Persuasion as Mode of Paragraph Development

"He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word. The power of sound has always been greater than the power of sense." —Joseph Conrad


A classmate comes up to you and accuses you of stealing her money. She even adds angrily that the amount she claims that is stolen from her is just enough for her to commute going home after classes. Naturally, assuming you didn’t steal anything, you would deny it. Your classmate doesn’t believe you, saying that you were the only person in the room when she found out she lost her money. Plus, you’re her seatmate and you’re the nearest one to her bag where her money is, she adds. Assuming, again, that her arguments are right, how would you defend yourself?

One option is to appeal to logic. Stick to the known facts. Reiterate that you didn’t steal anything. Plus, mention that the reason why you were the only one in the room is that you are the assigned cleaner for the day. You merely swept the floor and fixed some materials in the shelves, but did not move any of your classmates’ belongings. You did not see any money while you were cleaning. 

Another option is to appeal to your classmate’s emotions. Beg for a way out. Swear to her that you simply did not do it. Enumerate the consequences of being found guilty of stealing: long-term humiliation, a scathing reprimanding from both school authorities and parents, suspension, or worse, expulsion, How does one recover from any or all of those? Win her pity as you try to sway her into believing that you really did not steal her money for commute.

Last option is to appeal to your credibility as an honest person. Since the assumption is that you didn’t steal anything, convince her that it simply is not in your personality to steal at all. You don’t need money as your parents pick you up anyway every after class. You have your own allowance to buy whatever it is you need for school. Finally, mention that you two have been seatmates for almost a year now and not once have you stolen anything from her the entire time. Convince her to trust your honesty as you establish a clean slate in the context of her accusation. 

Whatever your plan of action might be, you have unknowingly defined the three appeals used to defend an argument or claim. Appealing to logic, or to known facts generally accepted as the truth, is known as logos. Appealing to the emotions-particularly pity-of your listener, on the other hand, is utilizing pathos. Last is appealing to your credibility or to what your listener already knows about you, is what is called ethos.

It is your choice which of the three aforementioned you would utilize to defend your situation. However, a good strategy is to combine all these appeals (logos, pathos, and ethos) to establish yourself as someone who did not commit any misdeed. Assuming that you are successful in convincing your classmate that it was not you who stole her money, what you can do is to help her find money she can use to commute later after class, and discover who the culprit is—if there is one anyway.

What is persuasion?

Persuasion, as a mode of paragraph development, is almost always coupled with argumentation. Argumentation makes use of logos, or appealing to the audience’s logic; that is, when you argue, you use facts, and well-supported and well-developed claims to support an argument. Take the argument of air-conditioning all classrooms in your school, as an example. To support this position with argumentation, mention the fact that the Philippines generally has a humid, tropical weather. Also, mention that with the advent of the 2015 ASEAN Integration, it won’t be long until virtually all institutions of learning in the country would follow the August-May academic calendar shift to coincide with the rest of the ASEAN members’ academic schedule, with the goal of producing globally-competitive graduates.This means that there will be classes in April and in May, the hottest months of summer. To cater to the teachers’and the students’ needs, air-conditioning is very much needed in classrooms.

Persuasion, on the other hand, makes use of pathos, or appealing to the audience’s emotions. Take the argument of removing death sentence from the law, as an example. The inclusion of the death sentence in the constitution means that it is legal to end criminals’ lives just because they committed a crime, whatever it may be. If you are on a quest of dismantling death sentence using persuasion, make your arguments revolve around the central idea that criminals are human beings too. People deserve second chances; they can still change. For whatever reason that these inmates committed a bad deed, no matter how grave, they do not deserve to have their lives ended prematurely. Let them live with the weight of their sins. Knowing these criminals will always feel guilty and shameful for as long as they breathe, we should take pity on them and somehow lessen their burden by exempting them from death. We let them live not just because people deserve to have second chances, but also because forgiveness is what it means to be a human being.

Besides logos and pathos, there is another appeal that must be mentioned and that is ethos, the appeal to credibility. Having ethos means that as a source of information, you are credible, reputable, and respectable. You build your reputation through honesty and sound judgment.This is where sufficient research and effective reasoning come in. Research means you know more than enough facts to support your arguments. Reasoning, on the other hand, is the handling of knowledge and how you deliver it effectively to your audience. You don’t just present facts one after the other, like how information is given through bullet points in PowerPoint Presentations. You carefully weave these facts in such a way that is logical and sways the audience into believing or taking your side of the issue at hand.

When in the position of defending a stance, keep in mind that there are three types of audience that you have to cater to. These types are the supportive audience, the wavering audience, and the hostile audience.

A. The Supportive Audience

The supportive audience means you have spectators who are already briefed on the issue at hand. You no longer need to tackle the nitty-gritty of your topic as your audience is already informed. Also, you can assume that there is a very big possibility that they will side with your claims and arguments; hence, they are supportive. Logos is not much needed in this kind of situation. Instead, maximize your pathos to drive your point home.

B. The Wavering Audience

The wavering audience means you have spectators who are not readily accepting to your ideas. They may listen to you but that does not necessarily mean they automatically believe what you’re saying. Unlike with your supportive audience, brief the wavering audience with the issue at hand. Make use of your logos to win their support. And since your audience’s belief in you is wavering, you may want to build up on your ethos as well. Establish yourself as a credible, reputable, and respectable source of information.

C. The Hostile Audience

This type of audience is the most difficult to please and to win. You can even assume that they represent the opposing stance of the issue you are about to tackle. Make no mistake in your claims and arguments as your audience not only is hard to please, but also averse to your side of the story. Lessen the use of pathos on this type of audience as it is quite difficult to do so given that they are antagonistic. Stick to your logos as you have a good chance of being somewhat believed-but not necessarily sided with-by the hostile audience. 

To sum up the lesson, argumentation and persuasion are not usually used separately. People, whichever type of audience they may belong to, are both rational and emotional beings. They respond to both logos and pathos. This is why the best strategy to use when taking a position is to blend both argumentation and persuasion together.

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