At the heart of every narcissist, behind their elaborate false self which can fool almost anyone, lies a timeless methodology. Coined by Aristotle over two thousand years ago, the ‘three pillars of persuasion’ have remained a universal blueprint for influence, and are outlined as follows:
Ethos (Appeal to credibility)
To have ethos is to project competence, divinity and authority. How a person dresses, their body language, their expression, and their ability to demonstrate success and status all come together as ethos.
Think Adolf Hitler. He tailored his appearance and body language to create the impression of authority, showing abnormal discipline in honing his image. He rarely faltered in public, maintaining perfect posture and controlled body movements. The illusion of greatness had to be seamless and absolute. Hitler also touted his war record as proof of his bravery and loyalty to his country.
Kim Kardashian is another example. She has dedicated herself absolutely to her image, surgically sculpting her body and perfecting her movements, posture and behaviour to create the illusion of divinity and perfection.
Ethos is potent. It persuades without making demands. In the uninitiated mind, the presence of a person of apparent strength, beauty or competence demands submission.
While the average narcissist may not be as devoted as Hitler or Kim Kardashian, they will still develop a strategy of some kind. They adapt their body language, facial expression and attire to appear to have more status than they do. Narcissists will also flaunt and exaggerate their achievements, hoping to convince an audience of their high value.
Pathos (Appeal to emotion)
Appearance and reputation are how the narcissist makes their target receptive to influence. However, to cause a real shift, the narcissist must engage others by appealing to their emotions. The narcissist will make sometimes subtle and sometimes outrageous claims and accusations in the hopes of throwing people off-balance. They will also make sweeping, passionate generalisations to polarise people.
The narcissist’s words can strike fear in the target, or cause them to feel shame using ridicule. The narcissist can appeal to a person’s sense of pride by questioning their worth and forcing them to redeem themselves. The narcissist can win the target’s love with charm, or anger them to force an outraged reaction. In every case, the purpose is to throw the target off-centre and force them to comply with the narcissist’s agenda. Our tendency to act from our emotions makes us all vulnerable to the pathos of the narcissist.
Logos (Appeal to logic)
The narcissist’s end game is to gain access to their target’s mind. While disarming a person and destabilising their emotional balance are powerful tools, the narcissist must strike at the person’s core beliefs to ensure effective control.
By consistently questioning and challenging a person’s reality, the narcissist can change how others see the world and themselves. For example, a narcissist might say: ‘Your friends don’t care about you,’ or ‘That’s not what a good friend does.’ Depending on the situation, the bare minimum such a statement achieves is to have you questioning your friendships, which eventually might culminate in you distancing yourself from them. In this way, the narcissist goes a way to isolating you from those you care about.
The narcissist is relentless in their assault on their target’s mind, using a barrage of subjective statements and questions aimed at reprogramming their target’s core beliefs.
For maximum effect, the narcissist will use all three pillars simultaneously. They cultivate their image while discrediting and mocking those who threaten them (ethos), while questioning and attacking the reality of their target using emotion-triggering statements (pathos), and convincing yet subjective arguments and statements (logos).
Using ethos, pathos and logos, the narcissist can neutralise those who threaten their power, disarm their target, pull the target into their reality and then manipulate the target into submission. Used on the uninitiated, this psychological assault is incredibly effective.