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Rule No 6 People Buy From People – So, Understand the Three Types of Proof Used By Persuasive Speakers

Absolutely fundamental to negotiation is our ability to persuade others to accept our view. In 350BC, Aristotle identified that persuasion was “the art of getting people to do something they would not ordinarily do if you did not ask”. It is a shifting of attitude, of getting the other party to move their position closer towards yours. As such it has a profound effect on negotiation and conditioning. He identified three types of proof used by highly persuasive speakers:

  • Ethos. Honesty, sincerity and ethics.
  • Pathos. Empathy and emotional appeal.
  • Logos. Logic or factual information

The most effective persuasive messages carry a blend of all three.

How does this manifest itself in today’s negotiations? The fact is it all holds as true today as it did 2300 years ago!


(Ethics) is a measure of the credibility or respect that the negotiator has in the eyes of the other party. The other party will measure this by trustworthiness, authority, reputation and expertise.


(Emotions) is the emotional appeal of your argument (verbal and non-verbal). This can be both positive (warm emotive) or negative (coercive). Rich analogies, storytelling and humour are all powerful emotional themes which have a profound effect on the other party’s perceptions.


(Factual Information) is synonymous with logical argument. This can involve the use of facts, statistics and evidence. There is often no shortage of this to support both sides of the argument (witness the recent EU Referendum). The key is to make it understandable, logical and real.

So What?

There are two key lessons to draw from this:

  1. The most powerful and persuasive arguments contain elements of all three.
  2. Ethics provides the credible foundation upon which your case will be built. For example, the use of reference material, awards, and third party endorsements all build credibility.
  3. Emotions are the primary reason for making a decision and hence are extremely powerful. Emotional decisions are made in the unconscious mind which controls 99.9% of our activity. Witness somebody falling in love, a man buying a new car or a couple buying a new house – the primary driver is an emotional connection. So, the use of positive and negative emotion should be a cornerstone of our negotiating and persuasion strategy.
  4. Logic is used to validate an emotional decision. Logic decisions are made in the conscious mind. They are rarely irrefutable and can be confusing. So, know your facts and keep it simple. If you have ever watched ‘Dragon’s Den’ you will see that once the dragons see that the entrepreneurs have not got their facts straight, they are out.
  5. Our negotiating, selling and buying propositions, web-site, marketing and proposals should all reflect elements of these three elements. If not, we are unlikely to be able to compete effectively in business or at the negotiating table. You might want to take a hard look at your web-site, marketing material and proposals to see if they really do contain elements of all three.

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