In 350 B.C., in “On Rhetoric,” Aristotle described three categories of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos.
Ethos, Greek for character, refers to making an appeal based on the character (or credibility) of the speaker. We are more open to the ideas of people we like, people we respect, people we consider to be trustworthy. Ethos also refers to making an argument based on ethics.
Pathos, Greek for suffering or experience, means persuading by appealing to the emotions, the use of vivid language and sensation-loaded words and images that stir our feelings and move our hearts, creating sympathy or empathy, engaging our imagination or causing the listener to identify with the speaker’s point of view. The use of story with sensory detail is a common way to make an idea seem real and present in the listener’s mind.
Logos, Greek for word, is the Mr. Spock approach–an appeal to reason and logic. It refers to clarity of the argument, the weight of the supporting evidence, the use of facts and statistics.
These three categories are most powerful when used in sequence:
Ethos: Establish your credibility, demonstrate your solid character and good will, make gestures of good faith.
Pathos: Develop a relationship, take the time to bond, to create rapport, share experiences, explore common interests.
Logos: Once your character is known (one hopes this is a plus!) and you have a good relationship, people will be more open to hearing your reasoning.
When dealing with people, often fast is slow and slow is fast: Taking the time to slow down and get to know someone reaps multiple benefits, not the least of which might be a new friend or a strong business relationship. When people feel manipulated, hurried, or herded they often dig in their heels. But they frequently will go the extra mile for a genuine smile or authentic praise.