Ethos, Logos & Pathos – Connecting with Others in a Post-Covid World

Posted by admin at 4:24 PM on Jul 28, 2020


In the May/June edition of Sorted Magazine, I came across an article by Rob Parsons founder and chair of the charity, Care for the Family, in which he articulated the essential elements of connecting with an audience when speaking in public. Full article can be read here. His referencing of Aristotle and his use of Ethos, Logos and Pathos caused me to reflect on how effective our presence and contribution is to those we minister to especially, for those whose economic well-being and job prospects have been impacted by Covid-19. Being a chaplain particularly in a workplace setting grants us the privilege of being alongside those who make the economy work. It is one which is humbling and inspiring; especially as we sometimes see such people at their most vulnerable, having to deal with personal issues amidst the daily tumult of workplace activity and other challenges. What I offer is my reflection on this subject. I don’t expect people to wholeheartedly agree with my viewpoint as their own experiences may be very different from mine, as is their worldview generally. By using Parsons’ article as a guide I will share my reflections on how the elements of Ethos, Logos and Pathos can help now and in the future.

Ethos: The Greek word for character or disposition. Nowadays it tends to refer to disposition or nature of things e.g. a company’s ethos or the ethos surrounding a group’s activities. Character also refers to credibility; how we are perceived by those whom we serve especially as for many of us, our roles are purely mainly lay and voluntary. Most of us can report positive experiences from those we engage with, certainly my own experience as a Biker’s Chaplain reflects this, but in a purely industrial setting particularly where there is a history of poor industrial relations, how is our credibility viewed by management and staff? From my own background of frontline operations in senior leadership positions, I can usually see both sides of any disagreement over an operational issue which I have been privileged to been made aware of, because such discussions reflect my own past experience especially when it comes to pay and overtime! As yet I have not been called upon to act as a mediator because that is not my role for we are not as we are often reminded, shop stewards, but certainly sharing similar experiences with those I engage with I would hope help bring some different perspective to a specific issue or problem and may help in resolving it, which can only enhance our credibility. Examples of this are already happening within some of our chaplaincies which continue to enhance our credibility. As we move into probable recession and the future economic challenges that lay ahead, this degree of credibility when dealing with those already or likely to be in difficult or even vulnerable situations, will become an even more important.

Logos: All of us whether lay or ordained each bring life experience through work, other voluntary activities, as parents, grandparents, siblings, colleagues etc. It is fair to say that all of us have had to face life’s often uncomfortable and seemingly insurmountable problems at one time or another, those of us who know only too well the scourge of being unemployed and considered either too old or too well-qualified when seeking new employment or having to cope with illness or disability within our families yet still try and hold down or even find a job will understand. For those of us who have lived with such experiences in the past and learned from them, we are usually able to apply the principles of reason and logic not only in helping others understand their situation, but also to provide some practical help and advice in how to deal with it. With the anticipated economic downturn and rising unemployment as part of our uncertain future, these experiences could become vital.

Sometimes however, it need not necessarily be something so severe. Some years ago one of my then team approached me and asked would I sponsor them to do an MBA (Masters Business Administration). At the time this was what everyone who wanted to advance their managerial careers to senior roles was opting to do – although not me you won’t be surprised to learn. When I asked why specifically an MBA, the reply I got back was that they had ambitions to start their own Sameday Courier business. At the time, my role meant I was responsible for the cost and efficiency of the line haul operation sending trucks nightly to various parts of Europe. To gain a better understanding of the legal and financial aspects of running such operations, I opted to do a CPC (Certificate of Professional Competency) in Road Transport sanctioned by Freight Transport Association. Having successfully completed the course and gained a valuable insight into running a fleet of vehicles, I was able to use this experience in applying reason and logic to persuade my team member to opt to do this course instead and agreed to underwrite the cost. Not only did they take my advice, but a year or so after my leaving that business my former colleague wrote to me stating having opted for a severance package, he had started up his own same day operation and had already employed two delivery drivers.

Pathos: Sympathy and empathy come naturally to chaplains providing as we do a non-judgmental but neutral ear to those who need someone to talk to. Our independence from both management and trade unions allows us to be even-handed but at the same time, be alert to any potential underlying issues which may need escalating to more appropriate levels of authority. For some places of work ensuring social distancing within their current floorspaces may prove difficult to implement or maintain despite the Government wanting as many businesses as possible to re-open from August 01st. For those employees forced to work from home, there are reports indicating that many would prefer that to returning to an office environment while at the same time, there are other reports indicating the opposite. For those who are furloughed their main concern is whether they will have a job to go back to once the support package from the Government expires at the end of October.

It is this last element of Pathos which arguably will become the most important over the next few weeks and months as future economic reality replaces the current surreal experience of many whatever their current job situation. While our positions of trust, our life experiences and the relationships we maintain provide us with a certain level of credibility and opportunity to apply reason and logic, it is our ability to deal with and appeal to the emotions of those we deal with at whatever level which will provide the most pressing challenge.

Sometimes our own worldview of things may factor into our responses of how we deal with certain situations. We would not be human if it didn’t. We are not as stated before shop-stewards; nor are we experts in employment law or economics, we are ordinary people with a gift for showing empathy and sympathy where required. Sometimes our best response is to stay silent and speak only when we are asked to do so. Equally however, it is sometimes necessary to escalate an issue if there is risk of potential harm to others.

Re-connecting workplace chaplaincy in a post-Covid world will be a challenge unlike any we may have seen before. Even those who continued to work were affected in one way or another. Our credibility, our ability to reason and how we manage empathy, are all vital elements in the re-connecting process and will remain so for a long time to come.

Michael Cronogue

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