7 Writing Techniques To Connect With Your Audience On A Gut Level
Every writer loves to read positive feedback. Sometimes it goes beyond the mere pat on the back and feels more like a virtual hug. My favorite comments go something like this.
You finally put into words something I’ve been thinking about most of my life.
What moves someone to make a comment like that? It only happens when you connect with someone on deep emotional level.
You’ve experienced that feeling yourself as a reader.
- Have you ever read a story, book or article and felt like the writer spoke directly to you?
- Have you ever wondered how she knew what you felt even though you never verbalized your feelings to anyone before?
- Did she confirm what you believed to be true but were too afraid to speak?
- Have you ever felt compelled to thank a writer or speaker for the impact he made on your life?
How do you achieve this effect on your reader?
I won’t pretend it’s easy or that you’ll succeed all the time. You won’t. But the techniques are nothing mysterious. It requires vulnerability, insight and a bit of guts.
These seven techniques are not appropriate in every situation. You’ll need to develop a sense of intuition to determine where they are appropriate. With practice, patience and experience you can achieve mastery.
1. Address an indignity
I learned this technique several years ago in a Copywriting workshop. I rarely get a chance to use it in a non-Copywriting format, but I keep it in the back of my mind should the situation arise.
Let’s pretend you’re writing about job hunting. It’s not enough to write about how to job prospect. That information is important, but it does not engage your reader on an emotional level.
Write about the indignities of the job hunting process: unanswered resumes, form letter rejections, connected folks with fewer qualifications getting more offers. Convey that frustration, shame or anger through story — personal experience if possible.
Acknowledging the indignities shows you understand their frustration and pain.
2. Show your reader they’re not alone in their struggles
Everyone has had that eery feeling. We’re struggling, and nobody else knows what we’re going through. It’s comforting to know that others face the same challenges as us.
You need to share your struggles, even the embarrassing parts. Showing that you struggle with the same challenge lends you credibility. A willingness to share your struggle in public, and give a voice to something viewed as a source of shame or embarrassment sets you up as a leader.
If appropriate, you can reframe your struggle as an unusual trait. In rare cases, you can reframe it as a privileged trait only a select few enjoy. I came close to that in this story.
3. Simple and Surprising Wisdom
Have you ever heard simple, yet powerful advice and wondered how you never thought of it before? It’s happened to all of us.
It’s not every day that you conceive moments of brilliance, but if you pay attention to your thoughts and experiences, you’ll realize they occur more than you think. Keep a notebook or notes app handy to record these flashes of inspiration.
In this story, I showed how we use an everyday phrase to put off doing work that matters.
4. Articulate thoughts your reader is too afraid to say out loud
Some writers and talk-show hosts make their living by stating out loud, what their audience thinks but is too scared to say. These writers and speakers give their audience permission to speak about taboo beliefs and subjects.
Like any other technique, you can use it for good or evil. Some writers and celebrities use it to call attention to hate and inequality. Others use it to perpetuate hate and make it socially acceptable.
5. Articulate thoughts your reader hasn’t been able to put into words
This technique is the most powerful of all, but it is also the most difficult to implement. If your reader hasn’t been able to articulate a deep-rooted feeling, he’s probably not alone in that struggle.
To do this successfully, start by using nouns and adjectives to describe your feelings. Next, specify the behaviors that result from those feelings. Begin your narrative once you have these two pieces of information. It requires trial and error (and a thesaurus), but if you nail it, your readers will reward you.
This story on solitude took several attempts to write, but it connected with readers on a visceral level.
Everyone loves to feel nostalgic. It creates a feeling of longing for happier times. It’s also a useful bonding tool that serves as a reminder of shared experiences between you and your reader.
The wonderful thing about nostalgia is that it triggers selective memories, usually the good ones.
You can make use of this tool is with two simple, but powerful words.
Remember when flip-phones were cool?
Remember when we made mixed tapes for our girlfriends/boyfriends?
Remember when we had to use those clunky cable boxes with switches and knobs?
The phrase “remember when” shifts you to a nostalgic mindset.
Of course, if you are too young to remember those clunky cable boxes, the reference won’t make sense to you. You must know your audience to make this technique to work. Keep in mind these two guidelines.
- Know your audience. Understand their demographics and worldview.
- Use examples that resonate with your audience. The cable box example resonates with a forty-five year old but not a twenty-five year old.
7. ABC (always be certain)
This technique is so simple, so powerful and so often ignored. By itself, this technique will not create that emotional bond with your reader. But it’s still crucial. Failure to follow it weakens the bond.
What do all these phrases have in common?
I can’t be sure, but…
It’s possible that…
All of these qualifiers weaken your opinions. You come across as unconfident, unsure and afraid. Why do we add these phrases? Fear. We worry what others will think if we express ourselves with certainty.
Compare these two sentences.
I think college is often a waste of money.
College is a waste of your money.
I think and often weaken the first statement. These qualifiers hedge your assertion. It placates (somewhat) those who disagree with your statement. But it doesn’t go far enough for those who believe it. Certainty evokes a stronger response from your audience. “Yes, I believe that too. Thank you for taking a stance.”
If you’re confident enough in your opinions and assertions, be bold enough to state them without a qualifier.