Persuasive Appeals for Artsakh’s Recognition of Independence

Posted on February. 25. 2021

“If you would persuade,
you must appeal to interest
rather than intellect.”
– Benjamin Franklin

Z. S. Andrew Demirdjian

The modern day research-based persuasive communication strategies in psychology are largely predicated on Aristotle’s three popular concepts of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. About 2,300 years ago, Aristotle stated his thoughts on the art of persuasion into his work “Rhetoric“. To persuade a person to do something for us, we can use any one of the three appeal strategies or a combination thereof.

Many communication experts of today consider Aristotle’s three pillars of persuasion to be the most seminal work to have influenced the scientific communications field. Aristotle’s outstanding work is as relevant today as it was in ancient Greece.

  The need to get sovereign countries recognize the independence of the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh Republic) cannot be overemphasized since Azerbaijani/Turkish genocidal duo are intent on swallowing up the rest of Artsakh “step by step”. President Ilham Aliyev is a dreadful dictator, but he is a hard worker –we have to give the devil his due.

One of the most important defense strategies will be to work on getting countries in the West to accept Artsakh as a free, independent, and sovereign state for its ultimate survival in its present hostile environment.

  Let us take an example to gain an appreciation of Aristotle’s art of persuasion. We all want Artsakh to be recognized for its independence. Recognition is in the hands of other states (countries), which are members of the United Nations. What would be the most effective way to appeal for assistance, for help in recognizing Artsakh’s independence?

    Let us count the ways in this article. Ethos, Pathos, and Logos are the three persuasive appeals Aristotle coined them in Greek words. Basically, they are modes of persuasion used to convince audiences of one’s position.

   Ethos (i.e., the appeal to ethics/credibility), refers to the effort to convince your audience or reader of your credibility or character. In other words, before you can convince an audience to do something for you or to accept anything you say, they have to accept you as a creditable, trustworthy source.

       You can build trust in a number of ways. Ethos can be promoted by choosing appropriate language and vocabulary by making yourself look honest, by paying attention to your movements and the way you dress, and especially by documenting on the areas of your knowledge and experience.

  For example, when you write to your representative, asking for his or her help in promoting the acceptance of Artsakh as an independent state, pay attention to your diction (choice of words) for vocabulary will disclose your education level and depth of experience. Make sure the dates you cite are correct and pay attention to how respectfully you address your audience.

        Pathos (i.e., the appeal to emotions), refers to your effort to persuade your audience by appealing to their feelings. Your audience will be rather more receptive to being persuaded by someone with whom they can identify. The Greek word pathos refers both to “suffering” and “experience”. So, pathos can be used to promote either positive or negative feelings. In using pathos, you need to make the audience feel an emotion in order to act.

  Like ethos, pathos can be promoted by a variety of ways. Using simple and meaningful language, emotional tone of voice in oral or written format, pauses and emotional metaphors or stories are considered to be very effective in persuading your audience. Research shows that pathos is most effective when used in the introduction and conclusion of your letter or speech. The idea is to attract the attention in the beginning and to leave them with the conviction at the end and emotion is a useful tool for those purposes.

     For example, in Artsakh’s recognition of independence, you may cite how Azerbaijan launched an unprovoked sneak attack on Artsakh and began shelling and bombing civilian quarters and infrastructure with killer drones, phosphorus gas, loitering munitions, etc. all in contravention of international law. Thousands have become displaced (appeal to pathos).

     Logos (i.e., the appeal to logic/reason), refers to the effort to convince your audience by using logic or reason. To promote logos, effective arguments should make use of testimonials, surveys and other supporting details to back up your claims and positions. In other words, in using logos, document your point through storytelling, logical arguments, facts, recorded evidence, precedence, historical data, and literal analogies.

       When the choice of focus is logos for persuading your audience, you need to ensure that you have found material facts, stories and important information which matter to your audience. Try to avoid information overload taking place by overdoing with your facts and figures.

        Over the years, research in persuasive communications has focused on the differential effectiveness (comparison) of the three appeals. Research shows that of the three appeals, logos is the most effective strategy to use for everything being equal.  As for the ethos and pathos, both are equally effective. We should bear in mind that the speaker, audience, the situation decides as to which appeal to capitalize on for persuading your audience.

     In addition to the three pillars of persuasion, there is the most powerful notion of “appealing to one’s self-interest”. Of course, this one s somewhat falls into the category of logos.  If you need to turn to an ally or someone else for help, avoid reminding him of your past assistance and good deeds. He will find a way to ignore you. Instead, find something in your request or in your alliance with him, that will benefit him, and emphasize it out of all proportion. He will respond enthusiastically when he sees something to be gained for himself.

Here is a classical example of the strategy to appealing to one’s self-interest when you ask someone to do something for you. In 433 B.C., the island of Corfu (formerly known as Corcyra) and the Greek city-state of Corinth stood on the brink of armed conflict. Both parties sent ambassadors to Athens to try to win over the Athenians to their side.

    Corfu’s ambassador spoke the first by admitting that the island had never helped Athens before, and in fact had allied itself with Athens’s enemies. There were no ties of friendship or gratitude between Corfu and Athens. The only thing he could offer was an alliance of mutual interests. Corfu had a navy only surpassed in size and strength by Athens’s own, an alliance between the two states would create a formidable navy force (focus on logic/self-interest).

     The representative from Corinth then gave a brilliant, passionate speech. He talked of everything Corinth had done for Athens in the past. He asked how it would look to Athens’s other allies if the city put an agreement with a former enemy (Corfu) over one with a present friend, one that had served Athens’s interest loyally. He finally went on to list the many services Corinth had performed for Athens, and the importance of showing gratitude to one’s friends (focus on past relations; pathos).

    After the speech, the Athenians debated the issue in an assembly. They voted overwhelmingly to ally with Corfu and drop Corinth. Although history remembers the Athenians nobly, they were the preeminent realists of classical Greece. With them, all the rhetoric, all the emotional appeals (pathos) in the world, could not match a good pragmatic argument (logos), especially one that added to their power.

   When people choose between talk about the past and talk about the future, a pragmatic person will always opt for the future and forget the past. As the Corinthians realized, it is always best to speak pragmatically to a pragmatic person. And in the end, most people are, in fact, pragmatic–they will rarely act against their own self-interest.

In one of my previous articles titled “Insights Into the Recognition of Arsakh’s Independence,” (published in the USA Armenian Life Magazine on February 5-11, 2021), I am stating that the United States has no official policy on what is required for recognition, according to its State Department. Instead, the decisions to recognize a state are made by the president. Then the president decides whether to establish diplomatic relations with the state based on U.S. national interests.

     Therefore, when we approach President Joseph Biden, for example, and ask for recognition, we must not forget to explain how Artsakh’s independence will be good for “America” (e.g., a new market, an ally in the south Caucuses, US will be hailed as a true democracy that upholds self-determination on account of his sound decision to recognize Artsakh, etc.). We have to offer a benefit for the exchange. Eloquence, the art or power of speaking or writing with force and conviction in a way to persuade genuinely, is always appreciated.

     Based on scientific research findings, when asking for help, appeal to people’s self-interest, never to their mercy or gratitude alone. In asking for help  do not dwell on the past such as when you mention Armenia was first to have accepted Christianity as the state religion or the tragedy of the Armenian Genocide, people do not want to be distressed with sad stories, but when you mention the benefits for him for doing something, he or she would perk up his or her ears  and begin earnestly to listen to you.

          Self-interest is a compelling reason for people to respond positively to propositions of mutual interest. So, always think of reciprocity when you want someone to do something for you unless you are dealing with a close family member or a bosom friend.

          For maximum effect, remember the following sequence: In the beginning, after establishing your credibility as a trustworthy character to make your readers/listeners relate to you (ethos), use logos (logic) to argue and build your points, but never to forget the inclusion of the idea of self-interest. Finally, finish up with pathos (the emotional appeal) as readers or listeners will act based on their emotions and act in the way you want them to behave to achieve your goal.

          And I repeat: Please do not forget the age-old wisdom: Self-interest, not self- sacrifice, even not of rousing of sympathy would have the power of persuasion alone to get someone to do an important favor for you by exposing himself to the likelihood of criticisms or retaliation from your opponent or adversary.

          If I were asked by one of our activist Armenian organizations to call or write a letter on behalf of the recognition of Artsakh’s independence, in my next article I would compose a letter with explanations based on all three persuasive appeal strategies (ethos, logos, and pathos), including the idea of self-interest.

          As you’d agree, we have to rise out of the ashes of the dreadful September 27, 2020 calamity and realize that the worse could have happened if the entire territory of Artsakh were gone out of our hands and were populated by the Azerbaijanis. Like Nakhitchvan, regaining Artsakh would have been next to impossible for being devoid of its indigenous people.

Ideas have changed the world; ideas can also advance the Armenian nation. We should regroup, unite, and be prepared for the future onslaughts by Azerbaijan and its powerful allies for the probability of war is blowing in the wind and that we are left alone to defend against the cruel and brutal enemy. Undoubtedly, there is power in numbers, and that unity is the key to an optimistic future for the Armenian nation. So, let us send out our persuasive letters to our representatives to be instrumental in the recogniton of the independence of the Republic of Artsakh.

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