Last week I wrote a post about making your messages more meaningful, more human and more heard.
IN SHORT: Speaking straight to the heart of human experience.
Does that describe your messaging? If not, consider these additional practices:
1. Recognize the humor and absurdity of being human. That’s what Scott Adams has been doing for over two decades. His Dilbert comics never fail to illustrate just how stupid, selfish and silly our species really is.
One of his strategies for achieving humor through humanity was revealed in his book, Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain! “My characters re completely and radically honest where most people would say nothing.”
For example, here are a few of my favorite one-liners that speak straight to the heard of the human experience:
“I will now silently stare at you until you agree with me,” said Dogbert, Evil Director of Human Resources.
“I’m going to listen to your ideas, intently, then go on doing exactly what I had already planned before you walked in the door.”
“We don’t care what vehicle you reserved. We’re in the business of selling car insurance and overpriced gas.”
Love it. What humorous aspect of your humanity will you leverage?
2. Coat your voice in blood. It’s kind of paradoxical: The more personal your message is, the more universal your appeal is. I learned at the beginning of my career when I read Tolstoy’s advice: “Write only with your pen dipped in your own blood.”
For that reason, my definition of writing has always been: “Slice open a vein and bleed your truth all over the page.”
Not ink – blood. And not words – truth. It doesn’t get more human than that. Your challenge (even if you’re not a writer) is to plug the message you’re delivering – as well as the medium through which you deliver it – into that mantra.
The cool part is: Bloody messages give audiences access to their truest inmost selves. But only because you went first. That’s what it means to be a leader anyway: To go first.
And if you don’t think you’re a leader, you’re in trouble. Is your voice coated with blood or bullshit?
3. Make transplanting easy. In addition to being the most successful cartoonist in history, Scott Adams also happens to be a trained hypnotist. And he wrote a blog post a few years back about how Dilbert is designed using tricks he learned from hypnosis.
“The reason Dilbert has no last name, and the boss has no name, and the company has no name, and the town has no name is because of my hypnosis training. I remove all the obvious obstacles to imagining Dilbert works at your company.”
Now, I’m not suggesting you enroll in a night class to learn how to hypnotize people. Rather, consider what Scott Adams has done successfully for twenty years: Making it extremely easy for the readers of his comics to transplant themselves into them.
Your challenge is simple, but not easy: Don’t tell people about your experience – take them into it. Because people don’t want to hear stories – they want to become the characters in the stories. How are you inviting your audience to become part of your world?
4. Recognize the paradise of imperfection. Telling the truth about your darkness keeps you in the light of the people who matter. And exerting your imperfect humanity is one of the hallmarks of being an approachable leader.
The secret is personifying it – not preaching it. For example, in my book, The Approachable Leader, I don’t write about the importance of having a calm disposition.
I just tell the story about how I was hospitalized three times in six months for stress-related illnesses; and have since learned how to press the off button for the benefit of myself and the people I serve.
See the difference? One is speaking from your head; the other is living from your heart.
Maybe Leonard Cohen was right. In his song, Anthem,” he sang: “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
That’s human. Are you willing to occupy your vulnerability for the sake of building a deeper, more human connection with your constituency?
5. Be a mirror. French essayist Michel Eyquem de Montaigne once said, “Every man bears the whole stamp of human condition.” Your challenge is reflect that stamp in your message.
Here’s how. First: Distill the common reality quickly. Coalesce the vapors of human experience into a viable, meaningful and comprehensive package. Take George Carlin. He was well known for opening his acts with hilarious, unexpected, memorable one-liners that reached right into your heart and squeezed it like a stress ball. Watch a few of his HBO specials and you’ll see what I mean.
Second: Identify with people’s dominant feelings. Understand what their self-interest hinges upon. Figure out what feeds, fuels and fires them up. Then, once you know these things, appeal to them immediately.
I make a point to do so when I lecture at large conferences. Especially when my audience members’ brains are already chock full of content by the time they arrive at my session.
I’ll say within the first three minutes, “Today we’re only going to learn one thing – is that cool with everybody?” They love it because they feel respected, and can just relax and enjoy the program.
Third: Apply directly to people’s day-to-day concerns. Ask yourself what people ask themselves – then make your message the answer to those questions. That’s why I always ask my clients to outline for me a list of specific, activities my audience members, readers or listeners engage in on a daily basis.
That way, during the speech, article or interview, I can get into their heads, under their fingernails and onto their level. Then share my message from their backyard. Are you a mirror into which your audience can see their own truth?
ULTIMATELY: Being human is good for business.
Whether you’re sending an ezine, posting a blog or delivering a presentation to your employees, speaking straight to the heart of the human experience is the single easiest way to have your message heard by the people who matter.
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How are you using your humanity to be heard?
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
Never the same speech twice.
Always delightfully disturbing.
Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!