The English word ethics comes from the Greek word ethos. Like logos, ethos can appear in arguments in a variety of ways. Unlike the scientific and studied approaches of logos, strategies for establishing ethos are less rigid and more focused on the Speaker rather than on the Message.

One way to demonstrate ethos is to develop credibility with the Audience. The first step to establishing credibility is to gain expertise in the topic or area of the argument. Earning a terminal degree in an area of study or working for many years in the same field are some ways to gain expertise. Another way is through professional development and certification in your industry. The second step to establishing credibility is communicating that expertise to the Audience. Highlighting previous experience, promoting work and research, and recognizing awards and commendations to the stakeholder Audience can establish the Speaker’s reputation for credibility and therefore the credibility of her Message.

A second way to demonstrate ethos is to demonstrate similarity with the stakeholder Audience. Audiences are more accepting of Messages from Speakers with whom they share common experiences, professional qualifications or demographic similarities. Even if a Speaker shares little in common with the Audience he can adapt tone and style. For example, an oil and gas regulatory agency employee with years of technical field experience may still demonstrate a high degree of ethos with an Audience of farmers and ranchers by avoiding technical language and acronyms, keeping the dialog conversational, or sharing openly about himself to allow the Audience to find similarities not obviously seen.

Beyond credibility and similarity, a Speaker must demonstrate her trustworthiness and character. Credentials alone will not establish trust with the stakeholders. The Speaker must curate and nurture a feeling of mutual respect between herself and the stakeholder audience and then remain honest and open in communications. Audiences are always assessing Speakers’ character, so consistency is key. Also, if Speakers represent that their Message is to educate and to inspire with reliable values and interests, they can foster goodwill with the Audience and improve the Audience’s receptiveness. For example, if an operator addresses a group of landowners with the honest goal of educating the public on a new technology or best practice the company is adopting, the landowners are much more likely to trust and engage with the operator.

Images: “Greece-0120 – Caryatids” by Dennis Jarvis licensed under CC BY SA 2.0 ; “Credibility” by IQoncept via Shutterstock; “Gears” by EtiAmmos via Shutterstock; “Trust” by xtock via Shutterstock