The Art Pathos: Emotionally Speaking

What makes an effective communicator  In today’s world, your clients are immersed daily in a plethora of messages, emails, advertisements, billboards, web pages, and other forms of information and persuasion which often make them feel bombarded and overwhelmed.  How can you cut through the sea of information and communication and connect with current and potential customers?  The answer is simple:  connect with them.  Capture their emotions. The Greek philosopher Aristotle called this kind of rhetorical appeal pathos, and he found it to be a powerful tool for connecting and communicating with an audience.

Pathos is the part of communication with evokes emotion or the imagination.  It is often accompanied by vivid storytelling, descriptive use of language, an engaging delivery of information, emotional emphasis in themes and words, and even humor.  Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio says that “we’re not thinking machines that feel; we’re feeling machines that think.”  So quite possibly, the first thing we should strive for in meeting and greeting customers is not to be strictly  logical, or to set up our own credibility through ethos, but to connect with them emotionally.  Feel first, think next.Pathos

Pathos creates emotional bonds with employees, team members, and clients, and helps develop strong relationships.  It is also a powerful persuasive tool.

Want logical proof that emotional appeals work?  Consider the effect of advertising campaigns which use pathos appeals. Examples of emotional appeals include the following:  personal testimonies to the value or success of a service or product, pictures of abused animals to raise money for an animal rights organization, funny cartoons to capture a reader’s attention, the use of red, white, and blue to evoke patriotism, or telling a short, personal story to a client as your begin your negotiations.

But be careful!  Pathos is a powerful tool, and used incorrectly or in abundance, it can become distasteful, overwhelming, manipulative, and unfair.  It can defy logic and jeopardize the ethics of the presenter.  There’s no question that customer loyalty and retention is often based on feelings, perceptions, and relationships—but an improperly used pathos appeal can also turn off a client and do serious damage to your credibility and relationship.   We’ll explore how that happens, and how to prevent it, in upcoming blogs.

In the meanwhile, consider how you connect.  Check your emotional barometer.  Could you use some pathos in your business relations?      

Challenge:  How do I connect with my audience?  What kinds of pathos appeals might I try to increase the bond between my clients and me?

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