to a whole new level.
Available Fall 2022
"From my coaching experience, I have found that most leaders do not understand that all persuasive communications are based on three essential techniques — character, argument, and feeling. Based on years of research and coaching, my book will explain how persuasion works and how you can master it in any setting."
From the Introduction to The Rules of Persuasion:
In a memorable scene from Kevin McDonald’s 2006 film, The Last King of Scotland, the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin explodes in anger at his personal physician Nicholas Garrigan for allowing him to expel all of the Asian nationals from the country. A hysterical Amin chastises Garrigan for not telling him to leave the Asians in peace. The terrified Garrigan defends himself by reminding Amin about his clear warnings that the expulsion would bring dire consequences and that the international press would condemn Amin mercilessly. Yes, says Amin, you told me all of these things, “but you did not persuade me, Nicholas. You did not persuade me.”
I begin this book with the scene above because it neatly encapsulates the problem it examines: why is it that human communication, which is almost exclusively aimed at persuasion, so often fails to persuade. How is it that very senior leaders, accomplished and successful in so many ways, struggle when asked to convince their boards or employees to follow them or embrace their ideas. On an everyday level, why is it that so many people fail to persuade colleagues, children, and friends when debating important issues or seeking support for a cause.
Together, we will look at persuasion through what is at the same time a very old and a very new perspective. The basic rules I will explain were first articulated by the philosopher Aristotle over two-thousand years ago in a work called, the Rhetoric. This book by the foremost thinker the Western world has ever known is a guide to how language and persuasion work. Contained within it is a simple claim with profound implications.
Persuasion, Aristotle believes, works through three specific means: character, emotion, and argument. For centuries, Aristotle’s words inspired analysis, inquiry, and debate and were a key part of all formal education across the Western world. However, in the second half of the 20th Century, the study of rhetoric disappeared from primary and secondary education and became an esoteric topic for specialists in Classics, philosophy, and logic. There are pedagogical and philosophical reasons for this disappearance, and I will discuss them in my chapter on the dark side of persuasion. However, Aristotle's fundamental insight about the three essential elements of persuasion is as true today as it was over 2,000 years ago.
This book is your guide into Aristotle's discoveries updated for our time. It is not meant solely for an academic audience. Unlike other many books on the subject, I will not talk about esoteric terms of rhetoric that are of little interest even to specialists, much less to a general reader. I do not think you need to know what asyndeton and metonymy are to understand persuasion, or that there were five elements to classical oratory. Instead, we’ll look at how persuasion works all around us, through the various means of communication that make up our past and present worlds.
This book is meant for anyone who wants to understand how persuasion works, how to put those techniques to work, and how to critique their use, both effectively and ineffectively, in virtually any form of human communication, from speeches to presentations, to film, literature, social media, music, advertising and visual arts. From Homer to Shakespeare, from Magritte to Rothko, from Bach to Rakim, we will uncover insights and concepts, some of them secret and powerful, that will fundamentally alter how you think about persuasion. In the end, my goal is to help you understand how these insights can make you a thoughtful and persuasive communicator in almost any setting in which you may find yourself.
Carlos Alvarenga is a researcher, professor, author, and coach. His new book will present the result of over a decade of consulting and coaching senior leaders on persuasive communications.
CEO and Chairman
Humanitarian Aid Organization
“Working with Carlos has been the most transformative experience I've encountered. I looked forward to every session because Carlos took time to ensure that I had a firm understanding of the theory behind constructing an effective pitch and allowed me the space to practice what I had learned. The feedback he gave was phenomenal and it demonstrated his profound intellect as well as his passion for the work he does."