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Special Interest Jennifer W. (Jennie) Pickett ARI STOTLE’S THREE MODES OF PERSUASION As a Classics major and a Philosophy minor, I was intrigued when I came across an article that discussed Aristotle’s thoughts on public speaking and making persuasive arguments. 1 I quickly gleaned that his philosophy is certainly applicable to arguments attorneys frequently make. According to Aristotle’s Rhetoric, the following are the three requisite modes of persuasion that a speaker must perfect when looking to persuade an audience: ethos (concerning the speaker), pathos (concerning the audience) and logos (the argument itself). “Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. Th e fi rst kind depends on the personal character of the speaker ethos; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind pathos; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself logos. Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible.” Aristotle 1256a 2, 3 Th e philosophy is that when all three modes of persuasion are intertwined, it matters not whether the argument is necessarily correct or without fault but rather how it is delivered. Even those who try to establish what is just, true and factual need the help of rhetoric when faced with a public audience, and especially where there is room for doubt; therefore, the speaker needs to appear credible, and the audience should be in a sympathetic mood. Th ere is a term, “enthymeme,” or deductive argument, which means that people are most strongly convinced when they suppose something has been proven versus confusion or distraction by use of emotional appeals. Th e speaker must display practical intelligence, virtuous character and good will. Ethos concerns the personal character of the speaker who must have the appearance of credibility. Th is is the actual performance that must appear credible. In other words, put on your game face. I remember as a young lawyer that when I would go into a courtroom, I would think about slipping into an acting role. I sure didn’t know what I was doing, so I had to fake it. I held my shoulders up, did my best to keep my voice from wavering and looked the other attorneys and the judge in the eye so as to appear as though I had been doing this for years. (No comment on whether I still put on my game face all these years later.) Some factors that infl uence the appearance and reception of the speaker are his or her clothes/vocabulary/slang/body language/facial expressions/social rank - all of these impact the speaker’s ability to become a member of the group and encompass the identity of the audience. For example, your voice - pitch, volume and speed - can be used to emphasize certain aspects and create a more dynamic performance. Pauses are one the of the most important speech elements, as they promote thinking and can raise tension. Gestures support the speaker and create additional information. Note, however, that natural gestures happen slightly before the words such that most learned gestures appear fake. Of course, facial expressions and eye contact are critical. Finally, your body language is used to refl ect the emotional state of the person. Pathos is the emotional infl uence on the audience, the overall ability to elicit emotions and arouse feelings. Th e recipient of a message relates to or contrasts the message with his or her existing repertoire of information, experiences or both. Th e speaker needs to relate to something the audience already believes in. So, you need to know your audience. Who are your jurors? What is their background? How can you engage them - tell a story - attach emotions to your argument? One of the best ways to connect with your audience is through storytelling, as opposed to lecturing. A story allows the speaker to raise emotions naturally and also presents a solution to the problem in an indirect manner in the form of an outcome. Stories have a strong connection to childhood; therefore, listening to a story reduces the possibility and/ or willingness to immediately respond critically towards the content or message contained. Th e aim of pathos is to reduce your audience’s ability to judge. Arousing feelings or emotions in your audience can convince them as to your position. Th e speaker just needs to relate to something that the audience already believes, otherwise known as “anchors.” 34 Birmingham Bar Association


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