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Argumentation can be described as the SMart approach to persuasion. It combines appeals to logic, or the Scientific Method, along with an appreciation of artistic attributes that that make the appeals more persuasive and convincing.

Specifically Aristotle discusses three drivers of persuasive success: Ethos, Logos, and Pathos. Good facilitators ought familiarize themselves with all three. Here’s what Aristotle might say to facilitators who cannot remove bias.


Greek for ‘character’, ethos captures a sense of credibility and refers to the trustworthiness or credibility of the presenter. Ethos may be expressed through tone and style of message, transforming the speaker into an authority on the subject.It lends itself to the creation of reputation and exists independently from the message.The impact of ethos is often called an argument’s ‘ethical appeal’ or the ‘appeal from credibility.’  (Pre-Test)

What Aristotle Might Say to Facilitators Who Cannot Remove Bias

Remove Bias: Three Forms of Persuasion

Aristotle tells us that the appeal from ethos should not come from appearances, but from a person’s use of language. To improve one’s credibility, minimize or avoid using the first person singular “I” or “me.” Substitute the integrative “we” or “us” or refer to the collective and pluralistic “you.” Today, advertising relies much on ethos and takes the form of credible spokespeople, such as Michael Jordan selling underwear. The historical view holds that three characteristics help fortify ethos, all that should be embraced by a facilitator, namely:

  1. Good moral character,
  2. Good sense, and
  3. Goodwill


Logos (Greek for ‘word’) refers to the internal consistency and reasoning of the message—clarity of the claim, logic of its rationale, and effectiveness of supporting evidence. Presumably Aristotle’s favorite approach, ‘logos’ captures the logic used to support claims (induction and deduction) and will likely include supporting facts and statistics.

The impact of logos may be called an argument’s logical appeal.

A facilitator supports inductive logic by challenging participants for facts, evidence, and support. They allow them to develop a general conclusion. Or, you can facilitate deductive reasoning by challenging participants with a general proposition and then eliciting from them specific facts, evidence, and support.


Pathos (Greek for ‘suffering’ or ‘experience’) is frequently referred to as an emotional appeal but it also refers to an ‘appeal to the audience’s sympathies and imagination.’ The persuasive appeal of pathos facilitates participants’ sense of identity, their self-interests, and emotions. Many consider pathos the strongest of the appeals.

Be cautious as appeals to participants’ sense of identity and self-interest exploit common biases. They naturally bend in the direction of what is advantageous to them, what serves their interests or the interests of the groups to which they belong.

The three appeals above belong to some of the styles used to describe rhetoric, which we define as

“the art of adjusting ideas to people, and people to ideas.”

Fortify yourself with a deeper understanding of rhetoric and argumentation if you truly want to become a better facilitator.


Don’t ruin your career or reputation with bad meetings. Register for a class or forward this to someone who should. Taught by world-class instructors, MG RUSH  professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practice. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools, methods, and approaches throughout the week. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Our courses also provide an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, and 40 CDUs from IIBA, as well as 3.2 CEUs for other professions. (See individual class descriptions for details.)

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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Facilitation Best Practices blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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