If you have been following our series on the classic model of persuasion—logos (logic), pathos (emotion), and ethos (credibility)—then you might have noticed that each post ended with something along the lines of “be sure to use all three together for best results…” That’s very true, so in this episode we are going to look at these in practice.
I was watching Mandy Patinkin on the Charlie Rose show a while back, and I thought one of his answers combined logos, pathos, and ethos in an effective, and concise, way. Take a look, it’s just 1:25 long:
Clearly a lot going on there. But let’s go back to our model and break it down.
First, let’s look at ethos. Is he credible? He’s a well-known actor, and if you are a fan then that might count for something (if you are not, it could work against him). But his argument is not, I’m famous so I’m right, it’s, I know, because I was there. His credibility is grounded in his first-hand experience.
Pathos is not hard to spot. His answer is dripping with evocative, emotional imagery. He talks about children smothered by waves, uses phrases like “your heart would break and melt,” and at one point literally throws up his hands. He uses emotional appeal to help you empathize with the people in the boats, and see them as people in trouble that you would want to help.
Even in this sea of pathos, there is logos to be found. He makes a strong logical argument in the form of an if/then statement. For example, you see it here:
“I know that if I took every governor, every congressman, every senator to that beach…if they helped these families get out of these boats…then they would feel very different…”
He comes back to that pattern of if/then a few times, and uses it to very good effect.
The end result is, I think, a powerful and persuasive argument. He wants you to see things his way, and he makes a strong case for why.
Now go back and watch the clip again. But this time, I want you to imagine what it would be like if one of these elements were missing.
- How would it sound if he hadn’t been there?
- Would it be as powerful without the if/then logic?
- What if he just talked about facts and figures?
I think you will find his argument far less effective.
We hope this series has been helpful. For me, coming back to this classical model is always a good way to look at any project, and make sure it’s as compelling as it can be.