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Emotion, logic, and character.  According to Aristotle, the father of modern persuasive thought, not only are these the three cornerstones of successful persuasion, they are absolutely fundamental in interpreting the messages of others as well as winning them to your way of thinking.


The Power of Persuasion:
Emotion, Logic, and Character

by Dianna Booher


Simply defined, emotion is "a strong surge of feeling marked by an impulse to outward expression."  It's our passionate side.  Logic is "the science concerned with the principles of valid reasoning and correct inference."  This is our rational side. Character is "the combination of qualities or traits that distinguishes an individual."  This is the sum total of who we are.

Think about it.  Who doesn't prefer listening to a compelling speaker who exudes passion and heart?  And wouldn't you rather discuss an issue with someone who knows the ins and outs of a subject rather than the person who relies on guesswork and good intentions?  And who wouldn't consider it wise, if not essential, to investigate a communicator's character before believing his contentions?

Few would disagree with the importance of the three elements of persuasion.  Problems occur, however, when one of the three is either overused, lacking, or overshadowed. 

As it's been wisely said, "Truth out of balance is error."  So too, communication lacking the correct persuasive balance can be equally erroneous and ineffective.  Like the expert juggler, effective communicators must keep the essentials of their craft in constant balance or everything will come tumbling down 3/4 especially their message. 

Should anyone think Aristotle's observations have little relevance to the present day, they need only look at the goings-on in the political arena for evidence of persuasive tactics at work.

Appealing to emotions: "Let me tell you about a man I met in Dallas who's out of work and has no health-care insurance."  Appealing to reason, a candidate might argue, "Here are the plain and simple facts, folks." Appealing to character:  "I voted my conscience.  I believe it's the right thing for America." 

Let's get a bit more personal.  Do you have a cause to which you'd like your friends to donate time or money?  Using the three persuasive elements, you'll need to make your friends feel compassion for the group in need (appeal to emotion), show them exactly where and how their money and time will be used (appeal to logic), and  demonstrate your own integrity, concern, and commitment in seeing the effort succeed (appeal to character).

Or you may want your boss to fund health-club memberships for employees at work.  You'll first have to create a fear of heart attacks among employees and supervisors to make them feel the potential loss (appeal to emotions).  Next, you'll have to convince the executive who holds the purse strings that wellness reduces absenteeism and increases productivity (appeal to logic).  Finally, you'll have to demonstrate that your interest is not for selfish reasons but for the well-being of the entire organization  (appeal to character).

The next time you want to influence someone in your way of thinking, balance the three essentials of persuasion and make Aristotle proud.

Dianna Booher is CEO of Booher Consultants, a Dallas-based communications firm.  She speaks on communication (writing, oral presentations, interpersonal, customer service communications, gender, listening, meetings, conflict) and life balance/productivity.  She has published 40 books, including E-Writing: 21st-Century Tools for Effective Communication  (Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books), Communicate with Confidence! (McGraw-Hill), and Get a Life Without Sacrificing Your Career (McGraw-Hill).  For information on Dianna's keynotes and workshops call 352-438-0261 email [email protected] or visit www.ExpertSpeaker.com/Speaker/booher.htm 

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