The Rules of Persuasion | S5 E9

First published: 9 April, 2024

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Engaging Internal Comms Series 5
The Rules of Persuasion | S5 E9

The Art of Persuasion: A Deep Dive with Carlos A. Alvarenga

We had the pleasure of engaging in a thought-provoking conversation with Carlos A. Alvarenga – an independent researcher, writer, and executive advisor. As a Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland, Carlos is delving into the language of trauma and totalitarian regimes, and he brought his wealth of knowledge to our discussion on persuasion and its critical elements. I’m excited to share with you the insights and lessons from our dialogue in a more detailed format.

Understanding Persuasion: More Than Just Words

Persuasion is a term we often hear, but what does it truly entail? Carlos broke it down beautifully, explaining that persuasion is about demonstrating the truth—or the appearance of truth. It’s a complex process that involves three modes: character, argument, and emotion. This triad is the cornerstone of effective communication, and understanding it can significantly enhance how we convey our messages.

The Three Pillars of Persuasion

Character: The Foundation of Credibility

Character, or ethos, is about the communicator’s origin, language, history, categories, and status. It’s the bedrock of trust and credibility. When we speak, our character is always on display, consciously or subconsciously influencing how our message is received.

Argument: The Structure of Logic

The argument, or logos, is the logical dimension of persuasion. It encompasses antecedents, authorities, evidence, interrogation, logic, laws, and witnesses. A well-structured argument is like a sturdy building—it can withstand scrutiny and support the weight of your message.

Emotion: The Human Connection

Emotion, or pathos, is what connects us on a human level. It includes positive emotions like joy and happiness, as well as negative ones like anger, and even inspirational and mystical emotions. Emotions can be powerful drivers of action and are essential in crafting a message that resonates.

Navigating the Seas of Persuasion

Carlos likened the balance of character, argument, and emotion to a ship with three masts. Just as a sailor must adjust the sails to navigate the waters, we must balance these elements to steer our message effectively. Awareness and understanding of these elements are crucial in the practical application of persuasion.

The Dark Side of Persuasion: A Cautionary Tale

Our conversation took a sobering turn as we explored the dark side of persuasion. Carlos introduced the concept of persuasive communication as a potential poison. He referenced Victor Klemperer’s “The Language of the Third Reich,” which dissects the language used by the Nazis. This analysis reveals markers of poisonous language that, alarmingly, can be seen in today’s social discourse. It’s a stark reminder of the ethical implications of persuasive communication and the responsibility that comes with it.

Persuasion vs. Coercion: The Ethical Divide

Delving deeper, Carlos highlighted the distinction between persuasion and coercion. Understanding foundational truths and the appropriate formulation and delivery of a message is key to persuasion. In contrast, coercion involves force and manipulation, which can lead to pitfalls and misunderstandings, especially in leadership roles. This part of our discussion underscored the importance of clear and ethical communication.

Wrapping Up with Gratitude and Reflection

I’d like to express my gratitude to Carlos for his invaluable insights. His expertise on the nuances of effective persuasion is a treasure trove for anyone looking to enhance their communication skills, whether in a corporate setting or within societal interactions.

Final Thoughts

The art of persuasion is a powerful tool, and with great power comes great responsibility. My conversation with Carlos A. Alvarenga has shed light on the intricate dance of character, argument, and emotion that forms the essence of persuasive communication. It’s a reminder that how we use our words can have a profound impact on the world around us. I hope this episode serves as a valuable resource for all who seek to master the art of persuasion.

Guest profile

Carlos A. Alvarenga is an independent researcher, writer, and executive advisor. He is also a PhD student at the University of Maryland, where his research focuses on the language of trauma and totalitarian regimes. Before writing full-time, he worked as a management consultant and adjunct professor at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. Prior to his current role, he was the Executive Director of World 50 Labs, the member-innovation team at World 50, Inc. Before World 50, he was a Principal in Ernst & Young’s Advisory Practice and, earlier, a Managing Director at Accenture.

LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carlos-alvarenga/

Other useful links:

Carlos’ Website: https://www.carlosalvarenga.com

Carlos’ Book: https://bit.ly/rulesofpersuasion1

Episode links

Link to a relevant episode of the podcast: https://thebigpicturepeople.co.uk/blog/podcast/the-iconist-the-art-and-science-of-standing-out/

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