinterest at the same time. It shows that you are willing to drop or sideline your interests for the good of the audience. This is the third essential in Ethos in an act of persuasion. Make your audience believe in your selflessness and Cicero had a great tactic for this.
Seem to deal reluctantly with something you are really eager to prove
Reluctant conclusion – Despite your own desires you act as though you had to do your utmost to reach the conclusion.
Personal sacrifice – Acting as though the choice you make hurts you personally and helps the audience more.
Dubitatio – Making it seem as though you are in doubt about what to say or about what you are going to say, good old Lincoln was a master at this. A knowledgeable audience will sympathize with a clumsy speaker and mentally even argue his case for him. Lincoln benefited from this as he attempted to be nominated for the presidency. George W Bush was a great example of this, as the blues laughed at it, it made the red’s love him even more.
In Ethos you don’t rest on what you already have in your personality and reputation, you perform them. To be credible in persuasion your audience can’t see your rhetorical inner workings. It’s at it’s best when it’s trickery is disguised.
Here’s a few ways to guard against persuasion by Ethos.
Test the persuaders needs, do they match your own?
See if there’s any experience that you can gauge to see if this man actually has done what he talks about.
Ask who benefits from the choice, if the answer does not tell you who, don’t trust the person (who will be showing disinterest).
See how he uses extremes and what his middle of the road argument is, rustle out an extremist by seeing a choice that is moderate described as extreme by him.
Be aware of any words or terms that could be code for you/and or audience, see how he uses them.
That’s Ethos, the persuasion by character used in the art of rhetoric.