The Art, Science, and Ethics of Persuasion

the art and science of persuasive speach

“With great power comes great responsibility”

– Voltaire –

Brace yourself, things just got real…(personal)

…It’s story time…

When I was 12 my middle school decided to pick out certain kids to go on a leader/follower field trip.  I was not amused at that age, but I went anyway.  IT WAS A TRAP! It was all about shaming and scaring us!

We were driven to the county jail and introduced to inmates whose crime was one of leadership, or that of a follower.  I got lumped into the leader category – huge surprise.  Anyway, the inmates were ok,  I mean, I’m not talking about scared straight or anything as dramatic. They just spoke to us about not using natural talents in the wrong way….  Why am I sharing this story when I never go into personal things?  Because my first interaction with the theory of leadership was in a negative context with zero positive commentary.  As I grew older I learned persuasion from my father which coupled with my leadership tendencies meant that I had the power, but lacked the knowledge of how to use these gifts with the proper intent, morals, ethics, and rules.

By the time I was 15, I was sitting on the Council for Children and Youth, and paging at the capital.  Now here again,  I was not being influenced by those whom we regard as possessing or demonstrating proper ethics, morals, or intent in how they rule run our country.  So in my brilliance, I decided to start studying speaking, leadership, and persuasion as a part of my studies in the Gavel club (the high school chapter of The Toast Masters Club).

Here we are today – many years later – and I have some knowledge bombs for you…

First of all – the basics: Being an Ethical Speaker by

Public speakers should adhere to five simple principles:

  • Trustworthiness
  • Integrity in the subject matter
  • Respect for others
  • Dignity in conduct
  • Truthfulness in message

So, how would you gain the trust of the audience through the message? Here are a few tips:

  • Make sure that the message you are sending is ethically sound
  • Use information that is truthful
  • Avoid biases and stereotypes
  • Believe in your own claims
  • Show respect for the audience
  • Be prepared

The National Speakers Association (NSA) has a Code of Professional Ethics.  This is a purpose statement that is designed to be a model for all speakers.  Here is a summarized description of the NSA’s Code of Professional Ethics by The Art Of Public Speaking:

  • Think about everything you say, and what can come from it.
  • Understand your Audience
  • Be Original and Give Credit

In addition, consider a summary of the following additional ethical considerations:

Ethos Ethics – the idea that we must be responsible for our behavior while utilizing and demonstrating our expertise.  In essence: just because you are qualified to say something, make sure that it is the appropriate time and place to say it.

Pathos Ethics – the idea that emotion is powerful, and a public speaker must be responsible when utilizing this power.  In essence: use emotion to support your statements, but not to manipulate your audience.

Logos Ethics – the idea that, while facts are facts, the details surrounding the facts are often times nebulous.  In essence: use facts to support your arguments, but not to create incorrect arguments.

Mores Ethics – the idea that social norms exist, and are there for a reason.  In essence: be respectful of what your audience considers to be common and normal, and be clear in how your statements and arguments work in and around those social norms.

The Art of Public Speaking – Integrity and Ethics

Check out this video on The Science of Persuasion.  It covers the collective material of many scholars in a very concise way.

The “TARES test” is a set of five principles of ethical persuasion applied for advertising and public relations professionals. However, I believe it can be applied to any persuasive context, situation or encounter since the principles can be directly linked to the overview and foundation of personal branding.

Each letter stands for a different ethical question.

  • T: Is the claim truthful?
  • A: Is the claim authentic?
  • R: Does the advertisement message treat the receiver with respect?
  • E: Is there equity between the advertiser/public relations specialist and the consumer listener and the receiver?
  • S: Is the advertisement message socially responsible?

That is all for today…


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