Greek Philosopher Aristotle

Last week in the comments on Glossophobia? (Part 1), one of our authors, Adam Fifield, commented on the impacts of Aristotle and communication. I was excited to see his comment because the first chapter in my textbook, Communication Opportunities by Ron Howell, is entitled, “Beyond Aristotle.” Aristotle (384BC – 322BC) was a Greek philosopher who wrote about many themes (math, science, music, logic, poetry) including communication. He believed that a master communicator makes use of three elements:  Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.

Ethos is defined as credibility. When thinking about communication, credibility is one idea that could be easily overlooked, yet it carries high value when making an impact on your audience. There are two types of ethos that a speaker can obtain. The first is Antecedent Ethos, which is developed prior to the actual communication. Examples could include a speaker’s reputation, occupation, or situation. A university professor who has been teaching for 30 years is going to carry more credibility than a graduate fresh out of college.

The second type of ethos is known as Present Ethos which is based on actual communication of what is said and developed by borrowing sources. When hearing a speaker for the first time, audiences have no impression about his/her credibility. During the speech, the audience will develop an opinion based on that speaker’s use of facts, resources, research, conversational styles, and presentation style. “The critical thing to remember is that we listen more carefully and better when we can trust the communicator than when we cannot.”

Pathos is defined as emotion and is based on affecting the receiver through emotional appeals. The best way to fire an audience up is to impact them emotionally! You want to be passionate about your subject and communicate it with a story. Think back to one of your favorite teachers who left a positive impact on your life. What made them so special? Now, think of the teacher who all the students in your school wanted to avoid, the teacher who taught with the same vocal pitch, volume, rate, and projection all year-long! Why did most students try to avoid that teacher? Because that teacher lacked pathos and was as fascinating as an escalator escalating in real-time!

Logos is defined as logic and is based on reasoning, claims, and argumentation. Often, speakers misuse logos by attempting to force their opinion upon their audience. These situations can occur when a speaker believes that his/her audience does not understand unless they agree with his/her particular point of view. This can become dangerous when trying to leave a positive impact on your audience. Remember, a person can understand your particular point of view without directly agreeing with it. Your job as a speaker is to present your ideas logically with supporting claims in hopes that you may persuade/influence your listeners.

This week, we have looked at three elements that every speaker needs to become a successful communicator. Next week, I will be discussing the delivery and structure of your speech, bringing you one step closer to conquering Glossophobia! For now, take a look at two speakers from our past who demonstrated the mastery of ethos, pathos, and logos:  Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

“I Have a Dream”
Ranked the top American speech of the 20th Century
Delivered on August 28th, 1963
Given to over 200,000 civil rights supporters
Link to speech:

Gettysburg Address
One of the best known speeches in United-States history
Delivered on November 19th, 1863
Around 15,000 spectators in attendance
Link to speech:

Can you think of a speaker who demonstrates the use of ethos, pathos, and logos? Post their name in the comments below and if possible, leave a link to one of their speeches!

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