Pathos is one of the three modes of persuasion in rhetoric, alongside ethos and logos. It refers to the use of emotional appeal in order to persuade or convince an audience. When a speaker or writer uses pathos, they are trying to evoke an emotional response from the audience that will help support their argument or point of view.
It leverages on emotions to persuade your audience or listeners and has proven to be highly effective.
Pathos is one of Aristotle’s three modes of persuasion, alongside logos and ethos. The term pathos is from a Greek word that means ‘suffering’ or ‘experience’. By definition, it is a rhetorical device that leverages emotional connection to influence and persuade.
As logos appeals to our logic and reasoning, Pathos appeals to our emotions, which play a big role when making decisions.
While pathos and logos share a bit of similarity, the difference is that logos requires you to rely on acts and logic, but with pathos, you only need to aim for one thing: the heart.
You need to speak to the heart of your readers and stir their feelings. Consider the wise words of Maya Angelou: ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel’.
Here are some of the advantages of employing pathos in your writing:
One of the key strengths of pathos is that it fosters a deep sense of empathy in your readers. When you present a situation to your readers in a way that awakens a deep sense of emotional response, you will have them eating out of the palms of your hands.
Your audience will connect with the message on a personal level, and your writing becomes relatable. This emotional chain can lead them to gain a deeper connection, prompting them to accept your perspective and views on a subject matter.
Emotions can make people do things that they naturally wouldn’t do. So, if you want your readers entrapped in your views, you need to whip out your magic wand and cast your pathos spell.
‘Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions’. ― Elizabeth Gilbert
- Creating a Memorable Experience
Pathos is so powerful that your message becomes hardly forgettable when effectively implemented. As humans, our default setting is to remember emotional experiences.
The deeper the emotions, the more vividly we remember them; whether it’s joy, sadness, anger, or fear, emotions create a long-lasting impression in our memory. Therefore, when writing, use pathos to draw out the right emotions in your readers so they remember how you made them feel.
‘They may forget what you said – but they will never forget how you made them feel’. – Carl W. Buehner
- Motivating Action
Beyond merely understanding, pathos can also prompt your readers to take action. Actions differ; it could be to buy or reflect; whichever you are gunning for, pathos will deliver on a platter of gold.
Why do you think charities appeal to people’s emotions? They do that to encourage donations, which is an action. Even in politics, political leaders leverage pathos to mobilise voters to their cause.
When your readers are emotionally invested in your idea, they are more likely to take steps to support that cause or idea.
‘Change happens in the boiler room of our emotions – so find out how to light their fires’. – Jeff Dewar
In summary, pathos is simply a persuasive force that taps into the rich tapestry of human emotions. It doesn’t matter what sphere of writing you operate in; its presence can make the most powerful impact on your communication.
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