Rules to Write by: the Misplaced Passion Theory

My next rule to write by is the Misplaced Passion Theory. When people are passionate about a subject, they want to tell everyone everything. But people don’t want to know everything—they just want to hear what’s important to them.
Business owners will spend all day speaking about their products’ or services’ features and benefits, their company’s history, their mission and vision …
CEOs and CFOs of public companies will bend investors’ ears on what makes their companies so great and why people should buy their stock today …
And you—where’s your passion? What will you talk about ad nauseam—long after people have stopped rolling their eyes and have started shutting them? (I’m guilty, too. For me, it’s how good communication can solve just about any kind of problem with customers, employees, investors and the media.)
Although people love your passion, they hate wading through the pile of prose between them and what they really want to know. So as much as we love our subject, we need to give a little love to the people we’re trying to reach. Here are the two tricks I use to keep my intoxication with a topic from pushing people away rather than drawing them to me.
  • Trick #1: What am I trying to do? It’s Communications 101: what’s the purpose of all this? Am I trying to educate someone on a topic? Am I looking to get their agreement? Am I trying to get them to take action (and what would that be, by the way)? Am I looking to get more information from them?
You’d be surprised by the number of people who don’t consider why they’re speaking or writing before they start. Don’t be one of them. If you know what you want, you’ve exponentially increased the chances you’ll actually get it.
  • Trick #2: Who am I trying to reach? Let’s face it: your family and friends will cut you a lot more slack on your latest love than anyone else. But not your boss, when you’re trying to convince her that you have a great idea for a new project. But not your client, when you’re trying to convince him to spend more money with you when he’s already feeling budget constrained. But not the reporter on the phone, when you’re trying to convince him that this is a great story his readers can hardly wait to know more about.
So when you’re spending that extra few seconds deciding what you want to accomplish before the communication, take a few more to think about the people on the other end of it. Here’s your checklist.
  1. Why would they want to hear from you?
  2. When would they want to hear from you?
  3. How would they want to hear from you?
  4. What’s in it for them?
  5. What objections could they raise to your idea—and how could you address these up front so they don’t get the chance to use them to end the communication?
And the all-important—and often overlooked—What do I do if they actually agree with me and want to move forward? That’s another downside of passion: sometimes we’re so busy waxing eloquent about our subject that we don’t know when to stop! Then we can run the risk of talking people out of something they initially agreed to.
Before that next email, news release, proposal, phone conversation, tweet—mix compassion for your target audience with the passion for your subject. You’ll be creating your own Love Potion #9.
Lynn Franklin says she started Lynne Franklin Wordsmith 16 years ago because …”I was in danger of being made a partner at the world’s largest investor relations agency.  Or because a tarot card reader told me to.  Or because I wanted to prove my theory that wearing pantyhose didn’t make me more productive.  All of those would be true.”

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