Aristotle’s Kind of Rhetoric

The art of observing in any given situation the available means of persuasion

–Aristotle, Rhetoric

Rhetoric is not: buffoonery, hoodwinking, overtalking, or even speaking at all. Because rhetoric is not something one does to someone else.

Rhetoric is the effect it has on someone else.

Some people never get it because they think that’s crazy: but how can you tell if your message will land? Well, it’s not crazy. It just requires the three canons that precede canon 4, delivery:

  • Discovery – write down everything you know, research to fill the gaps, including everything you know about the audience
  • Arrangement – based on who that audience is, at that time, in that moment (including responding to live feedback clues), storyboard your communication on this arc: what are they here for, what of that can I provide them, what’s the minimum I must do to reach that goal?
  • Style – make it easier to digest what you’re saying, including thinking through their frame of mind. Don’t demand audiences come to you. Go to the audience, join them in their state (would you deliver a Harvard lecture to 7 year olds? no), and point to what you see in delightful and engaging ways.
  • Delivery – now you deserve to open your mouth, and you’ll probably say far less and achieve far more

I’d love to know what you’d love to know about applying rhetoric to your life.


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