Aristotle Communication for IT

Marble bust of Aristotle Aristotle defines pathos (empathy), ethos (credibility),  and logos (logic) as key parts of good persuasive communication. 2300 years later these are still key to communication, especially in IT.

In stereotypical IT communication, you’ll find a strong reliance on the last point–  logos –when your audience may actually be more persuaded by the the first– pathos. So what do you need to do to be convincing in your emails, presentations, and meetings?

Here are 5 things that will help you improve your persuasiveness as a IT professional in the business world.

  1. Start with the Why.
  2. See it from their point of view.
  3. It’s not about who you are, but what you’ve done.
  4. Back up your logic.
  5. Have a solution.


1) Start with the Why

If you identify the reason, the real reason, behind your message, you invite people to come over to your point of view. You give them a reason to care about it too. Are you trying to get someone in marketing to see your point about too many pop-ups on your site? Start with the why.

2) See it from their point of view

“Starting with the why” also invites them to talk about their own “Why.” You’ll be surprised, maybe there is more to it then you thought at first. Whether you find out the reason or not, put yourself in their shoes and try your best to understand where they are coming from. People appreciate it.

3) It’s not about who you are, but what you’ve done

Don’t forget that third part of effective communication, ethos, or credibility. The more individual credibility you have with your audience, the more you can communicate with authority. Credibility is built up from experience and a history of good work. It helps to be able to reference the past experiences you are drawing from to make your conclusions, but really here is where actions speak louder than words.

4) Back up your logic

Prove it. Bring the numbers and charts and everything that comes naturally with your analytical brain. In doing this, don’t be afraid of stats that don’t help prove your point. If you skirt around them, you’ll ruin your credibility. As you dig into the facts you can’t be afraid to let them change your mind as well.

5) Have a solution

It’s not enough to point out that someone is wrong. To truly convince someone you need to have a solution for them as well. If you have taken the time to do the first four things here: establish a why, see from their point of view, build up your credibility, and back up your reasons, you should be able to provide a compelling and acceptable solution to what needs to be done.

Caveat emptor

(Here’s some latin for you now. It means “Buyer Beware”)

You’re not going to win every debate. It’s ok to debate vigorously and then let yourself be persuaded by the other side. Hopefully they  presented just as compelling arguments as you did, and the result is something that you can get behind and give your support. Doing so graciously, rather than making your position weaker, actually gives you more credibility in the future.

Want to know more about the “Why”? Check out this TEDx talk by Simon Sinek How great leaders inspire action


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