The Power of Persuasion: Ethically Speaking

What makes an effective communicator?  In this blog series, we’ve been exploring the power of persuasion, and how to use the tools of rhetoric identified centuries ago by the great Greek philosopher, Aristotle, to establish clear communication with our co-workers and clientele in today’s society. Aristotle identified three important appeals—ethos (ethic), Ethics of Moralitylogos (logic), and pathos (emotion).  Last week, we defined ethos and talked about ways to establish you as a person who can be trusted.  We discussed ways to establish authority and expertise in the field.  Today, let’s talk about how to demonstrate the ethics of morality in business communications.  Specifically, what should you say?

  • Listen and repeat. If you want to be an effective communicator, you first need to be an excellent listener.  Be attentive when you talk with clients.  Learn their dreams, their issues, and their values.  Repeat back what your clients have said with phrases like, “I know from our conversation how much you value x.”  Allow time for genuine conversation, and for your client to expand and clarify on those values.  This will help you gain a real understanding and appreciation of what is important to your client, and will help you establish common ground.
  • Speak from a set of shared values. If you listen well, you will discover not only what drives and motivates your client, but you will discover where you share values.  This is the common ground from which you should do most of your communicating.
  • Demonstrate mastery of the argot of the field. Argot—language that is specific to your business and profession—can go a long way in convincing your listener that you do, indeed, know what you are talking about.  Besides using the informal, specialized vocabulary from your field of study or occupation, be prepared to learn and use the argot of your customers.  For example, if you are in the business of selling office supplies to various medical offices, learn what an endodontic, orthodontic, and prosthodontic dentistry are, and use their vocabulary.  Not only will this demonstrate to your clients that you care enough to learn what they do, but speaking a common language will make your conversations more meaningful.
  • Be trustworthy. Say what you mean and mean what you say.  Keep your promises.  Answer your phone calls and emails, get back with people in a timely manner, apologize if you make mistakes—in other words, constantly and consistently act out your own set of strong ethics and morality, and your clients will learn to trust you. It may take a while—sometimes even years—to build relationships and reputations, because before your audience can trust you, they have to believe you are credible.  Stay the course!

Remember that before you can convince an audience to accept anything you say, they have to accept you as credible.  Following these steps will go a long way towards building your reputation and establishing yourself as an ethical and responsible communicator and business person.

Challenge:  How does my customer base currently see my ethics?  What steps can I take to improve my credibility with them?

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