The Aristotle Guide to Make Friends and Influence People

make friendsAristotle was the man.

He figured out a lot about the human condition before modern psychology (or modern anything for that matter.) Some of his ideas still permeate our modern culture in areas like marketing and the science of persuasion.

In fact, I was watching a video the other day (included below) about his 3 means of persuasion. His argument was, to influence people efficiently, you must include all three of these elements.

What I realized is the three elements also apply to make friends. They serve as a handy guide to get past many sticking points in the friendship building process.

The Three Means of Persuasion from Aristotle’s Rhetoric

So the three elements of Aristotle’s influence are:

  1. Logos
  2. Ethos
  3. Pathos

Let’s look at each individually and how it applies to making friends.

1. Logos

Aristotle describes Logos as the logic of an argument. It’s the part of the argument that “makes sense” and it answers the question “why.” In other words, why someone should do what you’re asking them to do.

The Logos of friendship building is more related to why it makes sense to be talking to each other. Why it makes sense to meet up again sometime for a coffee or event.

Some examples of this are:

  • You share a common interest or hobby
  • You look at the world in a similar way
  • You both deeply believe in conservation, family, independence or some other value
  • You just feel a vibe with each other you can’t explain…and that’s enough

If you find the two of you share something in common like this, you can use it to deepen the connection and suggest further get-togethers.

Again, because it just makes sense to keep talking and moving forward if two people have something in common.

If you can’t find something to connect on…no big deal, right? The two of you just don’t have much in common and that happens. You can’t expect all conversations you start to be spectacular or turn into a friendship. That’s just setting yourself up for disappointment.

2. Ethos

If you’re trying to convince people of something, they’ll want to know why they should listen to you. Maybe it’s because you have some letters after your name like “PhD.” Or perhaps it’s the results you’ve achieved in life.

When making friends, Ethos relates more to how people perceive you and your social value. It’s not so much the content of who you are, but the vibe you give off.

  • You seem confident and relaxed, not nervous or awkward
  • You have friends around who like you (this is called social proof and it makes you seem higher value)
  • You have other things going on in your life so you don’t seem needy or clingy
  • You look clean and well-groomed, not sloppy or dressed like a bum

Now you may be asking, “What if I DON’T have other friends to hang out with? What if I’m NOT confident and I DO come off as needy?”

The obvious answer is you gradually get past these things. You become more confident and less nervous socially by gradually being more social. Maybe you start with people who don’t intimidate you so much and work your way up.

I’ve found the best path is to start where you are and do what you can.

  • Can you look up and brainstorm a different (yet still true to you) look and attire?
  • Can you stay well groomed?
  • Can you get involved with hobbies and passions that interest you outside of making new friends?

These actions are indirectly related to being more successful making friends, but they make a BIG difference over time.

3. Pathos

This is the emotional connection of an argument. It’s often the stories of a persuasive message that will convince people to your point of view. Something great sales people understand is: Emotion is what convinces people to buy, while logic is what keeps them from changing their mind.

In being friendly, I’ve found Pathos is most closely related to self-disclosure. People bond and grow emotionally attached because they get to know each other. So that means over time, you share with someone:

  • How you prefer cats to dogs
  • Why you feel many old movies are better than modern movies
  • Your dream to travel to Thailand because you value variety in life
  • How you lay awake at night worrying if you’re in the right career

As you can see, some of this information is more personal. Of course it makes sense to save these types of deeper disclosures till later in a friendship. A good rule of thumb is to progress from less personal to more personal over the course of a conversation and a relationship.

Just remember, sharing personal details on who you are is crucial. Without this, the other person won’t get to know you and won’t grow very close to you either.

Viewing Aristotle’s 3 means of persuasion like this is just a simple way to change your perspective on making friends. It’s a handy shorthand reminder of best practices.

But I’m in the process of writing an ebook that details the entire friendship building process, step by step. If you’d like updates on how the book is coming and it’s release date, enter your name and email below.

(Video and image courtesy of TEDEd and Conor Neill)

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