How to argue and win all the time (ok, most of the time)!

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Malcolm and Muhammad

Rhetoric is a crucial skill for law students. The reasons are mostly self-evident: rhetoric involves both persuasion and advocacy, both of which are components in successful communication. When we engage in rhetoric, we advocate for an idea and seek to provoke the idea’s adoption by the listener: vote for X, enrol in Y fitness club, or, frequently these days, purchase product Z. Whatever the aim, the speaker deploys a series of ‘rhetorical skills’ to persuade the listener to endorse the speaker’s position. How can law students acquire and develop these skills?
Three elements are crucial: logos (logic or reason), pathos (emotion or passion), and ethos (character or credibility). The three elements are complementary, even cumulative, and the best speakers will strike a balance between all of them, favouring one according to the mood of the audience. At times it is necessary to inflame the passion of the audience (at a pep rally), at others it is imperative to present a measured and reasonable argument (in a courtroom), and in some instances credibility is sufficient to win the day (when visiting a doctor). Different moods mean that successful communication will look differently depending upon the circumstances before us.
In the following two podcasts, I provide an overview of the art of rhetoric. In the first one, I cover the basic elements, going deeper into the relationship between each element and the development of a successful (i.e. persuasive) argument. In the second, I provide a series of advanced tips (15!), each of which will help you enhance your skills as an orator. While I spend much time highlighting the link between the elements / tips with the practice of legal argumentation, the skills are surely transferable and will be of interests to anyone else eager to improve their communication skills.

Part I: The Art of Rhetoric

Part II: Becoming a Master Orator


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