Monday, September 19, 2011

The Delivery of Communication

In every word we say, every email we write, every speech we prepare, every text we send, every grocery list we write, and every idea we present, we are utilizing the art of rhetoric which is persuasive language. Whether it be in an email trying to encourage your friend to meet you for coffee tomorrow, an academic article on whether or not musically trained children are smarter than non-musical children, a speech about the effects of leading a stressful life, or simply a grocery list enlisting the shopper to buy this or that at the grocery store, we can see that in every word we say or write we are using a form of rhetoric. We are constantly trying to persuade somebody about something.

While we all use rhetoric, we each have a different style of persuasion. In fact, depending on our audience, or who we are speaking to, our rhetoric will change. For example, you would probably try to convince your bedridden grandmother to move into a nursing home in a much different way than you would try to talk your customer at the used car lot into buying a like new, one year old, warranty bearing Volkswagen Jetta. When talking to your grandmother, you would probably speak with deep emotion, or pathos, trying to convince her that this is the best choice at this particular time no matter how hard it is. When talking to your possible buyer, you would probably establish how reliable your used car lot is, and how that if anything went wrong with the Jetta in the next six months he or she would be able to have it fixed for no fee, thus establishing your character and reliability to the future buyer and convincing him or her that buying this car would be the most logical choice. As you can see, we are constantly manipulating the way we form our words in a way that coincides with our side of the argument or maybe just our side of life, the way we view this or that.

Through the years rhetoric has changed shape within its boundaries of persuasion and communication. There was a time, mainly before the 1960’s, where rhetoric and language did not hold as much beauty or depth, but rather was simply as the work Grounds for Writers puts it, “a means of expressing some objective reality or individual perception.” While rhetoric has always been a means of persuasion before the mid 1960’s, it was made up of mostly premade arguments, universalism, and absolution, creating authors that, as Grounds for Writers says, were more “meaning-arrangers” than “meaning-makers.”

Even in recent years you can see how people’s perception and use of rhetoric has changed and evolved by looking through old newspaper articles. Between 1994 and 1997 several newspaper articles defined rhetoric as words and the way a person put them together rather than where those words were leading. Examples of this were titles that included the following: “Sharp rhetoric marks opening day of House debate on welfare bill,” and “Mr. Aristide's Deadly Rhetoric.” Between 1999 and 2001 rhetoric seems to have been used to enhance and mask topics almost to the point of trying to make something better than it actually was. Articles contain phrases such as “Bush rhetoric raises some concerns,” and “Reassuring Rhetoric, Reality in Conflict.” An interesting saying was written in an article of the Toronto Star that could shed some light as to this change in rhetoric. It simply said, “Wars generate rhetoric.” Perhaps with the birth of the war on terrorism it was a time in our nation when sympathetic and reassuring rhetoric was needed the most; maybe even in the times where it led you to believe that things were better than they really were. Moving on to present day it seems that rhetoric has taken yet another turn and in many cases is used to relay an underlying meaning. For example, one article accused President Obama of sending jabs at the Republicans through a speech where he mentioned that law makers could learn a thing or two from your average Joe living outside of Washington. Another article claimed that Teamsters President Jim Hoffa issued a threat to the tea party and that while “Hoffa wasn't literally advocating violence… his rhetoric was nonetheless violent.” It seems that people are using rhetoric as a way of relaying a message to a person or group of people without actually coming out and saying it.

Rhetoric has always been and always will be a means of persuasion and communication, but as we can see even in the last several years, its existence is constantly evolving. It went from logical words between 1994 and 1997, to a means of enhancement and masking the truth between 1999 and 2001, and to yet another definition today that seems to define a “read between the lines,” underlying meaning.

Man from the very beginning has employed and been an expert in art of rhetoric in his everyday language. While some people have more flourishing and convincing rhetoric than others, and some periods in time have had a different emphasis on rhetoric than others, nonetheless, it has always been around and utilized in daily life. Rhetoric is much more than persuading words however, it is the beauty and sophistication of language. It is the very core that draws from the reader- attention, emotion, persuasion, and thought. In essence it is the very reason that we listen to a hypothesis or read a book. Every human is biased in one way or another; we are all different; it is what makes us interesting. It is also what draws us to seek out other biased opinions or perspectives. Ultimately, rhetoric is the bursting colors through which the author paints his picture to the world.