What is rhetoric?

Rhetoric can be defined as the ‘Art of Persuasion’. It is often seen as the opposite to its counterpart, the dialectic. It is about the persuader, through credibility, emotional appeal and reasoned argument, guiding another or others to a point of view or behavior that both sides will benefit from. It is interactive, and attempts to satisfy the needs of both parties, although not necessarily in equal proportion. Persuasion can also be described as the art of guiding another towards the adoption of ideas, attitudes, or actions – to win over rather than defeat the other in argument or through argumentation.

Aristotle emphasized that rhetoric depends on the successful use of a combination of the use of three proofs: ethos (credibility), pathos (emotions), and logos (message supported by argumentation). It is not necessary that each proof carries equal weight, but it is necessary that each proof exists. Therefore, our model of persuasive communication or rhetoric is centered round the classical triad:


  1. Communicating the right level of credibility to our audiences (Ethos).
  2. Creating the right emotional framework through identity and common ground by way of metaphors and storytelling (Pathos).
  3. Inventing the right argumentation to support our message (Logos).


Brian Vickers, the author of ‘In Defense of Rhetoric’, rephrased Aristotle’s three modes of persuasion: “The first depends on the personal character of the speaker (ethos), the second on putting the audience into a fit state of mind (pathos); the third on the proof, or the apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself (logos)”.