People are, by design, not going to listen to us about our businesses, products, ideas, etc. People will, however, listen intently to whatever is going through their own heads – because that’s how survival works. We all scan our environment for things that will help us survive or thrive and tune everything else down or out. If we want to be heard, we’ll need to understand the biology and psychology of good messaging.
Donald Miller has a handy way to think about this in his book StoryBrand. Miller points out that we’re constantly spending energy. Even when we’re sitting on the couch we are burning calories. At the biological level, all life is the search for and conservation of energy to keep ourselves and our species going. We are all hardwired to deprioritize anything that gets in the way of our own surviving or thriving. We have to protect and respect the calories.
If we are trying to get an idea across to another person (specifically in the professional sense now, to a client or prospective client ), we can think in terms of calories burned. As Miller would say, anything that isn’t clear or framed from the listener’s survival perspective is like asking the person to get on a treadmill while we talk. People don’t want to be put on treadmills to burn calories for no good reason. It’s painful, and once you know this metaphor you’ll see it all of the time.
“So what do you do?” “Well, it’s complicated, but 50 years ago when my grandfather had a paper route…” TREADMILL. Don’t make others run for you. Their survival does not depend on it.
“How do I sign up?” “Well, we have six different pricing models and our own terms for what level you might be on. First, do you think you are a ninja, a samurai, or a Shaw Brothers level user?” TREADMILL. It’s easier to walk away than to figure this out.
“I’m confused, is this how this is supposed to work?” “Well, it is and let me wake you through the grand history of the theoretic construct behind our very detailed methodology…” TREADMILL. Their eyes glossing over is their soul running away, never to return.
And there’s an antidote to all of this.
Keep it simple. Remember, clear is kind. And, make it about them. How would they apply or use this information to their advantage? If we set it up right, they’ll be presented with a choice to either burn some calories on their own terms and ask us more questions or unplug the treadmill and signal they’re ready to move on.
“So what do you do?” “I help people answer XYZ questions.”
“How do I sign up?” “Click here.”
“I’m confused, how is this supposed to work?” “I’m happy to explain. Do you want the longer version with the history of why we do it this way, or the shorter version about our expectations in real-time?”
Keep the treadmills out of the communications. Make it simple. Make it about them. That’s how we ALL make progress.