You’re preparing to speak to your Board of Directors, present a budget for approval, launch a new initiative or rally the troops in the office. It’s clear that each of these endeavors requires a persuasive conversation.
Like most business people, you approach this task as a straightforward process, consisting of:
- A clear statement of what needs to be accomplished
- A strong statement of a solution with data based supporting arguments
- An assumption that the audience will readily agree with an understanding of “the facts”
- A confident and engaging delivery
Clarity, logic, and personal enthusiasm make sense, right? If it were only that simple!
The skills of persuasion are not new. But in our hurry to get something completed and off our “to do” list, we forget the basics that contribute to effective communication and strong business leadership.
The keys to being a persuasive communicator date back to the 4th century when Aristotle developed the three pillars of persuasion: Ethos, Pathos and Logos.
What are Ethos, Logos and Pathos?
In the simplest terms. . .
- Ethos concerns the credibility (or character) of the speaker
- Pathos addresses the speakers emotional connection to the audience
- Logos is the coherence or logical reasoning of the argument being presented
Flash forward to the 21st century and Jay Conger, a Professor of Organizational Behavior at the University of Southern California. While studying successful business leaders over a 12-year period, Conger identified the qualities of effective persuasion. Interestingly enough, his findings align with the characteristics Aristotle identified so many years ago.
How Does This Apply to You?
Tip #1: Establish your credibility.
When presented with an opportunity in which persuasion or influence are critical, award winning communicator Andrew Dlugan in the article, Ethos, Pathos, Logos: 3 Pillars of Public Speaking, suggests you consider:
- Does the audience respect me?
- Does the audience believe I am of good character?
- Does the audience believe I am generally trustworthy?
- Does the audience believe I am an authority on this topic?
Tip #2: Create an emotional connection.
Your ability to emotionally connect with your audience contributes to your authenticity and trustworthiness.
- Do your words evoke feelings of … care and concern? … collaboration?
- Do your visuals evoke feelings or are they data-driven – therefore not addressing the human side of the story?
- Do you take the time to build a rapport with your audience, greeting them as they walk in the room, smiling and having eye contact?
Tip #3: Clarify and organize your message.
A strong, logical position tends to have lots of examples and leads to a rational conclusion.
- Does your message make sense?
- Is your message based on facts, statistics, and evidence?
- Will your call-to-action lead to the desired outcome that you promise?
But Wait, There’s More. . . !
As we evolve from what Conger refers to as the Age of Command to the Age of Persuasion, in addition to logos, pathos and ethos, I propose two additional principles that contribute to becoming a more effective communicator.
Tip #4: Collaborate.
When preparing for an important conversation you have a better chance of “winning” when you confer and collaborate with others. Don’t underestimate the value of considering differing perspectives and welcoming the input of colleagues and business partners.
Tip #5: Gain commitment.
In the real world, most decisions are made before the meeting. Perform the needed due diligence, understand who your stakeholders are and their position on the subject, and develop buy-in prior to the all-important presentation. Communicate to gain input and commitment.
Is One “Principle” More Important Than Another?
While Aristotle believed that logos should be the most important of the three persuasive qualities, he understood that all three pillars are essential. Conger would agree with this teaching.
They are right, of course. I contend that while credibility, emotional connection and coherent logic are each indispensable to persuasive communication, adding collaboration and commitment to this equation transforms a “strong argument” into a “winning proposition.”
What do you think?