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Persuasion & the Stimulus Package

Categories: Persuasive Speaking

The power of persuasion.

It’s all about how you look at things.

Aristotle said that all speaking is persuasive speaking. Ultimately, the goal is to sell ourselves and our ideas.

This past week, it has been interesting to listen to the use of persuasion by our elected -- and appointed -- government officials.

The topic was the stimulus package.

Of course, President Obama wanted to get more (or at least some) Republican support. He wanted it to be a bipartisan package. But, his eloquent powers of persuasion didn’t work this time.

Persuasion is only possible when people hearing a message are open enough to take in the new information.

Going back to Aristotle, he suggested that there are 3 “modes of proof” – ways of getting buy-in from audience members.

The reality is that speakers need all three of these to succeed, which didn’t happen in the case of discussion concerning the stimulus package. The 3 modes of proof are:

  1. Logos – information that hits the head, or logical evidence. This is the data that proves your point, but since data can be manipulated, you must first establish credibility.
  2. Pathos – emotion, hitting the heart. Clearly, in the case of the stimulus package, the fear over the economy has been used to create a sense of urgency. However, if the audience doesn’t buy into the emotion (i.e. fear), it doesn't work.
  3. Ethos – your personal credibility. Depending on your perspective and political party, the ethos is either working for or against President Obama.
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