In his 2,300-year old book Rhetoric, Aristotle argued, “It is not enough to know what we ought to say; we must also know how to say it.”
Aristotle was convinced that rhetoric (the art of persuasion) comprised three elements: facts, language and style.
Although most of us would insist that the only thing that matters in a serious discussion are the facts, Aristotle knew that style “affects the success of a speech greatly.”
Or, as in the words of British novelist Joseph Conrad, “He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word.”
To succeed in persuading others of your views, according to Aristotle, you should:
- Rely on plain, everyday language
- Include a few rhetorical flourishes, to give your message impact
- Avoid ”strange words, compound words and invented words;” and
- Use metaphors
I wish more marketers would take a look at Aristotle’s Rhetoric before attempting to persuade us of their views.
The business world would become a lot more gobbledygook-free.
Consider the following statement, for example, courtesy of Facebook. (The company plans to abolish users’ right to vote for or against changes to its privacy policies.)
In the past, your substantive feedback has led to changes to the proposals we made. However, we found that the voting mechanism, which is triggered by a specific number of comments, actually resulted in a system that incentivized the quantity of comments over their quality. Therefore, we’re proposing to end the voting component of the process in favor of a system that leads to more meaningful feedback and engagement.
Just imagine, for example, if Facebook’s vice president wrote this instead:
Want to learn more about the art of persuasion? Check out my white paper.