Most Important Rhetorical Skills (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Nov. 17, 2020
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Throughout many different fields and work situations, having rhetorical skills can make you a more impressive employee. Rhetoric breaks down to a method of linguistic persuasion, both verbal and written. It isn’t just a singular quality, but rather, a summation of several strong aspects that make you able to logically assess a situation and communicate in the most effective and informative way, persuasively.

Think about a circumstance when you may use rhetorical skills.

When you’re creating an eye-catching resume or performing in an interview later, you use rhetorical skills to persuade an employer that you’re the best candidate for the position.

Maybe, you need to speak to a customer service representative to report an issue with an order. You utilize rhetorical skills in this situation to achieve your end-goal of getting your order or receiving a refund.

Perhaps you remember back in school days when you were asked to write persuasive essays on various topics. For these kinds of assignments, rhetorical skills are used to plan and produce the essay to sway the reader towards your point of view.

Rhetorical skills are useful in everyday life, as well as professionally, and improving upon this skill set can drastically improve your performance.

What Is Rhetoric?

Rhetoric is the study of language in all its shapes, sizes, and deliverances. This includes public-speaking, written, and visual communication. Specifically, it refers to the power that words have to inform, motivate, and change people’s behaviors. In terms of business, rhetorical skills allow an employee to formulate a logical argument and fosters a workplace with effective coordination.

Productive persuasion isn’t possible without critical thinking abilities. They’re like preparation for the art of persuasion. Rhetorical skills are based on thought and reflection, just as much as they are about spoken and written communication.

Classically, rhetoric focuses on three main sectors of engaging your audience called the Rhetorical Triangle.

The Rhetorical Triangle includes:

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  • Ethos – Building credibility with the audience to form confidence in your voice

  • Pathos – Engaging the audience’s emotions by incorporating what they care about

  • Logos – Demonstrating logical arguments and conclusions

The combination of these three crucial elements is what determines the persuasiveness of your presentation.

Enhancing your rhetorical strategy can improve your work performance and make you a more impressive candidate to hiring managers if you’re seeking a new position.

What Rhetorical Skills Do You Need?

Consider the following valuable rhetorical skills that can bolster your persuasive professional communication:

  1. Using metaphors. Many employees with strong rhetorical devices incorporate metaphors into their presentations to create imagery for the audience. It’s an excellent way to connect a complex notion to a familiar concept and develop a stronger understanding.

    Examples of common metaphors include:

    • Keeping one’s head above water

    • Time is money

    • The ladder to success

    • Window of opportunity

    • A fish out of water

    People are more inclined to respond positively to a proposition presented with metaphors because they provide a point of reference for the audience.

  2. Public speaking skills. A big chunk of how you’ll have to deliver your rhetorical skills is through public speaking engagements. Whether it be a casual conversation with a co-worker or a more formal meeting where you need to present to a larger group. Being confident in your public speaking and your ability to deliver a message effectively can help you persuade an audience.

  3. Written persuasion skills. The other big delivery system of rhetorical skills in the workplace is through written communication. In many careers, such as marketing and copywriting, this ability can be critical to professional success. It’s about being about to persuade a reader through only the written word.

    Written persuasion skills may take some practice, but keeping this skill sharp can be very helpful in several industries.

  4. Being concise and summarizing. Being able to deliver your presentation shortly and sweetly is a valuable rhetorical mode. These days most people have an incredibly short attention span, and you need to be able to drive your points home within that window of time. If you’re droning on and on during a speech or written communication, your audience is bound to tune out at some point.

    Work on your summarization skills when you find that the person you’re discussing with seems to be tuning out often.

  5. Repetition. Repetition is another great way to draw focus on a specific concept or way of thinking. Even unconsciously, the audience hones in on the phrase or word that represents the point you’re repeating and holds onto it. It becomes more ingrained in their memory than anything else.

    Repeating a phrase or word is a tool you’ll often come across in poetry and other creative works for its ability to outline an idea vividly. It can be just as useful for bringing life to an argument or professional discussion.

  6. Antanagoge. This rhetorical device works by presenting the audience with a negative and following it up with a subsequent positive. Usually, in the workplace, this means offering a problem you’ve witnessed along with a solution for it. This may sound counterintuitive; however, presenting a persuasive argument in this way allows the audience to connect the dots for themselves.

    If they come to a similar conclusion from following your steps through listening to your process, they’ll likely agree with your method of thinking.

  7. Hypophora. Hypophora is a rhetorical skill in which the speaker or writer poses a question to the audience and immediately follows it up with an answer. It’s a little different from a rhetorical question in that it isn’t meant to go unanswered.

    This method is useful because asking the initial question gets the ball rolling in the listener’s head of potential answers to it. By then responding to it yourself with a direct and confident response, you take on a position of authority in the dialogue.

  8. Tying together seemingly unrelated concepts to produce an organized idea. One great way to draw someone’s attention with persuasion skills is by linking together seemingly unrelated concepts to form a cohesive thought. It’s a rhetorical tactic that just keeps an audience engaged in what you have to say.

    Half the battle in winning over a presentation proposal, client, or professor is being able to engage them in an impactful conversation. One that makes them think long after the speech or discussion is done. This is an effective way to do that.

Where and How to Upgrade Your Rhetorical Skills

While rhetoric may be a little intimidating to some, it’s a skill that can you can easily improve upon with some effort and research skills. It could even require an online class or two.

Below is a compiled list of courses and resources online you can use to upgrade your rhetorical skills ranging from free to affordable.

  1. Rhetoric-The Art of Persuasive Writing and Public Speaking (Hardvard Online Learning). This online course is brought to the public from a very well-known university, Harvard. Hosted by the website Edx, it features an eight-week long introductory crash course in all things rhetoric you could need to become a more persuasive communicator.

    Price: Free for the course and $169 for a verified certificate.

  2. Rhetoric (MIT Open Courseware). This course comes from another reliable source, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. However, it’s teaching style is a little different. In that, it’s not really “taught” at all.

    Open courseware is a project set forth by the university, which puts out all the materials for many of their courses online – making it freely available to the public.

    One of these courses just happens to be Rhetoric. The course materials include a syllabus, readings, assignments, projects, and downloadables, without the stress of a looming due date or tuition fees.

    Price: Free

  3. 2020 Complete Public Speaking Masterclass For Every Occasion (Udemy). Unlike the other options on this list, the 2020 public speaking masterclass doesn’t come with a free option. However, for the price you pay, you’re getting a comprehensive public speaking course covering basic rhetoric, with a multitude of positive reviews. It also gives you lifetime access to all the materials and a certificate of course completion.

    The website often offers sales, and you can snag the opportunity at a lower cost.

    Price: $139.99

  4. The Public Speaking Project. The Public Speaking Project is an organization that provides numerous tools to help people enhance their speaking skills. Their resources are low-cost at their highest price point and can be extremely helpful in sharpening your public speaking skills. They even feature a virtual classroom to help instill lessons in writing speeches and performing them for an audience.

    Since many rhetorical skills can be found in strong public speakers, it may be helpful for you to take a class on this topic to gain more insight.

    Price: Free to Cheap

  5. Persuasive Writing (Dalhousie University). This course is one of the more expensive options on this list, but it gives its students a lot of insight into the art of writing persuasively. They specifically go into formal proposals, which can be helpful in an administrative context.

    It’s only a four-week course, so you’ll be able to complete it promptly, but probably need to set aside a few hours a week to complete the modules.

    Price: $495

  6. Seth Godin on Presenting to Persuade (Udemy). This course in persuasive presentation can help solidify your rhetorical skills. After all, having strong rhetorical strategies is all about fulfilling the goal to persuade. It’s one of the cheaper paid options, and the course also takes up a little bit less time than some of the others. It can be a good option for someone looking to find useful persuasion information quickly.

    Price: $29.99

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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