If you want to be a successful speaker or a persuasive leader, just go back to the teachings of the ancient philosophers.

Imagine you’re living in Ancient Athens, and you’re wrongfully accused of stealing a loaf of bread from a bustling marketplace. You would be arrested immediately, and thrown into a dark and dank prison, where you wait until your trial.

At the trial, you will have to convince a roomful of strangers of your innocence–not an easy task–it’s your word against another. If you are found guilty the sentence is death.

Now keep in mind, there were no lawyers at this time. Aristotle, born 300 b.c., realized in order to influence others people intellect and emotions there needed to be a reliable and repeatable method.

In “Art of Rhetoric” Aristotle devised 3 modes of persuasion:

1) Ethos is about credibility, and it’s the first thing that must be established. Essentially are you who you say you are. What is your profession? What have you contributed to your community? Ethos involves your background and your values.

2) Logos refers to written content or the speech itself. Aristotle knew it was difficult to argue something that was well structured, planned, thought out and supported.

3) Pathos just as it sounds, is fiery and appeals to extreme emotion. And for me personally it’s the strongest element. Although, in order for pathos to work well Ethos and Logos must be in place.

Pathos is about empathy and it makes others feel as if they are experiencing something, as if it’s actually happening to them. You would want to make them feel scared, as it could be them standing in your shoes. (BTW, if you have ever been moved to tears from watching a film, this was pathos at work.)

With pathos you can also use metaphors, which engage the imagination, thus making people feel an emotion.

Aristotle knew if a speaker had these three systems in place, you had a good chance of survival. In modern day, these ancient communication principles can be applied to a pitch, a speech or in a negotiation.

Kelly Hadous
Kelly Hadous, a leading certified executive coach, public speaker, and presentation strategist, works with business executives, managers, business owners, and leaders across the country and internationally to develop their unique presence, tailor the message and turn up the volume on communication. Kelly Hadous is the founder and president of Win The Room™, the premier executive training and development company. Kelly teaches transformational skills in public speaking, pitching strategies, personal leadership development and marketing communications.