Effective persuading an audience from Aristotelian rhetorical

Effective communication is a vital component of any monologue delivered to an intrigued audience. While presenting a convincing argument, coercion is using force to achieve a goal, the use of force or manipulating another person to think or behave as you wish. Coercion is unethical because it deprives free choice. (Kaufman, n.d.)

According to Beebe, persuasion is the process of attempting to change or reinforce a listener’s values, beliefs, attitudes, or behaviour. Persuasive speakers invite the listener to make a choice, rather than just offering information about the options. They encourage the audience to respond thoughtfully to the presented information and attempt to reinforce or change the listeners’ ideas, feelings, or behavior.

Aristotle envisioned ethos, pathos, and logos as modes or means of persuasion. This paper analyzes persuading an audience from Aristotelian rhetorical as well as Islamic perspectives.

Supporting Your Presentation with Credibility, Logic and Emotion

Aristotle defined ‘rhetoric’ public speech-making as the process of “discovering the available means of persuasion.” He suggested several strategies to support a message:

(1) ETHOS develops a speaker’s credibility and is determined by audience, emphasizing the ethical character of a speaker. They are proofs that derive from the perceived competence, character, and caring of a speaker;

(2) LOGOS is using logical arguments and proof that rely on valid evidence and reasoning. They evoke a rational, cognitive response from the audience; and

(3) PATHOS is using emotional appeals, proof and connection to move an audience and evoke an emotional response that is aimed at deep-seated feelings.

I.                   Ethos: Establishing Your Credibility (ethical/higher value appeal)

 “We believe fair minded people to a greater extent and more quickly than we do others.”

Roman public speaking teacher Quintillian advised that a speaker should be “a good man speaking well”. The listeners determine if one has credibility as relying on a source considered knowledgeable, competent, trustworthy and deemed credible.

Credibility is an audience’s perception of their factors based on the speaker’s competence, trust-worthiness, dynamism and charisma. Competence reflects whether the speaker is perceived as informed, skilled, and knowledgeable about the discussed subject. Trustworthiness reflects whether the speaker is perceived as believable and honest. (melmusic96, n.d.)

Dynamism is the audience’s perception that a speaker is energetic by maintaining eye contact, moving and using gestures purposefully, having an enthusiastic vocal inflection. Charisma is a form of dynamism. A charismatic speaker possesses charm, talent, and attractiveness.

Enhancing Credibility The speaker has opportunities throughout a presentation to enhance their credibility 1) before they speak, 2) as they speak and 3) after they speak.

Initial Credibility is the impression that audience have before the speaker starts speaking. To enhance this, they should dress appropriately and have a brief summary of their qualifications and accomplishments ready (sharing their credentials and/or relevant personal experience) for the person who will introduce them.

Derived Credibility is the impression based on what the speaker says and performs during the presentation. To enhance this, they must establish common grounds with their audience, supporting arguments with evidence by presenting a well-organized message, presenting a balanced and non-coercive argument; citing credible sources, using appropriate language and grammar, being perceived as likable, and appearing engaged with the topic and audience through effective delivery.

Terminal Credibility is the final impression listeners have of a speaker’s credibility after concluding the presentation. To enhance this, one must prepare their conclusion, deliver it well, maintain eye contact throughout and even after the closing sentence, and be prepared to answer questions after the presentation.

II.                 Logos: Using Evidence and Reasoning (logical/mind appeal)

In addition to being a credible speaker, one may gain influence with their audience by using logically structured arguments supported with evidence.

The Greek word ‘logos’ literally translates as ‘the words’. Using words effectively to communicate arguments to listeners is vital to persuading them. The goal is to provide logical proof for arguments consisting of both evidence and reasoning. Evidence is the material which includes illustrations, definitions, statistics, and opinions used to support one’s point/premise/idea/argument. Reasoning is the process of drawing conclusions from evidence.

Speakers appeal to logos by presenting factual, objective information that serves as reasons to support the argument; presenting a sufficient amount of relevant examples to support a proposition; deriving conclusions from known information; and using credible supporting material like expert testimony, definitions, statistics, and literal or historical analogies.

There are three major ways to draw logical conclusions: inductively, deductively, and causally.

Inductive reasoning is using specific instances or examples to reach a probable general conclusion. It is reasoning by analogy that draws comparisons between two ideas, things, or situations that share some essential common feature.

Deductive reasoning is moving from one general statement/ principle to reach a specific conclusion. Syllogism is a three-part way of developing an argument including a major premise and a conclusion.

Causal reasoning is relating two or more events in such a way as to conclude that one or more of the events caused the others.

Logical fallacy:  

Fallacies are arguments that fail to follow the rules of logic and consequentially not believable. Persuasive speaker should avoid logical fallacy (myth/misleading notion), that tries to persuade the audience without adequate evidence or with arguments that are irrelevant or inappropriate. They should therefore be aware of the following common types:

Causal fallacy is making a faulty cause-and-effect connection between two events.

Bandwagon fallacy is suggesting that because everyone believes or does something, it must be valid, accurate, or effective.

Either-or-fallacy is oversimplifying an issue by offering only two choices while ignoring other possible, reasonable solutions.

Hasty generalization is reaching a conclusion without adequately supporting evidence.

Personal attack is attacking irrelevant personal characteristics of someone connected with an idea, rather than addressing the idea itself.

Red herring is irrelevant facts or information to distract someone from the discussed issue.

Appeal to misplace authority is using someone without the appropriate credentials or expertise to endorse an idea or product.

Non sequitur is latin for “it does not follow” and is using an irrelevant reason and an idea or conclusion that does not logically follow the previous idea or conclusion.

III.              Pathos: Using Emotion (emotional appeal)

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity”. Dale Carnegie.

Pathos involves an appeal to audience’s emotion by using emotion-arousing words (verbal messages), concrete illustrations and descriptions to create emotional images and visual aids to evoke both positive and negative emotions (nonverbal messages).

When using emotional appeals, one is obligated to be ethical and forthright by avoiding false claims, misusing evidence/ images, or relying exclusively on emotion.

Speakers appeal to pathos by using vivid language to paint word pictures for audience members; providing lay testimony (personal stories from self or others); using figurative language such as metaphor, similes, and personification; and using vocal variety, cadence, and repetition. (Persuasive Strategies , 2003)


Persuasion from an Aristotelian rhetorical perspective in Islamic law

Although Islamic laws are derived from divine primary sources, various schools of thoughts extrapolate principles for istihsan. They gain its legitimacy and authority from its persuasiveness force in a community.

Jurists formulating, stating, codifying, or asserting Islamic law must have an ethical appeal; as individuals or as a collective body, they must be seen in the relevant community as an acceptable authority (ethos). Islamic law developed not as a body of law emanating from a political authority, but rather from charismatics who held some moral authority-who possessed ethos-within the Muslim community. Charismatic authority in Islamic law vests primarily in God and His Messenger. God possesses the ultimate ethical appeal, and the prophets, in particular Prophet Muhammad as the last prophet, receive their ethical appeal from God. As inheritors of the prophets, the ‘ulama’ assume charismatic authority (ethos) derivative of that of the Prophet. The ‘ulama’ consensus thus have an ethical authority traced to God Himself, through the intermediary of the Prophet.

The assertion must stir the passions or awake the emotions of the audience (pathos). Adapting the idea of pathos to the present context, an assertion regarding Islamic law must speak to the concerns of its audience to be persuasive. In this context, the audience is the Muslim community at large, or at least a significant segment of it. Finally, an assertion must be demonstrated by logical argument to be persuasive (logos). A logical argument means the ruling itself must have some basis in the larger body of the Islamic legal tradition and at least reasonably engage with the sources of Islamic law, textually and otherwise. (Tomeh, 2010)

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