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Clive Shepherd

Founding Partner

Skills Journey

Aristotle's rhetoric

Effective persuasion through ethos,

pathos and logos

As learning professionals, it is our lot to

try our best to be persuasive, whether

we're trying to convince stakeholders to

go with what we believe will be the best

solution to their problem, persuade

learners and their managers to engage

with our interventions, or sell learners on

a new way of working. You could say we

were in the persuasion business.

Increasingly, we are adopting new

persuasion strategies, drawing upon

fields as diverse as behavioural

economics and neuroscience, fuelled by

a plethora of scientific and not-soscientific studies. We're looking to up

our success rate by better

understanding how humans make

decisions in different situations.

But it is foolish to disregard the insights

gained by those that came before us.

Maybe thousands of years ago they

didn't have access to big data, but

some of them certainly did have big

brains.

A good example is Aristotle, born in 384

BC and considered the Father of

Western Philosophy. In circumstances

that are probably pure coincidence, at

three separate recent events, I have

been recommended to Aristotle's

'modes of persuasion' as a tool that has

plenty of contemporary value.

I decided to take a look.

Aristotle's Rhetoric defines three means

for appealing to your audience: ethos,

pathos and logos. Now before you say

that this is all Greek to you, let me

explain what these terms mean.

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