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    Making Your Character Count

    I like to ask audiences for a show of hands: How many wish arguments were purely logical? Almost everyone’s hand, including mine, goes up. But Aristotle—the guy who invented logic as we know it—says that logic isn’t the biggest persuader. Nope. The biggest persuader is character. (Aristotle called it Ethos, but he was speaking in Greek.)

    Watch this amazing TED talk by the great ecologist Allan Savory and pay close attention to the character he projects.​

    You can persuade people much more easily if they like and trust you. The three tools to get yourself liked and trusted: Craft, Caring, and Cause. (Aristotle: phonesis, eunoia, and arete, all Greek to me.)​

    Craft means showing you know what you’re talking about and knowing how to apply that knowledge to specific problems. Savory does this in spades, showing deep knowledge and applying it innovatively.

    Caring ​has to do with convincing your audience that you’re willing to sacrifice yourself for their interest—that you’re not after money or power. In short, that you care. Savory’s soft-spoken approach and modest dress convey a someone who’s there just to deliver an urgent message, not to get rich or famous.

    Cause: This is the biggest tool of all. ​When you pitch a product or service, or argue an issue, ask yourself: What’s your cause? What does your argument do for humanity? 

    It’s the cause that wins the standing ovation. How do you think Savory did? Let me know what your own cause is. How does it relate to your work? Do you serve a larger cause in what you do to earn a living?​

    I’ll tell you mine: It’s to teach people how to argue without anger and persuade without fear. Our democracy depends on it. I quit my job to promote it. That doesn’t make me a saint. But I hope it makes me more persuasive.​

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    Reader Comments (2)

    Yes! That is part how I win the audience, weather kids in a library, teenagers in a comedy gig or seniors in a creative ageing workshop. Some knowledge, lots of caring for their needs, and underlining a personal story or a few to prove something I deeply believe.

    I just got your book, to my joy it did seduce me from the first page with a personal story, gave a window of your character and convinced me: rhetoric is important! I begun to study, read avidly.

    Just arrived to the part 'seduction' where you shower fresh the evening. So funny: my comedy gig set has a big part about showering before... Showing care and love, or... Going out freshly shaved evening after evening. That was also from personal experience (mine) and yes, we can and use arguments also in a comedy gig...

    I just blogged and Facebooked of your great book! Winning Arguments.
    March 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJulie Kertesz
    Thank you for casting out the Greeks. In our quest for rhetorical excellence, we are using the English language. We are seeking to make our English accessible to the highest number of people. And yet we must use Greek terminology to speak of it? Just another closed door.
    My cause is a shirt tail relative of Allan Savory's. The US food system. The disastrous way we produce meat. The damage to the land from factory farms and the worsening of soil quality from taking livestock off the family farm. The toxins added to our food in growing it and in processing.
    I hope to learn from you how to convince people to vote with their food budget for a better world.
    May 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCindy Eby

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