Aristotle's elements of discourse

    It is no longer a secret, that a rather considerable part of our lives is spent in negotiations with people. As social beings, we frequently find ourselves in circumstances where we have to communicate in almost all aspect of our lives, from talking to our partner about the expectations we have from the relationship to reporting progress on a project in a presentation as well as a written report. I bet if you think back hard enough, you will realize that you have been busy communicating your intentions and ideas or trying to listen to and understand the same things spoken to you by family members, colleagues, and even strangers yesterday, the day before that, and the day before that. Whatever the situation, it seems that we always need to find ways to appeal to the audience, maybe even ourselves. Here is where Aristotle can be of great help.


Aristotle’s elements of discourse

    It is fascinating how as science further grows and matures in various areas, it constantly comes to realize that there were people, whose lives ended years, decades, or even centuries ago, who suggested a similar notion or indicated a quite accurate understanding of the subject at hand. In this case, as our focus is on social competency and communication, I will introduce an intriguing notion by Aristotle which clarifies and structures discourse using three elements. Aristotle’s elements of discourse are also known as the rhetoric triangle. These elements help you create an impactful message and get ready for you next speech or written message.

    In an introduction to communication and the three articles explaining the three elements of communication, I emphasize how a message is affected by the sender (speaker or writer) and the receiver (audience) and it is crucial to understand the impacts of each of these elements on communication. Aristotle’s elements are more general and categorized meticulously to make this even easier to comprehend. Aristotle’s three elements of discourse, or rhetoric triangle, include Logos, Ethos, and Pathos. I will explain what each element means and how it can be used to improve communication and social skills.



    We usually try to appeal to the logical side of the audience when we need to make a point which may not be as clear to them as it is to us. Logos refers to resorting to logic to attract the attention of the audience and help them understand. Logical communication involves certain steps which are determined based on the type of logic the speaker – in this case you – intends to use. It is possible to start from introducing a general rule or notion, and move on to instances and detailed analysis of its components. It is also possible to begin from an example or idea, build up on it using further evidence and information, and finally arrive at a more general notion. As I mentioned before, I have explained methods of reasoninginductive and deductive – in another article, therefore. Please view the link to learn more about types of reasoning and how to use it to communicate.



    It is rather obvious that the message is not and can never be understood separately from the speaker. This means that the speaker’s character, and characteristics, deeply affect the message and the audience’s understanding of it. Certain traits such as trustworthiness can pave the way for the message to be received by open arms. An authoritarian’s words, on the other hand, may be accepted without a single comment in their presence, but it will create a hot topic for the group in the speaker’s absence. How the speaker or writer’s message is perceived is highly affected and dependent on how the person is perceived. No matter how enchanting the message is, people are less likely to hear it from an unreliable and cunning speaker.


    Emotions have been a pillar on which our lives are built, and so shall be for the rest of our lives. Emotions have been there long before logic came to help create a balance. Even when we know that something does not make sense or is not right, we sometimes find it difficult to accept logic and behave according to it; the urge is simply too strong to fight. Pathos refers to the emotional side of the audience. As a speaker, logic might be a useful tool to transfer your information or knowledge, but combine it with feelings and emotions, and it will be undefeatable. All you need to learn is the range of emotion and how to evoke them. Appealing to the emotional side of the audience make you a memorable speaker.



    To improve your social competency and enhance your communication skills, keep in mind Aristotle’s elements of discourse or the rhetoric triangle. Keep in mind that you can rely on only one element, or make use of all three to balance them. This choice depends on the judgment of the speaker about the audience and the topic at hand. Good speakers may use their innate talent, great speakers put knowledge into practice, assess, and learn from their mistakes.





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