Rhetoric in Everyday Life

The term "Rhetoric" surrounded by multiple synonyms.

You probably use rhetoric every day in one way or another whether you realize it or not. For instance, when you were in middle school, you might have asked mom or dad to buy you a phone, but you didn’t stop there. You gave them reasons.

“I need a phone so I can contact you if I get lost getting off the bus,” or “I want a phone because everyone in my class has one, and they are making fun of me for not having one.” These are persuasive techniques known as rhetoric. They are used to get what you want or convince someone of something. Pathos, persuading someone through emotion, is present in these statements because the parents of the child would a) want their child to be safe or b) feel bad that their child is being bullied for not having a phone.

Heinrichs Examples

Rhetoric is used in other ways every day without trying. Jay Heinrichs, for example, in his book “Thank you for Arguing” uses examples from his personal life. In the first chapter, he opens with something that the audience can relate to- arguing. Not only that but the kind of arguments that happen frequently so you know how it is going to go.  

In the morning, as Heinrich went to brush his teeth, he noticed the empty tube of toothpaste in the bathroom and shouted to his son, “George, who used all the toothpaste?” George answered back, “The point is how we’re going to keep this from happening again.” He told his son that he was right, which made him believe he had won the argument and listened to his father when he asked him to get the toothpaste afterward. If he had not told his son he was right, they likely would have had a back and forth argument and the son would be stubborn about getting the toothpaste. Since Heinrich used this trick, he was the one who really “won” because he got what he wanted. This is a useful strategy for arguments that Heinrich teaches that can be used every day.

Heinrich taught me that rhetoric is an important form of knowledge that we cannot live without since it is used every day for everything. Almost any human interaction has some persuasive motive, which would involve rhetoric since there is no persuasion without rhetorical devices and there is no rhetoric without persuasion- they co-exist, like light and dark. If darkness did not exist, then what would light even mean?  

The Use of Silence in Rhetoric

One tip Heinrich gives that I would suggest listening to is using the silent use of rhetoric for not getting a ticket from a police officer. He says that you need to pull yourself together and to resist being sarcastic with the officer. If you have a clean record and treat the officer with respect, he might let you off with a warning.

When I was little, my father got pulled over while I was in the car, and with his bad temper, he disrespected the cop and got the ticket. However, when I was with a high school friend a few years ago and my friend got pulled over, he minded his manners and did not get the ticket. Thus, rhetorical communication can be used without any words.

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