Pathos in Persuasion: Learning from the Punggol East Bi-Election

In Toastmasters, we talk about how to Persuade with Power. I thought, here is a real life example of the importance of Pathos in persuasion…

(A video uploaded by a netizen)

While I was sending my sister back home, we heard on the radio that Worker’s Party won the by-election by a big margin. At that turning moment, we decided to pay Hougang a visit.

I switched off the aircon and winded down the windows, as we snailed through the bi-directional single lane Hougang Avenue 5. Police lined up at both sides of the street as supporters of the Worker’s Party estimated at 2,000 chanted on in celebration of their victory. Several cars passing through the area horned to the rhythm of Worker’s Party in unison.

As we came to a stop at the traffic light in the middle of Avenue 5, we were greeted by the exhilarating crowd. Two young girls probably still in their JCs greeted us. We smiled at them with a nod. The young girls did a little dance for us, replied “Worker’s Party” to us.

We saw people from many walks of life. We saw the old, we saw the young. We saw women, we saw men. We saw the working class, we saw the housewives. We saw professionals driving in their cars. We saw children, we saw students. We saw Singaporeans.

Many may ask, have they blindly follow a cult which they worship? I think not. I do not feel a tinch of blind worship from them. Instead, I felt passion. I felt hope. I felt a sense of release. I felt pride. I felt joy. I felt love for the nation in them. I know I cannot speak on behalf of everyone of them of course, but at least, this is what it felt to me.

I tend to agree with some of the others whom I spoke to that although we might not agree with everything Worker’s Party have said or done, it was however the sense of empathy, the sense of humanity and humility, the sense of the having the same blood flowing through our heart and the same history written on our books imprinted in our mind that has drawn people to them. This connectedness with the people whom you are addressing is what we call Pathos.

Ethos (credibility and track record) and Logos (logic) can only do so much. If you want to convince people, we need to have Pathos too. And it seems that the voters of Punggol East are willing to sacrifice a bit of Ethos and Logos in exchange for some Pathos.

(Adapted from an original Facebook post dated 27 January 2013)