The Art of Persuasion (Rhetoric Communication)

“If you’re making thin claims based on wispy evidence, that’s a problem for a rhetorician. It’s the process that matters, not really the conclusions.”

Dr Dan French


Dr Dan French is the only person in the world who has two Emmy nominations for late night comedy writing, as well as a PhD in Rhetoric. This explains why Brendan was the most nervous he has been in an interview since starting The Culture of Leadership (TCoT) Podcast!


You may be wondering exactly what is Rhetoric?


People look at Dr Dan suspiciously when he tells people he studies Rhetoric, as culture’s main definition for Rhetoric is hollow talk. Talk that’s florid and designed but is hiding something. The second element of that culture is manipulation. Anyone who studies persuasion must be doing manipulation and this perception comes from the social science issues of the 50’s.


Those who understand Rhetoric know that it studies persuasion. In its simplest definition, Rhetoric is effective messaging. Dr Dan is very open and transparent about his motives and always identifies what techniques he is going to use because that is an ethical approach to messaging. He has branded the phrase Rhetoric Warrior to represent his values.


Unethical Rhetoric is when people hide their motives and techniques. They are trying to be ‘dodgy’ by making things slick and difficult to penetrate. “Words are weapons for rhetoricians,” he says, “they’re locations of dispute and competition, but they’re superpowers. Whoever controls the words is basically going to win the persuasion.”


Have you read: Why have 500 Lunches with Strangers? – Nick Bendel


To Dr Dan, leadership in a business is a Rhetorician. A Rhetorician can see all the available means of persuasion and choose the right one. When you have a strong perspective it creates this collection of words, beliefs, images and attacks. Its own little storm which can be accessed. A Rhetoric storm is a collective way of talking and this has been around for a very long time.


A Rhetorician figures out, ‘how can I say this and be effective, get away with it, not lose status but actually gain status’. If you are making thin claims based on wispy evidence, that’s a problem for a Rhetorician; it is the process that matters, not really the conclusions.


Have you read: The Culture of Thought Leadership – Peter Winick


Having a PhD in Rhetoric gives Dr Dan credibility. He has built on this with his three careers:

  • Educator and language-centric intellectual having taught rhetoric persuasion, TV writing, screenwriting and communication studies at university level for almost two decades.
  • Professional stand-up comedian for 30+ years, as well as a pro comedy writing producer for many TV and film projects.
  • Organizational consultant and marketer who has advised and worked for companies and organizations as diverse as fertility start-ups and the Naval War College.


He is also a published author of The 21 Coliseums of Persuasion (Amazon). Identifying persuasion techniques is the main focus of this project. The book describes the grid, which involves 21 big arenas, that an ethical Rhetorician moves around in.


During today’s conversation, Brendan uncovers how a Rhetorician uses the art of persuasion for powerful messaging. You might be interested to hear that he has already taken some ‘pre show feedback’ onboard and made some adaptations to how he operates – did you notice?


Still unsure how rhetoric influences you? Well consider this…


When you walk out the door, you have chosen clothes because you know how they’re going to be interpreted on that day. It is a rhetorical act to match your clothing messaging to what you intend to get done that day or, to avoid problems with certain target audiences.


We are constantly doing informal structuring of messaging. It’s just not done with formal study.


Keen to learn more?


This interview can be listened to here, via Apple podcasts or watched here, on our YouTube channel.


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