Effective Persuasion

Talking is easy, communication is hard and persuasion is even more difficult.

Persuasion is a conscious attempt to influence people's opinions and behaviour. In this brief article in outline form, I will present three ingredients for effective persuasion: logos, pathos and ethos. All three ingredients must be present and in agreement for effective persuasion to take place.


Ethos refers to the credibility of the speaker which flows from the perception of the speaker's character. When your audience finds you trustworthy and competent, they are likely to believe you and your speech.

  1. Credibility: The Audience's Perspective

    Your audience wants to know whether you are credible and competent (i.e., you had personal experience of the subject matter and you know what you are talking about).

    What this means is that you should not speak on matters that you had not experienced or wrestled with. Early in your persuasion attempt, you should establish a common ground with your audience communicate "like you, I had been there, done that and this is what I discovered "

  2. Character: The Real Person

    • The basic requirement is your life matches up with what you are talking about. If not, you would find it difficult to communicate your message with conviction and your audience may be able to discern that.

      Even if the audience can't, the LORD can. You can't hide anything from Him and you know that.

      1Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples,

      2saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees
      have seated themselves in the chair of Moses;

      3... they say things and do not do them.

      4They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders,
      but they themselves are unwilling to move them
      with so much as a finger.

      5"But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men
      for they broaden their phylacteries
      and lengthen the tassels of their garments.

      6"They love the place of honor at banquets
      and the chief seats in the synagogues,

      7and respectful greetings in the market places,
      and being called Rabbi by men.
      Matt 23:1-7

      1Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren,
      knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.
      Jas 3:1

    • You need to be honest with your materials (i.e., you should not exaggerate or twist facts to influence people).

      John Calvin wrote, "We must not pick and cull the Scriptures to please our own fancy, but must receive the whole without exception."

      You also need to be honest about different views. When you are honest then your audience sees you as ethical and it solicits trust in all that you had said and will say.
An example of an ethos-based argument and an explanation of what it is.


Logos is appeal based on logic or reason. Your audience is more likely to be persuaded if your speech meets their needs and you provide facts and logical reasons for your views. Your speech should have an orderly and logical structure. Here is a suggested structure (assuming a 3-point speech).
  1. Introduction: Establish the purpose and relevance of speech

  2. Body

    1. Proposition #1

      •   Explanation of proposition
      •   Scriptures, Reasons, Proofs and Illustrations

    2. Proposition #2

      •   Explanation of proposition
      •   Scriptures, Reasons, Proofs and Illustrations

    3. Proposition #3

      •   Explanation of proposition
      •   Scriptures, Reasons, Proofs and Illustrations

  3. Conclusion: Call for a specific action from the audience

    Your arguments may be able to convince the audience logically, but the apathetic may not follow through on the call to action. Appeals to pathos can arouse emotions and propel them to act on what they have heard.
An example of an logos-based argument and an explanation of what it is.


Pathos refers to the emotional appeal of the speaker's speech. Your audience is more likely to be persuaded when your speech stirs their emotions. Think about it our opinions when we are warm and friendly are not the same as when we are cold and hostile.
  1. Speech relevant to your audience

    • The speech must be relevant to your audience's felt needs.

    • To be able to relate the speech to your audience's needs, you need to gather information about your audience. Who are they? What is the age range? What are their needs at their stage of life? What are some possible issues they are struggling with?

    • The felt needs must be addressed adequately before proceeding to the real needs.

  2. Passionate about the speech

    • To involve your audience emotionally, you need to be excited about your speech.

      Tell stories. Use vivid descriptions to recreate emotion-producing situations so as to help your audience "experience" these same situations. Be excited. Your excitement stimulates the audience's interest in your speech.

    • To be excited about the speech, you must first be convinced about its truth and its value for your audience.

      5for our gospel did not come to you in word only,
      but also in power and in the Holy Spirit
      and with full conviction; ...
      1 Thess 1:5
  3. Compassionate toward your audience

    31... night and day for a period of three years
    I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.
    Acts 20:31

    37"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets
    and stones those who are sent to her!
    How often I wanted to gather your children together,
    the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,
    and you were unwilling.
    Matt 23:37
    Not only must you be concerned for them, you must be able to express that concern. How to do that?

    • Look at them and listen to them. Express sympathy and understanding for their situations.

    • Deal with their felt needs by answering their questions adequately. Handle questions even hostile objections graciously.

      As you are speaking, ask yourself, "What are their feelings toward the subject matter of my speech?"
An example of a pathos-based argument and an explanation of what it is.

Note that while you may be able to sway an audience by appealing to emotions, your speech will not lay a strong lasting foundation in your audience because emotions rise and fall. It is better to appeal based on logic.

Persuasion requires hard work. It is most effective when all three ingredients of logos, pathos and ethos work together to communicate the same message instead of contradicting one another. Know that persuasion is God's work!

Verbal Communication Model | The Anatomy of Exposition: Logos, Ethos and Pathos

The Teaching Process | Teaching the Word of God | Effective Persuasion | Main Page

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Alan's Gleanings | Copyright © February 2006 by Alan S.L. Wong