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Rhetoric is the art of using language effectively to inform and persuade. It can be spoken or written. It includes ethos, logos, pathos meaning establishing credibility, using the intellectual power of speaking or writing, and pathos the emotional power of one’s speaking or writing. I realize its power in being a statesman and leader, but I also feel that it is something people should use everyday in everyday life.
The art of rhetoric is a lost art being restored from the classical educational movement. I’m finding it a fascinating skill/topic and recently while studying more about it I’ve had many epiphanies. It’s all about empathy and clarity.
Recently, I had an experience (separate but related) with a couple of people who were judgmental of my actions and thoughts and then followed it up with a series of reasons they believed what they did. These reasons included and was limited to their judgements and opinions but was without compassion or reason and therefore did nothing to convince or persuade me to agree with them. There arguments were lost because they were coming from their small place throwing darts but without seeing a bigger picture.
Define your terms
Recently, I took my youth and my husband and I to a Raising your Voice coaching seminar and I really enjoyed learning what we did. It was well taught and outlined some specific things to do when speaking and debating.
One of the suggestions we learned in the debate exercise is to “define your terms”. We need to define exactly what we are discussing or debating. What one person sees, believes, or feels about any given topic is varied from what another person’s views are. Defining your terms, i.e. the definition of pro-life or marriage, will help in communicating your beliefs clearly. When there is clarity, there is the opportunity for God to work through us.
Think before you speak
I find that asking myself a series of questions or taking time to think before speaking makes my communication more clear, concise, and informative.
Is it my opinion or truth?
If its my opinion am I clear in communicating that?
Am I pushing information/opinion or am I simply sharing with the open feeling of allowing them to receive and ponder and process?
Do I use supporting arguments, statistics, resources, inspiration when I’m persuading?
How can what I’m about to say help or will it hinder? If it will help am I communicating it in a way that the other person feels threatened and wants to close up or are they accepting it because they feel the love for mankind in my communication?
Am I fair in my communication?
Am I giving them a fair amount of time to speak or get their opinion or thoughts in?
Is this opinion helpful or just me wanting to say what I think without really thinking how it will be perceived.
Effective communication is empathy based. Its about speaking to the heart, mind, and spirit. Its about getting a feel about the audience and how to share with them so they can be receptive to the message.
What are you really communicating?
I’ve always had an interest in body language. As I’ve studied what we are communicating with our body I realized that learning some basics is very important if you want to be an effective communicator. Is my body language showing that I’m open? Are my arms open instead of folded or protecting my stomach, heart, or throat? Am I using hand movements that are flowing and inviting and not choppy or pushing away?
Do I see both sides?
Aristotle said “Rhetoric leads to fair-mindedness, in order that we may see clearly what the facts are.”
Empathy allows us to be open to the fact that others have other opinions. When you can discover where they are coming from then your formatting and communicating your arguments will be more effective. If we shut down the “opposing view” to what we see we cannot chose words or feelings appropriately and we cannot be fair in our communication.
Of course, much of this doesn’t come naturally to us, especially if we were raised in an environment where communication was ineffective, forced, shut down, or your opinion didn’t matter.
Keep in mind, these are my thoughts as I study the art of rhetoric and teach it to my youth. I’m finding it such a blessing in communicating with my family and those God has called me to teach. Hopefully, it will probe your paradigm a little and help you in your communication for God, especially in daily life.