Ethos – the dress that makes the monk

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Oscar Wilde wrote with his stinging wit that

There is never a second chance to make a great first impression

and he’s perfectly right.

I have already written in this article how a proper sequence among ethos, pathos, and logos hugely helps in persuasive art. I like to remember whenever I write about the subject, it’s not about manipulation but the ability to convince by expressing ideas or concepts that you feel are healthy, fair, valuable for the people you are talking with. Being it in the family, among friends, in working team, and wherever you express opinions.

ETHOS therefore, coming from ETHIKOS so ETICS, is the first thing to establish when you talk about any topic. It represents moral ability, and can extend to your credible competence and knowledge.

How to create ETHOS

First, we must understand how to be convincing at first sight to our speaker. Get his/her confidence and then overcome the questions raising from his/her reptile, limbic and neocortex brains through pathos and logos.

So, let’s see how to overcome the possible initial skepticism to setup an effective communication channel with your audience.

We were saying, the first impression worth. The first thing you imagine when you think about a person is his presence. Everything that does not leave you a good feeling about the person worth each other.

What you acquire from a person is made up of three basic elements: appearance, behaviour and attitude. Let’s look at them in detail.


This aspect concerns two fundamental things: what your body transmits, and what your look communicates. To better understand, imagine a person who comes to you with a curved posture, arms crossed, sad expression; plus, rough hands, nailed nails, rough and worn clothes. I know, your grandparents have always told you that “the dress doesn’t make the monk” and in fact I would never allow myself to say that a shy, stressed and bad-looking person could not have interesting things to say.

I also know that in your mind, the represented image can’t be nice, at least initially, of such a person. This person should have the opportunity to talk to you to be persuasive, however you’re not quite convinced to give your time.

Why should they do this with you, under the same conditions?

What you need to consider is:

  • Get into good state before any meeting: close your eyes, think of something that made you happy, imagine a column of light growing brighter than ever from the inside, from the navel, climbs up and as your happiness rises your remembering intensifies. Live this joy, breathe … open your eyes. Okay, we got it.
  • Take your body open, approach respecting a distance between 70cm and 1.2m and if there is a chance to handshake (depending on the origin and the habits of the person), keep a good eye contact, be symmetric.
  • Dress appropriately, keeping your identity. If you feel you are a free, nonconforming person, the idea of ​​introducing to a CEO with jeans and t-shirt could be a bad idea – unless, perhaps, you have to meet Diesel CEO, Renzo Rosso. Express your identity with an unusual accessory, and remember: at least at the first meeting, the dress makes the monk.

Now that you have understood what I mean, let’s go further with other aspects.


Attitude is your way of moving, acting, talking. It has to reflect your authenticity – so be careful at mirroring – and keep an appropriate kindness to the situation and the person you’re in front of.

Imagine, like for the appearance, the attitudes of a person you do not like at all. There, this is just part of the things you should never do.

Basically, consider these features:

  • Voice modulation, using medium-sustained fluidity (it is believed that those who speak fluently, without mistaking, are believed to be more credible up to 50%), keeping a warm tone (not as a first appointment with your partner 😉) and well scan your words
  • Be brief and simple in your presentation, with your words. People appreciate if you let them talk about THEM and not YOU. They also love to clearly understand when you are talking.
  • Avoid filling words and prolonged vowels, such as, no, yes, ehhmmm, uhmmm, ahh, eeee and all that comes to your mind on this aspect

Perfect, now that we are in a good voice and attitude, let’s jump to the behaviour.


Behaviour indicates how you relate intimately with a person. The room you take, the spaces you give, the words you say and how you talk reveals your willingness in being passive or active, listen to or fill silences, patience or hurry, and so on.

You can repeat the previous exercises to figure out what can be the most disadvantaged elements, anyway I list those that I consider the most important:

  • Let people express. If you talk over, if you interrupt them, you have violated their ego, they will want to talk, and will feel frustrated that they cannot talk.
  • Avoid “supposed” closures. Crossing your arms, legs, swinging, protecting your genitals, hooking your feet to the chair, swinging with the body, are all closure signals for the brain
  • Keep distances and spaces. For example, if you are at a desk with the person, it is good to remove objects in the between of you to create a channel. It is good to move forward with the body when you talk and when you listen, do not touch objects that do not belong to you and unless you have to write on a whiteboard or presenting slides, do not get up to walk and keep sit
  • Use beautiful words, some statistics reveals that by analysing some talks – e.g. TED – when the ideas are expressed in beautiful, positive, clear words, where thoughts are well explicated, these talks are the most appreciated and liked by people. Also, you can tell things in much different ways: it’s a bad situation is quite different than it is not a good situation that is different again from it is not really the most exciting situation
  • Be authentic, that is, answer and argue on what you really know. Lies have short legs, and any behaviour tackling your authenticity will demolish your credibility
  • Listen actively, which is different from hearing to answer. Active listening means a lot of things, like: the words you are told, the way, the attitude, the voice, the eyes, everything says something. Get these important signs, and behave as you would like others to do with you. Avoid talking over people. Imagine, you can.
  • Put away PCs, tablets, cell phones and everything that can distract the conversation. Obviously when you have to make a presentation, your PC or other technologies are needed; otherwise, put them away. Often you think “but I have to take meeting notes”. Use a pen, develop memory techniques and write down a meeting minute later, focus on the discussed points so far with a few simple keywords. The use of an impersonal tool creates a barrier between you and others


We have seen and talked about a few things you can do to improve your first impact, and do not have to recover from mistakes. An effective strategy to improve yourself is to have sessions with friends, colleagues, family members or even team mates, recording what happens – asking for permission in the any case – so that, by listening to or reviewing them, you can fine tune all the small things making a big difference.

And please, remember:

if it is true that a dress does not make the monk, when you see someone dressed with a tunic you do really think he is a monk


If you want to know more, follow me here, on LinkedIn and Facebook and let me know your opinion: any feedback on these topic is very important for improving the community and myself.

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