Aristotle in the Boardroom

Using Philosophical Arguments to Succeed in Meetings

By Joe Curcillo

Joe CurcilloAs the sales team takes their seats in the boardroom, CEO, A.C. Tosser, rises from his seat and begins to address the staff. He introduces the new product line and explains that it will be marketed differently, and will be implemented with a new commission structure. The team grumbled at the change, but Tosser explained and discussed how the next level of sales will positively affect the commissions and bonuses for the people in the room.

He began to direct statements to his staff.

Mary, you could finally get that new pool you have talked about, and Fred, you will finally be able to start saving for Little Fred’s college tuition.”

He continued, “If sales continue to rise, we will be implementing a program to support the local dog rescue. Ed and Anna, will I be able to get your help on that?”

Oh, and, by the way,” he added, “We are confidentially trying to arrange to hold this year’s Holiday Party in Las Vegas. It will depend on our mid-year totals, but I just thought you’d like to know.”

As he continues, the tone is not only a discussion, but the staff begins to become excited and the room fills with energy!

A.C. Tosser understands how to motivate his staff. As a student of Greek philosophy, he knows that Aristotle’s rhetoric is as relevant today as it was twenty-five hundred years ago. The theory advanced by Aristotle includes three categories of focus when presenting a convincing argument. They are Ethos, Logos, and Pathos.

  • Ethos is the essence of your character. It is your charismatic appeal.
  • Logos is the intellectual appeal. It is the logical factors or the truths that make up the foundation and structure of your presentation.
  • Pathos, it is the emotional appeal. It is that which appeals to the wants and desires of the audience; what it is they want to believe and what makes them happy.

Effective persuasion is accomplished when the speaker is able to understand the importance and depth of his own character, reason logically, and understand the emotions that motivate and inspire the listener.

Character Appeal: Let us begin with Ethos—your character. You must have character to successfully lead and convince others to follow. There are no exceptions. It is far easier to believe the words of a good person than a bad person. Character is in many instances the most effective means of persuasion that you possess.

Tosser has built credibility by working with his team, getting to know them and keeping them on track. If you do not remain consistent, your personality becomes a distraction that disrupts the flow and confuses the ultimate message. If every time your team gets comfortable with you, you change your personality, demeanor or overall attitude, they will have to reconsider their position as to whether they like you or not. The mental process will then be stuck in a rut, and they will be hard pressed to give thought to your “message.”

How can you relate to your team?

  • Share how you deal with rejection and the anguish of a week without a sale
  • Speak their language; be a real person. Talk to them, not down to them
  • Remind them of the team accomplishments
  • Remind them of your experiences as you learned and grew in the business
  • Know the products and benefits the company offers
  • Be there to assist with better ways of relating the needs to the customers

While, at its core, the ability to trust is an emotional decision, people want to trust. If you do not have a character that people can embrace, your goal of being accepted will fail despite all the proof you can gather, and all the emotion you can create.

Intellectual Appeal: Logos is the ability to present information in a coherent fashion to lead everyone to the same factual conclusion. If you give people enough acceptable and understandable information, the logical choice will be easier for them to make. Accordingly, you give them the information they need to control their own decision-making process.

People will resist a position that is forced upon them. Education and learning are phenomenal co-pilots that allow you to guide people on the path you design; they are precursors to the logical choice. Skepticism, on the other hand, becomes a major defense mechanism that fights against the possibility of harm, loss or deceit. If people come to their own conclusions based on your presentations, they can freely and comfortably make an educated choice. When fear is eliminated, people are more likely to follow.

Emotional Appeal: Last, and never to be overlooked, is Pathos—the emotional state of the listener. People are much more responsive when they are happy than when they are miserable. Work on their hearts and minds in a positive and healthy way to be the person they look to for direction.

Most people are vulnerable when they feel that their goals are in-sync with the company goals, and when those weaknesses are lessened, people are more likely to follow. Take the time to find the weaknesses in those you lead. Find the positive triggers that will make them emotionally ready to hear and believe that you know best. When that is done well, everyone wins!

The goal of a leader is to lead, not direct and order people to act. The more people want to follow you, the more success you will achieve. So, how do you get people to follow you? Be a solution to their problems.

Consider spending time listening to and observing those you lead. As you mingle, chat and observe, pay attention to the needs of the team, and lead discussions as you search for the group’s mindset. Look for common truths that shape their beliefs and thoughts. Frequently question their dreams, and their beliefs to find a common thread. Then, speak with a focus on herding the hearts and minds of the team to bring them together as a cohesive unit.Find out what makes your team tick. Find new ways to learn exactly what carrots to dangle in front of their eyes.

Strike a Balance: A well-structured presentation—like a well-structured argument—must contain balanced proportions of character appeal, intellectual appeal and emotional appeal. The measurements change from person-to-person and from task-to-task. For some, success is a matter of patience and practice. For others, it will flow as if it is their birthright. For the majority of people, the art of convincing others requires a balance of their natural skills and learned techniques. The challenge will always be finding the balance that is right for you.

When you walk into a meeting, have your facts, charts and statistics ready, but pay attention to the room and your audience. Put your commitment to the team first. Be ready to go with the flow. Allow them to come to you and be inspired to follow.

Joe Curcillo, The Mindshark, is a speaker, entertainer, lawyer and communications expert. As an Adjunct Professor at Widener University School of Law, Mr. Curcillo developed a hands-on course, based on the use of storytelling as a persuasive weapon. He has been a professional entertainer helping corporations and associations improve their communication techniques since 1979. For more information on bringing Joe Curcillo in for your next event, please visit www.TheMindShark.com.