The Art of Workplace Communication and Persuasion

I graduated from college over 40 years ago, but have not forgotten some valuable knowledge I learned about communication. While not everyone is a salesperson, we all are faced with persuading others to a point of view both in business and personally. The three areas of appeal to another person are emotional, personal and/or logical.

Aristotle referred to these as ethos, pathos and logos. He also said that in spite of the most logical argument that can be made, with personal history or education behind your thoughts and/or an emotional appeal that would tug on anyone’s heart strings, the most important point often lies with what is crucial to the person you are trying to convince.

If you ask good questions, and you probe skillfully, you will gain enough information to determine the “crucial issue”, which may or may not have anything to do with ethos, pathos or logos. This of course relates to a one-on-one conversation or with a small group but if you are speaking to a larger audience then the three levels of appeal will be effective for most people.

I remember a very simple but profound framework for all communication that I learned in my introductory communications class. I could expound upon each of these four elements of what my professor referred to as “descriptive feedback”, but for the most part they are self-explanatory. If you are engaged in a conversation with someone consider this:

  1. Don’t allege intent until you first check it out

  2. Speak for yourself and not the group

  3. Focus on actions or behaviors and not the person (no personal attacks)

  4. In making your final judgements you need to consider the underlying relationships and motivations

As a business consultant, one of the elements I consider when I’m evaluating successful people is the ability to communicate. I often ask candidates to tell me a story. Most people want me to clarify what I’m looking for but I’m interested in anything they have to say and on any subject. My motivation in asking the question is to see how well the candidate can construct a story and if it creates some interest on my part. Storytelling is an effective way to communicate and is often utilized in getting a point across or sharing an insight or just connecting people to together. It certainly is not something you learn in school but has great value.