A Meeting with Aristotle

Using Ideas from Ancient Philosophers to Succeed

(5 Minute Read)

As the sales team takes their seats in the boardroom, the sales manager, A.C. Tosser, rises from his seat and begins to address the staff. He introduces the new product line and explains that it will be marketed differently along with implementing a new commission structure. The team grumbles at the change but Tosser explains how the next level of sales will positively affect the commissions and bonuses for the people in the room.

He begins, “Mary, you could finally get that new pool you have talked about, and Fred, you will finally be able to start saving for Little Fred’s college tuition, and if sales continue to rise, we can implement a program to support the local dog rescue. Ed and Anna, will I be able to get your help on that?”

He continues, “Oh, and, by the way, we are confidentially trying to arrange to hold this year’s Holiday Party in Las Vegas. It will depend on our mid-year totals, but I just thought you’d like to know.”

As he continues, the tone turns to discussion, but his staff begins to become excited and the room fills with energy!

As his sales team leader, A.C. Tosser understands how to motivate his staff. He knows that Greek Philosophy and Aristotle are as relevant today as they were twenty-five hundred years ago. The theory advanced by Aristotle includes three categories of focus when you seek to be persuasive. They are Ethos (character), Logos (intellectual), and Pathos (emotional).

In short, effective persuasion is accomplished when you, as the speaker, are able to understand the importance and depth of your own character, reason logically, and understand the emotions that motivate and inspire the listener.

Ethos is the essence of your character. It is your charismatic appeal. You must have character to successfully lead and convince others to follow. There are no exceptions. Character is, in many instances, the most effective means of persuasion that you possess. Do not worry so much about good or bad character. Instead, be yourself, and do not waiver. Be YOU consistently. Trust will flow from the predictability of your unwavering personality.

Tosser has built credibility by working with his team, getting to know them, and keeping them on track. If you do not remain consistent, your personality becomes a distraction that disrupts the flow, which ultimately confuses message. If you change your personality, demeanor or overall attitude, your staff will have to reconsider their position as to whether they like you or not. Their mental process will then be stuck in a rut, and they will be stuck on whether they like you or not rather than giving more thought to your message.

While, at its core, the ability to trust is an emotional decision, people want to trust. If you do not have a character that people can embrace, your goal of being accepted will fail despite all the proof you can gather, and all the emotion you can create.

Logos is the intellectual appeal. It is the logical factors or the truths that make up the foundation and structure of your message. The information will be the details that lead everyone to the same logical conclusion. If you give them enough acceptable and understandable information, the logical choice will be easier for them to make.

When you give people the information they need to feel in control their own decision-making process, they will be less resistant. It is human nature to resist a position that is forced upon you. This is why respectfully educating people will allow you to guide people on the path you design; there will be no other logical choice based on your instruction.

On the other hand, skepticism becomes a natural defense mechanism that is always looking for the possibility of harm, loss, or deceit. When fear is eliminated, people are more likely to follow. If people come to their own conclusions based on your presentations, they can freely and comfortably make an educated choice.

Pathos is the emotional state of the listener. People are much more responsive when they are happy. Therefore, if you work on people’s hearts and minds positively and healthily, you will be the first person they look to for direction/solution in the event of a problem/disrupt.

Most people will feel vulnerable when they feel that their goals are not in-sync with the company goals. When those weaknesses are lessened, people will be more likely to follow. Take the time to find the weaknesses in those you lead. Find the positive triggers that will make them emotionally ready to hear and believe that you know best. When that is done well, everyone wins!

How do you get people to follow you? Be a solution to their problems.

In my example above, Tosser paid attention to the needs of the team, and he knew what was important to them. He understood the common truths that shape their beliefs and thoughts. He framed his presentation by appealing to the hearts and minds of his team. He used what was important to them to bring them together as a cohesive unit.

A well-structured presentation must contain balanced proportions of character appeal, intellectual appeal and emotional appeal. The measurements change from person-to-person and from task-to-task. For some, success is a matter of patience and practice. For others, it will flow as if it is their birthright. For most people, the art of convincing others requires a balance of their natural skills and learned techniques. The challenge will always be finding the balance that is right for you.

To better persuade your team to be accepting of your direction, walk into meetings prepared with your facts, charts and statistics, but always pay attention to the needs of your team. Put your commitment to the team first, but be ready to go with the flow. Allow your team to be inspired to follow you because you equipped them with the knowledge and understanding that they needed to see the benefit of your message.