Aristotle's work on rhetoric — Compliance Officers should be inspired

Compliance Tyler
3 min readFeb 20, 2024


Aristotle’s work on rhetoric and argumentation offers timeless insights that can greatly benefit compliance officers in formulating their arguments. His teachings, particularly those found in “Rhetoric,” emphasize the importance of ethos (character), pathos (emotion), and logos (logic) in persuasive communication. Here’s how these principles can be applied by compliance officers:

1. Ethos (Character)

  • Building Credibility: Aristotle emphasized the importance of the speaker’s character and credibility (ethos) in persuasion. Compliance officers can build their credibility by consistently demonstrating knowledge, integrity, and fairness. This credibility makes their arguments more persuasive because colleagues and management are more likely to trust and respect their judgments.
  • Demonstrating Authority and Goodwill: Showing expertise in compliance matters and a genuine concern for the organization’s wellbeing enhances an officer’s persuasive appeal. It’s not just about enforcing rules but about ensuring the company thrives ethically and legally.

2. Pathos (Emotion)

  • Engaging Emotionally: Aristotle understood the power of emotion in persuasion (pathos). Compliance officers can learn to present their arguments in ways that connect emotionally, showing how compliance issues can impact individuals personally and the organization as a whole. This could involve highlighting the consequences of non-compliance in a way that resonates on a personal level, such as discussing the reputational damage or the impact on team morale.
  • Understanding the Audience’s Values: Tailoring messages to align with the audience’s values and concerns can make arguments more compelling. Understanding what motivates and concerns your audience (e.g., job security, company reputation) allows you to frame your argument in a way that taps into those emotions.

3. Logos (Logic)

  • Structured Argumentation: Logical reasoning (logos) is at the heart of Aristotle’s teachings. Compliance officers should ensure their arguments are logical, well-structured, and supported by data and evidence. This includes presenting clear, factual reasons why compliance is critical and how specific actions or policies benefit the organization.
  • Use of Evidence and Examples: Just as Aristotle advocated for the use of evidence to support claims, compliance officers should use relevant data, legal precedents, and case studies to bolster their arguments. This might involve statistical evidence of compliance risks, historical examples of regulatory penalties, or case studies of best practices in the industry.

Integrating Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

The most effective arguments crafted by compliance officers will skillfully integrate ethos, pathos, and logos. This holistic approach ensures that the argument is not only logical and well-founded but also morally compelling and emotionally engaging. For instance, when discussing a new compliance policy, an officer might:

  • Ethos: Begin by emphasizing their experience and commitment to the company’s success.
  • Pathos: Share a story or case study highlighting the negative impact of non-compliance on similar organizations, evoking a sense of urgency and concern.
  • Logos: Present clear, logical reasons for the policy, backed by data and regulatory requirements, showing how it benefits the organization.

By learning from Aristotle, compliance officers can enhance their persuasive skills, making them more effective in their roles. The key is to balance these elements, adapting the approach based on the audience and context to achieve the desired outcome.

Disclaimer: The information provided herein is solely for informational purposes and represents my own personal views. It should not be construed as legal or regulatory advice. For advice specific to your circumstances, please consult a qualified professional. Additionally, the opinions expressed are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer.



Compliance Tyler

Tyler Woollard is a Compliance Professional. Tyler writes these compliance blogs to drive the compliance conversation