Think like a shy fish, not a cocksure fisherman

Simple Writing Bullet #3: Think like a shy fish, not a fisherman

Is your writing selfish? Do you go: “We are the best! Haha! I’m witty and funny! I am cool! I am quirky! Look at me! Me me me We we we I I I me me me…” ?

That’s okay, it’s not your fault. School has poisoned your mind and brainwashed you into writing selfishly.

I’m not saying school is bad. School is important for many things. It just did a shitty job at teaching you how to communicate. So if you’re writing to evoke action, you gotta murder that weed.

The good news is, it only takes a simple mental tweak and a magic 5-word question to start writing generously.

Most of the time, you won’t even have to change what you say. You just have to re-phrase it.

So here’s the trick: Imagine your reader has his or her arms crossed and is asking…

"What's in it for me?"

“What’s in it for me?”

Simple, right?

Let’s try with a couple of examples:

  1. You may want to say:
    “I’ll be leaving for a business trip next week so your classes will be taught by another instructor instead.”

    Not so fast…
    “What’s in it for me?”

    “You’re in for a treat. Lucy is an expert in ____. I have asked her to put together a special program similar to what she designed for the ______ Olympic team. The last time we did something like this was one year ago, so you don’t want to miss it.”

  2. You may want to say:
    “We had an amazing event last night!”

    Not so fast…
    “What’s in it for me?”

    In case you missed it, the funniest thing last night was when Grandpa Tony started to… with her… and just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse… and, yes, we caught it all on video here.”

  3. You may want to say:
    “We’re the world leader in unique innovative social marketing solutions for exclusive award-winning brands by leveraging extensive, real-time and dynamic insights. Our next-generation cloud software and breakthrough metrics will integrate your social platforms to explode your ROI and empower your business with scalable profit systems.”

    JUST DON’T! What’s the matter with you? Go rinse your mind out with soap.

  4. You may want to say:
    “My services are listed as follows… A: $100, B: $200, C: $500.”

    Not so fast…
    “What’s in it for me?”

    “If you’re a working mom, C will give you peace of mind and the break you deserve, so you can spend more time with your family.”

  5. You may want to say to a toddler:
    “Eat your vegetables.”

    Not so fast…
    “What’s in it for me?”

    “Carrots go CRUNCH. Listen – CRUNCH. That was a loud CRUNCH! You can make a CRUNCH too!”
    (It worked. True story.)

Got it?

Good. No more excuses then. Practice practice practice.

Focus on who you’re writing for and what matters most to them, then uncross their arms by answering their question, “What’s in it for me?”

Stop writing selfishly. Start writing generously.