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Welcome back to “Experts Speak English,” the podcast that helps non-native speakers of English crack the code of career success through effective corporate or business communication. In today’s episode, we’re diving into the first part of our three-part mini-series on ethos, pathos, and logos, specifically in corporate communication.
Ethos, pathos and logos might all sound Greek to you, with good reason, you see these three terms that are thrown around a lot in the world of communication and rhetoric, come from Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher and scholar, who was passionate about ethos in his work on rhetoric. According to Aristotle, ethos refers to the persuasive appeal based both on the person speaking and their credibility. He believed that establishing ethos was crucial for effective communication and winning over an audience. And who doesn’t love to make a great impression and get people to love your ideas, right?
Aristotle outlined three key components of ethos:
Virtue and Good Character: Aristotle claimed that to demonstrate that all important moral virtue and integrity necessary to establish ethos, we should exhibit qualities such as honesty, trustworthiness, and credibility. By presenting ourselves as decent, strong individuals, that as speakers we would be able to build trust and hence become more persuasive
Practical Wisdom and Expertise: Aristotle highlighted the importance of practical wisdom and expertise in establishing ethos. Rather than hiding under a rock, hoping to be discovered, we should showcase our knowledge, experience, and competence in the subject matter. By demonstrating our expertise, in a humble collaborative way we can establish themselves as both reliable and knowledgeable sources of information.
Goodwill and Concern for the Audience: Aristotle also stressed the significance of goodwill and showing concern for the audience’s interests and needs. Speakers should genuinely care about the well-being of their listeners and aim to provide value. By addressing the concerns and desires of the audience, speakers can connect with them emotionally and build a sense of trust. That’s why speakers in the afternoon will express their gratitude given their hunger or tiredness, being relatable pulls people in to your message.
Aristotle believed that ethos worked hand in hand with the other persuasive appeals of pathos (emotional appeal) and logos (logical appeal). He considered ethos as the foundation for effective communication, as an audience would be more likely to listen to and be persuaded by a speaker who possesses good character, expertise, and genuine concern for their well-being.
Considered together, these appeals logos, ethos, and pathos form what experts of communication refer to as the rhetorical triangle.
Today, we’re focusing on ethos, which plays a crucial role in establishing credibility and trust in business communication.
Whether you’re a non-native English speaker working in an international company or a secretly ambitious and hard working professional looking to have more impact, focusing on your ‘ethos’ will make it easier and to influence people and achieve your career goals faster.
By understanding and harnessing ethos, you are taking one step further towards personal recognition and hence securing career success.
No matter who you speak to at work, your professionalism will get a huge boost by being more intentional about your corporate communication techniques and strategies. This will make it easier and more inspiring to listen to you. Many of you will have heard about ethos in business communication but it’s a difficult one to pin down.
To be honest I had heard about it a lot too before I started crafting the art of public speaking but I had to acknowledge that my knowledge about it was not solid at all, I couldn’t have explained it to you. The good news is that by the end of this podcast episode you will know exactly what ethos is and how to work on it, starting with Coco’s Communication Challenge.
Ethos is not more important than pathos and logos, it is equally as important to pathos and logos as mainstay of that rhetorical triangle – it is just a logical place to start.
So make sure that you have subscribed to this show so that you don’t miss those.
Ethos, or establishing credibility so everything you do and say is establishing or diminishing your ethos.
Every time you mess up, you take a step back in the race for reputation and everything you do to secure people’s faith in your abilities takes you higher in their opinions of you.
That’s why there is no silver bullet for ethos. It is something that has to be gradually built up over time, with each conversation carving your way to credibility.
As a non-native speaker you might feel that you will never be able to have the same credibility as native speakers but that simply isn’t true – unless of course you allow your thoughts to make it become true. Credibility is not just about the way that you speak (although I will come back to that shortly) it is also the way that you act, dress and show up for your team, clients and suppliers – in fact any of your stakeholders. Credibility is more than the words that you speak. Someone who has a strong accent but bends over backwards for their team, who is incredibly knowledgeable and supportive, is reliable, and approachable can still have credibility because all of those other personal traits make them easy to work with, so it is a fallacy that non native speakers can never be as credible as their colleagues. It’s a mindset matter and if you are good at what you do, then the chances are that you are playing small or hiding, rather than trying hard to position yourself as the expert. So if you have a strong accent, or struggle to find the words fast enough then that is just one part of the puzzle, lets focus on the other parts of the ethos puzzle shall we?
Now, let’s get started by defining ethos in the context of corporate communication. Ethos refers to the speaker’s credibility and authority. So how do you gain that? It’s about how people see you, your reputation. So let’s try a little experiment, I want you to imagine the person who you speak to the most often at work.
* How knowledgeable are they?
* Are they able to explain things well?
* Do they make an effort in terms of appearance?
Think about their credibility for a moment. Think about things like their professionalism, expertise, and trustworthiness.
What about the words or business terms that they use, how they act under pressure. All of these questions help you to establish an opinion of them. That’s ethos.
In a global business environment, where effective communication is key, non-native speakers of English may face unique challenges in establishing ethos. It is tempting, as you search frantically for the right word, to feel pressured into taking the first (or only) word that you can think of or say um and ah a lot as you search for just the right phrase. This draws attention to yourself.
Let me share a super simple trick with you for this situation, all you have to do is look thoughtful and say nothing. Sounds too simple right? But if you think about it, that is what charismatic people do, they honour great questions with thoughtful consideration, so that they can do the answer justice.
Taking your time, demonstrates that you take them seriously. Professionals in law for example prefer to take the time to articulate themselves with precision – yet we do not think that they are stupid or not knowledgeable, we just accept that as a respectful pause to provide a complete, accurate and exact response.
So how can you inadvertently strip yourself of ethos as a non- native speaker then?
Well your credibility suffers if you make the impression that you are unsure of something and that tends to happen when your intonation is off.
Intonation is about where you put the emphasis in the sentence. You see when your intonation goes up at the end of the sentence, that transforms your statement or fact into a consideration or an option.
So instead of sounding knowledgeable and certain, you sound as if you are still working it out and open to ideas or uncertain.
If you have ever found yourself saying something like “No, that’s a fact, that is the case” then you need to shift that intonation away from the end of the sentence.
It’s difficult to look confident if you are struggling to make yourself understood. As a non-native speaker of English the bottom line is that you will need to practice more than your native speaking counterparts.
That’s unfair, you shouldn’t have to do that. You know yourself though, that it is much easier to listen to someone that speaks smoothly and fluently because we are by nature lazy, we need to be sometimes to get through the day.
With concentrations spans shrinking rapidly, an accent that requires more brain power to decipher will put you at a disadvantage.
I’m a big fan of turning a negative into a plus so let’s use it to your advantage to craft communication that is clear and intentional, so that your message gets the attention it deserves. You’ll grab and keep the attention of the decision makers and that is what will move the needle on the profitability of your organisation.
To build credibility in corporate communication, you’ll need to pay attention to several factors.
First and foremost, make sure that you know the right terms to make yourself sound knowledgeable and competent. If you are talking for instance about how to improve your script but you use the word ‘text’, the person listening will understand you (if they make the effort) but it is just not as accurate or precise.
2. ACTIVE LISTENING
Non-native speakers should listen to lots of podcasts about their zone of genius because if you want to sound like the expert, you need to listen to the experts. If you want to look like the guru, you need to watch the gurus, whether that’s on You Tube, the news or in online courses.
By learning about your specialism in the language that you will be using, it will be easier – so you’ll be putting yourself under less pressure to find the words, after all that is the way that you consumed the knowledge, so there is no need to waste energy translating or finding the words.
Think not only about the words but the way that they are said or pronounced and of course the way that they are used.
Resist the temptation to translate idioms, instead, plan ahead and use online tools to help you.
If like me you are impatient or ambitious (or both) then work with a coach that will help you prepare for important work performances. Why leave it to chance when you can have a bigger impact and reach your goals faster?
Given that we are working internationally, understanding cultural nuances is absolutely essential.
Most people, even intelligent and experienced managers seem only to consider cultural differences, if they get a new client or supplier from another culture but what about people on your team. It’s those that you will be speaking to most, so your powers of persuasion with your team for instance can make the difference between delivering on time or late. Your ability to resolve a conflict and get back to productivity will make you and your team much more effective. Having some cultural insights will help you shape and pace your approach.
Different cultures perceive ethos differently, and it’s important to adapt your communication style accordingly.
You need to start taking a bird’s eye view (not Vogels Perspektive or Birds Perspective) – you see, idioms can be similar but if you guess, you risk sounding like a fool.
Learn to take everything in. Start really paying attention to non-verbal cues, such as body language, respecting personal space and maintaining eye contact.
For example in Finnish organisations you will find that eye contact is more fleeting and brief, that’s nothing personal, they just don’t want you to feel that they are staring at you.
It’s a cultural difference, not something to be taken personally but if you only work with one stakeholder that is Finnish – it would be easy to think that you had done or said something to offend them, wouldn’t it?
When I lived in Finland paranoia started to set in and negative mind monkeys were having a party, until one time when I was in an elevator, I noticed that actually nobody looked at each other, even though they had just been fairly friendly in the lobby of the hotel. You see, observation is your friend.
Let’s move on to some practical tips for non-native speakers to effectively convey ethos in their communication.
One important aspect is to use clear and concise language. If a seven year old would understand it, perfect.
My German is fairly good but there are days where it is all over the place, I cannot find the right words, the order to the words is horrible and quite frankly I just want the earth to swallow me up.
So avoid using complex jargon if you are having a day like that and stick to simple grammar, nothing fancy. It is important though to make sure that if you are talking about the future stages in a project that you use signal words like will or going to, count your way through to scaffold the message.
In terms of grammar, it is sloppy and can cause misunderstandings if you use the present tense and just add a day or date. That is lazy and can be confusing – people might assume that it has already been done.
Instead, aim for simplicity and clarity to ensure your message is easily understood. It’s a great idea to map out your ideas, illustrate the order, visualize the process.
Most importantly though, anticipate the questions or topics of conversation. Plan out the conversations around the problems you are trying to solve or fix and make sure that you can express yourself well.
1. Write it out
2. Practice it, out loud.
Repetition is the key.
My good friend, who is also an actor and coach – Carlo Loiudice told me that an actor will repeat again and again but actually it isn’t pure repetition because the trick is to imagine
a different audience,
in a different place,
with different facial expressions and postures, different clothing,
different venue, rooms and seats.
This spin on the same audience, in your mind, keeps things fresh and exposes you to gaps in your speech or message.
Imagine talking to the trainees or placement students, the ones just months away from retirement or the single Mum, exhausted, disappointed and broke.
Another useful strategy is to showcase your expertise through relevant examples, case studies, or success stories. This helps to build trust and demonstrates your credibility in your field of expertise.
Remember to quote credible sources and evidence to support your arguments to make a more professional impression. Transparency will demonstrate clearly that you are:
up to date,
well informed and
why hide that?
There’s nothing more phoney than someone saying I read somewhere that … That stinks of bullshit and that is not what we are about, so find out where you heard it and do the right thing, quote them with pride.
When it comes to ethos, pathos, and logos in corporate communication, there are several common mistakes that people make.
In terms of Ethos:
One of the biggest mistakes is failing to establish credibility.
This can happen in a time sensitive culture like Germany for instance, it is an uphill struggle to achieve credibility if you show up late, no matter what your excuse the question your business partners will have on their minds is, will they deliver on time?
HOPE OR KNOW?
When you first start working with someone it may be difficult to evaluate whether they genuinely have the necessary expertise, experience, or professionalism to be trustworthy, so ask them some tough questions or better still put them in the driving seat, to see if they know what to do. Actions speak louder than words. Get them to show you or describe to you step by step what they would do.
Without a solid foundation of credibility, your messages, particularly for women unfortunately, whose voices are often higher pitched and quieter may be dismissed.
Add to that defensive body language and your idea will fall on deaf ears or will be met with skepticism.
The same suggestion from someone with a loud, determined voice taking up their space in the room will almost certainly get more attention and support.
So please, ladies, think about your voice and your body language each and every time you have something of value to add.
You don’t have to strut around the board room like John Wayne but you should be mindful of not inadvertently minimizing your message or playing it down. Own it.
Depending on where you are in the world, you will need to think carefully about how you promote yourself.
Sure we all want our knowledge and experience to be seen and recognized but in reality, if we do not talk about our achievements, they are likely to remain a secret or worse still claimed by someone else.
Now there is a big difference between arrogant, self centred bragging and sharing your knowledge. If you throw in some humour and a story or anecdote, you can become a charming, confident colleague that is a pleasure to listen to. Nobody wants to be sold to but we do want to learn.
Remember that the key here is to address the needs and interests of your audience – whether that is at the production line, in the swanky new offices of your clients or in front of a microphone – relevance demonstrates respect.
The fastest way to exterminate your ethos is by exaggerating or exclaiming loudly about their achievements or credentials in a way that has absolutely nothing to do with the current situation, project or discussion. This comes across as arrogant and self-centered.
Your ethos is dead! All credibility is lost. Back to base.
As we wrap up today’s episode on how to use ethos in corporate communication, let’s summarize some of the key takeaways.
Firstly, building credibility is crucial for effective communication in the business world.
Secondly, non-native speakers can enhance their ethos by improving their fluency and adapting to cultural norms.
Finally, using clear language, providing examples, and incorporating evidence and sources can strengthen your credibility in any professional setting.
Remember, to convince an audience there are many rhetorical strategies at your disposal, but ultimately it is all about how you make the audience feel!
So make the audience love you by using a clear, solid definition and examples – this appeals to the audience’s challenge.
Fix their problem.
Persuade people with perfectly logical arguments to take the next step.
Coco’s Communication Challenge is to focus on ethos, it is just one mode of persuasion but this week.
I want you to make a list of all of the things that you can do and say to secure credibility, everything counts.
You’ll see mine below
Well clearly this is just a brief overview of ethos, clients in my masterminds get a deeper dive on this but that’s all for today’s episode of “Experts Speak English.”
I hope you found this discussion on ethos in corporate communication valuable.
Be sure to tune in to the next episode on the 1st of May, where we’ll explore the role of pathos in business communication.
Why not share this with someone who is brilliant but isn’t securing the credibility that they deserve.
So I’m curious, how do you feel about the new fortnightly schedule. Mondays aren’t working out so well with my schedule so I’ll be moving back to Thursdays.
I would genuinely love to hear from you. Is there anything that I have neglected to mention, any tips that you would like to add? If so I would love to hear from you, I’ll add it to the show notes with your name and a photo if you supply one and of course if you put it into a short video, all the better.
Feel free to reach out to me
Remember, effective communication is a key driver of success in the corporate world, so be the best communicator that you can be, by practicing and optimizing your impact with me, your podcast host and corporate communication coach, Corinne Wilhelm
Take care now and have a fabulous week