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Three Ways to Persuade


Disciplines Argument > Three Ways to Persuade

Ethos | Pathos | Logos | See also


Aristotle, perhaps the most famous arguer, described three routes to change the mind of the other person.


Ethos uses trust, and focuses first on the speaker. showing the speaker as a person of integrity and good character.


The reputation of a person depends on their past, and what is known and spoken about them. Note that although there is usually a close relationship between reputation and reality, this is not always so. Politicians, for example, guard their reputation carefully, yet many still have skeletons in the closet.

Leveraging reputation often means reminding others of your illustrious past, perhaps through stories of your successes, of how you have helped others and been able to see the truth where others have not.


Character paints you as a three-dimensional human, even with a few flaws (though these should not be important to the audience). It shows you as being subject to the same problems and pressures as other people. It says 'I am like you'. It also shows you as a person of virtue, who stands by their good values.


Credibility, depends both on expertize and how this is portrayed. If you want people to believe you, you must first show that you believe yourself.

To use credibility, position yourself as an expert. Talk as if you cannot be challenged. Show how others look up to you. Use powerful gesture, eye contact and so on to position yourself as a leader.


Pathos appeals to the emotions of the listener, seeking to excite them or otherwise arouse their interest.

An effective way of arousing passions is in appeal to values. Tell stories of poor values, for example where innocent people are harmed. Use Ethos to show your own values and how you put others before yourself. You can also work with their goals and interests or even challenge their beliefs.

Language has a significant effect on emotion, and hot and cold key words (fire, child, anger, smooth, etc.) can trigger senses and feelings.


Logos focuses first on the argument, using cool logic and rational explanation, as well as demonstrable evidence.


Science and scientific proof are based on the use of empirical evidence. If you argue without evidence, a scientist would dismiss your argument as metaphysical (literally, outside the physical world).

Evidence cannot be refuted, as courts of law seek to demonstrate. If you show, then it is very difficult to deny without calling into question the validity of the evidence produced.

Evidence can include statistics, pictures and recounted experience (especially first hand). Pathos may also be evoked when giving evidence as you give it an emotional spin. Ethos is also important to establish the credibility of the witness.


Reason uses rational points that call on accepted truths and proven theories. Where evidence does not exist, reason may still prevail. A common tool in reasoning is to link two items together, for example by cause and effect.

Reasoning often uses syllogisms, that include a major premise, a minor premise and a conclusion based on the combination of the two premises.

See also

Syllogistic Reasoning

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