The power of rhetoric of advocacy

Words have the power to invoke a feeling, relive a memory and inspire change. In advocacy, the rhetoric we choose can make or break the conversations you’re having. To lobby is to converse with people in power and persuade them to enact change. Using the aspects of rhetoric can enhance our advocacy and lobby efforts.

Three modes of rhetoric

Aristotle defined rhetoric as “the ability to see what is possibly persuasive in every given case.” The three modes of rhetoric are ethos, logos and pathos. Ethos is the ethical appeal and plays to the speaker’s credibility. You can enhance your ethos by using terms your audience will understand. Logos uses reasoning to convince your audience.

In preparing to meet with legislators, dental students should review statistics on the topics they will discuss. Pathos uses the audience’s emotions to persuade them, which can be accomplished through personal stories. We can use all three aspects of rhetoric to advocate effectively and speak with legislators about issues affecting dental students.

Not just a ‘New York state of mind’

The first time I lobbied was with the New York State Dental Association (NYSDA) and ASDA District 2 dental students in Albany, New York. The dentists and dental students reviewed the bills we were lobbying before meeting with legislators. We received tips on how to speak with legislators: understand what you are lobbying for, enter meetings with confidence, be friendly and share your gratitude for the legislator’s time.

Also, get comfortable getting personal. When you have limited time with your legislators, move them with personal stories, not numbers. This means sharing stories of how these bills affect you, your profession and your patients. Stay away from statistics and medical jargon. Appeal to them with terms they will understand. In addition, keep party lines in mind. When speaking with Republicans, appeal to a bill’s fiscal or small business advantages. When speaking with Democrats, speak to reducing barriers to care and improving access.

Read the rest of the article in the November/December issue of Contour.

~Sydney Shapiro, Columbia ’21, ASDA President

Sydney Shapiro

ASDA President Sydney Shapiro is a class of 2021 DDS/MPH candidate at Columbia University. In her free time, she enjoys biking, baking and exploring NYC.

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