The Art of Persuasion – Ethos, Logos & Pathos


Think about the last time you needed to persuade someone. Perhaps it was during an interview or trying to win over a new customer or making a case for a promotion.

Now think about Aristotle – yes the Greek philosopher and scientist that lived 2400 years ago. An ancient Greek’s approach can make you much better at persuading people.

Aristotle’s work “Rhetoric” is a glide path to persuasion.  Let’s dissect his message to understand how a philosophy thousands of years old can apply today.

Aristotle looked to three simple communication techniques to winning any argument: Ethos, Logos and Pathos. 

Ethos demonstrates your credibility. When trying to convince someone of something, you must come across as knowledgeable, fair and considerate of the person you are speaking to.

Logos is your logical claim. You must demonstrate a reasonable argument that it is thoughtful and with good intention.  Your argument is based on evidence to back up your claim.

Pathos is your ability to connect with your audience on a personal level. You must ensure the people with whom you speak feel positive about you and care about what you’re saying.

How do these skills translate into practical execution?

Ethos: Let’s say you’re looking for a new job. Obviously, you’ll need to persuade many different people throughout the process that you are the best person they can hire. The first step is to always know your audience. Do your research and take advantage of every tool, from personal networking to the many available social media means, like LinkedIn, to find out as much as you can about the person you will meet with.

Next, arrange your artifacts (resume, references, work examples) in a way that validates your credibility and character as a candidate for the position. Within the first minutes of listening, your audience must believe you have the capability, capacity and experience to to do the job.  People take notice because you have objectively demonstrated your credibility.

Logos: Once you demonstrate your Ethos, focus on why you, among the many candidates interviewing for the position, are the best choice for the role. Just because you can do the job, doesn’t mean you are the best person for it. You must apply logical reasoning to convince your audience that not only can you do the job, but that you should do the job. In today’s parlance, this means you are the “right fit”

Pathos:  Finally, make certain to establish a personal connection with each person you speak with, especially if you are speaking with many people at once. You can create a sympathetic /emotional connection between you and your audience by using common language or phrases, evoking examples of shared experiences and telling appropriate stories that resonate with the listener long after you stop speaking.

Each person you interact with in the course of finding and landing a new job has an agenda and unique interest in advancing the best candidate. They must walk away from each discussion with you feeling good: good about you, good about recommending you and good about the value proposition you represent to them and their superiors as well as other members of their organization.

It takes practice and effort to sharpen your skill of persuasion, but if you keep mindful of the merits of Ethos, Logos and Pathos in your communications, you will reap connections and results in a decisive manner.