The third and final persuasive lever we'll look at is argument.

  • We don't mean "having an argument" as in a fight.
  • We mean constructing an argument—making a claim based on evidence and reasoning.

If character is about trust in the speaker, and emotion is about movement in the audience, then argument is about certainty with regard to the issue.

Argument is arguably the weakest of the three levers because many audiences cannot be persuaded unless they trust the speaker and feel a compelling emotion, but they don't need detailed reasoning about evidence. Instead, they will trust the speaker to have done that.

However, it is a very important lever if the speaker actually wants to make good decisions.

Reasoning, logic, and evidence are the tools we use to build an accurate model of the world.

A speaker can definitely persuade an audience without ever using sound reasoning, but doing so increases the odds that what they want the audience to do is bad.

Ideally, a speaker has an argument to justify their position even if they choose not to use it as part of their persuasive approach.

You have to know the persuasive situation!

  • Some audiences demand detailed and defensible reasoning.
  • And sometimes reasoning can be so powerful that it persuades audiences just as effectively as character and emotion.
  • It all depends on the context!

You might know from other lessons that reasoning and argument can be complex and multi-layered.

In this lesson, we'll highlight three of the most powerful ways in which argumentation can be persuasive:

  • The core argument
  • A mountain of evidence
  • Walking through the reasoning.