Three methods of persuasion from 2363 years ago – just as relevant today

By understanding the methods for persuasion, we can see if there are any we’re not using effectively.

Aristotle gave us the first categorisation of rhetorical argument in 350BC:

  • Ethos: appealing to authority, or using the credibility of the speaker.
  • Pathos: appealing to the audience’s emotions, through fear, hope or imagination.
  • Logos: using logic – facts and figures to back up a claim.

The best way to persuade, is by using a mix of these methods.

Here’s another classification:

Rhetorical argumentExample
AuthorityThe law says you must, or the professor says it’s the best
Cause and consequenceDoing or not doing something will cause a negative outcome
PrecedentEveryone else in your situation has one, therefore so should you
ProcessYou need to go through these channels to get what you want
CompareShow how you solved the audiences problem for someone else
ExampleDemonstrate something similar you made or did before
PossibilityWhat could happen if you do X, good or bad
PrincipleBuying this LED light will be good for the environment
AnalogyBuying this camera without the lens would be like…buying a car with no wheels.
ResponsibilityAs a father, it is your responsibility to feed and clothe your child.

(Source: Plain English Foundation)

It comes naturally when we do it, that the first step to persuading someone is understanding where they are at in the first place.  Walking in their shoes.  Understanding their issues or needs.  Only then will you know which of the above strings to pull.  Hence why marketing is all about understanding customers’ needs.

It matters who the message is coming from.  This is why testimonials are so important.  Using the Authority tool, it’s much better if we can get a judge who’s known you a long time to say you’re a good and honest person, than saying it yourself.   We need testimonials from people with recognised integrity, for our businesses or resumes.

We made this video at the end of 2018 for Amnesty International. It uses emotion, logical arguments, and appeals from people of authority,  to make the case for very specific policy change


A story format is better for transmitting emotion.  Yes, we’re back to Aristotle and the arc of a story.

Here’s the five part plot of many-a Holywood movie:

  • Introducing characters
  • Rising action – relating incidents leading to a point of interest
  • Climax – a turning point for better or worse
  • Falling action – with the protagonist winning or losing against the antagonist
  • Catharsis – with resolution or catastrophe.

By Keith Rhodes, Clips That Sell

Video Production for Melbourne Businesses


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