What makes an effective communicator? Those of us in the communications business ponder this question every day—and are often confronted with perplexing situations with clients and employees which make the art of discussion and communication seem like, well, Greek. Which is as it should be.
It’s been over 2000 years, but it was in Ancient Greece that the art of modern communication really began. The great Greek philosopher Aristotle laid the groundwork for modern public discourse, and the lessons he taught are still relevant and effective today. Aristotle’s own teacher, Plato, railed against public speaking, claiming that politicians were skillful manipulators of audiences and spoke in highly inflated language which carried very little truth. By contrast, Aristotle saw the great potential for skillful argumentation and oral communication which would inform, edify, and persuade audiences while still remaining true to a code of ethics and truthful facts. There’s still much to be learned from Aristotle, whose effective rhetoric still lays the foundations for studies in effective communication. So in the next few blogs, let’s explore some advice from Aristotle, and discover ancient solutions that work well in communications businesses today.
First up: Aristotle identified three basic elements of effective communication: ethos, logos, and pathos.
Ethos: loosely translated into English as “ethics,” is essentially about credibility and values. This is the part of communication which seeks to demonstrate two things: 1. that you, the communicator, are a person of good will, and 2. that you believe that your audience, whether friend or foe, is also of good character and good will. Ethos looks for a code of ethics, a set of shared values, and makes an effort to communicate those values to the audience. In business, this is especially important. People do business with persons and companies they trust. Establishing credibility is perhaps the most important aspect of building reputation and recognition.
Pathos: is making an emotional connection — essentially, the reason people believe that what you’re saying will matter to them. Creating emotional bonds with employees, team members, clients, and prospective customers is essential in developing relationships. Pathos is all about how people feel about each other, or about products, services, and philosophies. There’s no question that customer loyalty and retention is often based on feelings, perceptions, and relationships. At the end of the day, pathos has the greatest influence on peoples’ perceptions of a leader’s effectiveness.
Logos: is quite simply put, making sense. This is your mode for appealing to your client or team member’s reason and logic. Employing strengths in strategic thinking, problem solving, and analytical skills are how today leaders expresses logical ideas in clear and compelling enough terms to influence outcomes. As the old Dragnet television series is often quoted, logos is all about “just the facts, ma’am.” This kind of analytical, organizational, factual thinking and speaking offers support and strength to your communication, and helps listeners determine their own best course of action.
In our next few blogs, we will explore ethos, pathos, and logos, how these three elements of communication reinforce one another, how they can help shape your company’s image, how they can help gain and retain clients, and how they can make you more effective on the telephone. Stay tuned. It’s all Greek!
Challenge: What is my personal best? Do my strengths lie in ethics, emotions, or logic?