Oftentimes, I find myself referring to Aristotle’s modes of persuasion or appeal in context to building meaningful relationships in business: ethos (credibility, ethical appeal or “character”), pathos (emotional), and logos (logical).  Whether people are aware of the different tools at-hand, many use the different modes in varying degrees for different situations and people.

In terms of the types of social currencies that can be exchanged in context to the bigger picture of economic drivers, market forces, industry competition and internal organizational dynamics, they all start with relationships between people.  Viewing this as the basic building blocks of any business, it’s important to know what tools or skill sets are required and what can be improved upon to make situations mutually beneficial.  But before any tool (or mix of persuasion modes) are employed, it’s just as important to be cognizant of the whole situation and understanding the dynamics, which is where emotional intelligence comes into play.

Although there are three major models to measure emotional intelligence, I happen to subscribe to Daniel Goleman’s mixed model with four main constructs of (1) self-awareness, (2) self-management, (3) social awareness, and (4) relationship management.  Although I was exposed to this concept in leadership training during my Boeing days, it has left an impression on me such that I came up with a personal shorthand (or maybe not that direct of a shorthand to Goleman’s version) of one being able to:

  1. know oneself;
  2. understand others;
  3. understand the situation, which would include social dynamics, goals, conflicts, ulterior motives, etc.; and
  4. leverage Aristotle’s modes of persuasion.

Ah yes, this can open a plethora of topics that can go on forever and I’m restraining myself from causing any mental diarrhea from polluting this post but such topics can include staffing and recruiting, organizational theories, training, negotiation strategies, politics, game theories, agency conflict, user experience (UX) and relationships management to name a few.  But I digress.

One of the main reasons why this aspect of business is top-of-mind for me is because of a recent claim from an associate who stated that he knows how to “handle personalities.”  What I find most disconcerting about this statement is how it was said and in context to my general observations of how he manages these personalities.  Not to drone about the details but my confidence in his statement was certainly not at the same level as his exuberance in his self-extolling.  What’s unfortunate is that he’s not the only one I’ve heard such a claim from but all the aforesaid claimants are pretty good people.  Not to say that I’m an expert in “handling personalities,” myself, but I find it remarkably sad when one’s self-affirmations are also used for self-verification from others around them.  Whatever their complexes are, I do know that it’s truly difficult to know oneself and one’s own motives from an objective point of view and how it can sometimes unearth some uncomfortable threats to the self – but this is the first main pillar of emotional intelligence that one could have the most information on and could potentially impair the other pillars if attempts to knowing yourself is masked by practices that prevent self-acceptance.

Although my version of the second and third constructs can span psychological, sociological, geopolitical and cultural aspects of analyzing a given relationship, the fourth and last construct – probably the most mentally flexed and often overlooked from a day-to-day perspective, especially from the claimants’ perspectives – are the tools that Aristotle articulated as modes to interact with others and offer relational meaning and influential relevance.  Whether it’s nature, nurture or both that influence us to be who we are today and develop personality types that give us greater ease of use for ethos, pathos or logos, it’s important to know how to use them and how they can affect others and situational dynamics.  But it’s not until when one gains enough experiential knowledge of what has worked and what hasn’t that helps prepare a person to be “quick on his or her feet” and improvise based on gut feel the next time around.  When faced with similar situations and personality types repeatedly, one can quickly abstract past experiences to quickly draw potential outcomes for the different modes that can be used.  Of course this can predispose people towards un/sub/conscious prejudices and biased perspectives but not if they conscientiously analyze all aspects of a given scenario from an objective point of view before the next occurrence of a similar event.  Easier said then done, I know, but the exercise in trying is just as valuable.

Considering that business is conducted between both internal and external relationships, regardless of whether one’s role is customer facing, vendor management or a supervisor, anyone can benefit from leveraging some kind of general framework that would help make sense of how social matters can translate to meeting business objectives and building mutually beneficial relationships – even if the framework doesn’t fall within the realms of traditional theories.

“Experience is not what happens to you – it’s how you interpret what happens to you.”

– Aldous Huxley

“If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.

– Sun Tzu, The Art of War

“Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.”

– Aristotle