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Monday, January 26, 2015

The Communication Genius of Aristotle

Dr. Loren EkrothLoren Ekroth, Ph.D.

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Today's Contents

Words this issue: 914  Est. reading time: 3 minutes

What You'll Find In This Issue:

The article is now placed first in each issue. I hope you like this change.

1. This Week's Article
2. Conversation Quotation
3. Jest Words
4. Words of Inspiration
5. Little Known Fact About Loren Ekroth
6. Happy Independence Day! 
7. Resources on Death and Dying
8. Please post in Social Media 
The Communication Genius of Aristotle

Why are Aristotle's ideas about communication "genius"?

Here's why, as author C.W. Ceram put it, "Genius is the ability to reduce the complicated to the simple."

Aristotle (384-322 BC) reduced the key elements of communication (rhetoric) to three: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.

Because it's possible to go through high school, college, and even graduate school without ever encountering these ideas, I'll explain.

1.     Ethos: This has to do with a speaker's credibility and character. People (you) are more attentive to those you trust, and you allow yourself to be influenced by them.

2.     Pathos: The emotional connection you make with others. When they feel what you say matters to them, and you care about them, your influence is considerable. Example: When salespeople include stories their clients can identify with, they make more sales.)

3.     Logos: Your appeal to others sense of  
     reason. (The term logos is a cousin of the word logic.) Facts and evidence put together so that others know how you arrived at your conclusions. That's logos.

Great speakers and conversers employ all three for best effects.

Of these three, your ethos is earned over time as others come to see you are credible. However, your credibility can be easily
broken if you are caught lying, or even exaggerating, about a matter.

We all know people who don't have credibility. Perhaps they are poorly informed, or perhaps they are manipulative. Or "two-faced" like gossips. We reject or deflect their messages. We tune them out.  Aristotle's counsel: "Be credible by being ethical." 

Pathos occurs when you are able to genuinely empathize with a person - or even a large audience. When they feel you care about them, they become open to your message.

Some professions (like teaching or counseling) require an ability to employ pathos. 

Logos is a skill that can be acquired either by study or by observation, or both. For example, when you listen to a formal debate, you'll hear reason, facts, evidence -logic.

Modern communication theory adds one other factor: The receiver (your audience).However, In classical Athens, the only audience that mattered to a speaker was only a small part of the community, the "citizens". Citizens included only men 18 or older. No women (half the population), and no slaves (40% of the population.) Actual citizens were perhaps 15-20% at most. and citizens were rather homogenous, not diverse   
Finally, some further background on Aristotle:

Aristotle was a student of Plato and the teacher of Alexander the Great.  His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology and zoology. 

If you want to explore Aristotle's communication ideas more deeply, get a copy of his work "The Rhetoric." (The well-worn copy I have was translated by W. Rhys Roberts. Most public libraries would have it.)
2. Conversation Quotation

"The secret to humor is surprise."
3. Jest Words    

My theory on housework is, if the item doesn't multiply, smell, catch on fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one cares. Why should you?

--Erma Bombeck, 1927-1996

4. Words of Inspiration 

It turned out that getting fired by Apple was the best thing that could ever have happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

-- Steve Jobs, Apple CEO (1955 - 2011)

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