Geek or Greek?

Geek or Greek

The ancient Greeks taught that there are three basic types of appeals one uses to influence an audience: ethos, pathos and logos.

Ethos is the call for a sense of ethics, a request for a person to engage a sense of right and wrong. Ethos involves the speaker’s basic credibility, integrity and competency, along with the amount of trust others place in the speaker’s ethics.

Pathos considers the emotional aspect of a debate. The speaker seeks his listener’s empathy and communicates understanding of what his listener feels and needs. The speaker is concerned with how the listener views the situation, as well as what the listener might request as a solution or remedy.

Logos is the logical and thinking part of an appeal. The speaker uses reason to persuade the listener to the speaker’s point of view.

In gathering the information to speak about the ethical, emotional and logical components of an idea, a speaker must do his or her homework.

An effective speaker requires the listener’s trust. To gain that trust, the speaker interviews audience members before speaking to ascertain the listener’s feelings, needs and requests important to the matter being discussed. The speaker also shows how a certain point of view or course of action runs to its logical conclusion.

The Greeks used their knowledge of ethos, pathos and logos not to dominate others but to gain consensus and develop common ground. The goal of oratory, in the Greeks’ minds, was a vibrant community.

After thousands of years this basic model of the Greeks endures and produces success, if we take the time to create each component of understanding.

To be a help to others, we first must model trustworthiness.

Next, we seek to see the world from another’s point of view, considering feelings, needs and requests to better the life of the community, organization or individual.

The third step requires us to follow these requests to their logical and natural conclusions in order to understand the impact of the change requested.

Through undertaking this process of ethos, pathos and logos, we earn the right to speak in an effort to gain consensus. When we try to shortcut the process, by omitting one type of appeal or by not doing the prerequisite work, we can find our efforts to create change met with resistance.

Our children require the same application of ethos, pathos and logos that the rest of the world requires.

If we forbid our children to eat sweets but hide a box of chocolates in our underwear drawer, what have we done to the ethos in our relationship?

If we don’t seek to truly understand our children’s feelings, needs and requests, where is our pathos?

If we demand our children to do something because ”I said so,” sidestepping the explanation of logical or natural consequences, how do we help the intellectual pursuit of logos?

Without ethos, pathos and logos used in concert, our efforts to guide and lead, even a three-year-old, become ineffectual. Our adult/child relationship becomes fraught with rebelliousness, disrespect and distrust.

The Greeks showed us how to build agreement by considering the ethical, emotional and rational components of human beings.

Ethos, pathos and logos. We can lead or falter. Greek or Geek. Our choice.

Building Cathedrals Not Walls

4 Responses to “Geek or Greek?”

  1. Liz A

    I always find your writings so thoughtful, inspirational and practical, Maren. This one is no different. Thank you for helping me to be a better parent and person!

  2. Alice Harper

    I love how you get across deep ideas so succinctly.

    • Alice,

      Aloha! Glad you enjoyed that piece.

      Hope all is well with you and your family.

      Happy Mother’s Day from Hawaii to New Zealand!


Leave a Reply