What feels true isn’t always true...
Today’s post is from our SafeSourcing Archives. Please enjoy.
- The art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.
Though we have a basic definition of rhetoric, we need to break it down a little further to understand how it’s used. The end goal of rhetoric is persuasion, to get others to come around to your way of thinking. Rhetorical appeals are most commonly known to manifest themselves in three modes of persuasion:
- Logos: The appeal to logic, a means of persuading an audience through reason (though this can use fallacious logic, and not necessarily validreasoning).
- Pathos: The appeal to emotion and imagination, a means of convincing an audience by eliciting an emotional response.
- Ethos: The appeal to the ethics or credibility of the party doing the persuading (though again this is a mode/tool of persuasion, but credibility can be built using well-told lies also).
Now that we have a basic understanding of rhetoric, you may already be able to think of both how useful and dangerous it can be. To a degree, it could be said that we never stop using rhetoric. Statements like “in my opinion” are used almost ubiquitously, but could be said to be using rhetoric to give the appearance of humility in order to elicit a softer response than you might receive if you started your claim with “I’m right about this, so here’s how it is…”
On the other hand, leading someone’s thinking with anything other than fact, is to lead them to a conclusion that may not fully align with reality, and that always has the potential for disaster. For example, if you need to motivate someone to action and use “guilt” as an appeal to emotion to accomplish this, your audience may recognize your attempt at manipulation, see use as untrustworthy and illogical (undermining Logos and Pathos), and be motivated in the opposite direction you intended.
Another example would be to persuade someone to think the way you do using credibility, rather than fact. You could pull out a long list of examples where you did well in a certain capacity or point to your college degrees on the wall, but at the end of the day, if you’re operating with a mindset of “how can I get someone to do this” instead of critically evaluating the facts with all parties, you aren’t working with the right criteria for success.
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