How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator
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by Joe Carter, John Coleman
Description: Leaders in business, ministry, education, and other fields can improve their ability to communicate effectively by studying the words and methods of history's greatest communicator, Jesus of Nazareth.
eBook Publisher: Crossway Books, 2008
eBookwise Release Date: June 2009
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [288 KB]
Reading time: 146-205 min.
QUESTIONS: ASKING FOR ANSWERS TO OPEN
Finally, one of the most effective ways to generate pathos and grab an audience's attention is to ask questions. By asking your listeners something rather than preaching to them or giving them answers, you let them come to their own conclusions, which often forces them to be more emotionally and intellectually attached to those conclusions.
In the chapter on logos, we talk about how a particular logical tool called the enthymeme allows an audience to complete a logical chain, making the audience more intellectually involved in the logic itself. Asking questions generates the same rhetorical effect. This is, at least partially, what the Greeks referred to as epiplexis (asking questions in order to chide, to express grief, or to inveigh), though it also extends to questions that cause an audience to draw positive or joyful conclusions.
On a number of occasions Jesus used the power of a question to impact his listeners' emotions.
In one famous example, the disciples are discussing what people think of Jesus, and he forces them to personalize the issue with a question. Matthew 16:13-records:
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
By asking a question, Jesus turns an intellectual discussion (what others have to say about Jesus) into a personal, emotional decision (what do I think?). In Luke 7:24-, Jesus forces people to confront their fascination with John the Baptist and the reason for that fascination by asking emotional questions. Luke writes:
When John's messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings' courts. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet."
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus uses questions to force people to personalize answers, to come to obvious conclusions, and to take emotional and intellectual ownership of those conclusions.
Where can you incorporate this into your communications? At McKinsey & Company, consultants often use questions in their presentations (usually in the form of callouts--short sentences in highlighted boxes that refer to a series of graphs, data, or conclusions) to force teams to think hard about presented information and draw their own conclusions; and doing so can be far more intellectually and emotionally powerful than presenting the supposed answers outright. In speech, good orators will often pose compelling questions at the beginning of their presentations to get the audience thinking about a subject, switching them from content absorption mode to content consideration mode. These orators make listeners participants in the speech, not observers. Similarly, good parents often phrase their parental instructions in the form of questions: "If everyone else was jumping off a bridge, would you?"
Questions, well placed and used sparingly, can be powerful, emotional punctuations to a piece of communication that force your audiences to turn on their brains and really take ownership of the content at hand.
Pathos : Emotional appeal.
Narrative: A narrated account; a story.
Imagery: The formation of mental images, figures, or likenesses of things or of such images collectively.
Shared values: Values that many people hold in common.
Shared artifacts: Past events, stories, or pieces of communication (e.g., the Bible, the works of Shakespeare, the life of Jesus Christ) with which the majority of an audience is familiar.
Energia: A genuine and appropriate show of emotion.
Figures of repetition: Uses of the repetition of words, phrases, or structures to generate pathos.
Figures of parallelism: Using the same pattern of words to show that two or more ideas have the same level of importance.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER CONSIDERATION
1. Why is it important that Jesus used pathos in his communication? What does Jesus' use of pathos say about the importance of human emotion?
2. How could the church benefit from a deeper recognition of the importance of pathos in human communication?
3. In what ways are Christians properly applying pathos to public life?In what ways are Christians poorly applying those principles?
4. Where do you most often encounter pathos?
5. Identify a recent piece of your own communication--a memo, sermon, PowerPoint, essay, or thank-you card. Reread it. Can you spot additional places in which you might have employed pathos?
6.Think of your favorite movie scene. What elements of that scene caused it to be so powerful?