Why is it so hard for us to ‘tell it like it is’? What happens to our business relationships when our marketing uses evasive language? Author and marketer Lynn Serafinn explains in this passage adapted from the book The 7 Graces of Marketing.
As a coach, I have learned how to listen carefully to what people are really saying. Frequently this is not so much a matter of the content of what they are saying, but the context in which they are saying it. It is within that context that you can hear the whole truth of the story, including how clients are really feeling about both the situation and themselves. As a lot of my coaching is done over the phone or Skype (and not always with the webcam turned on), there are no ‘body language’ cues to inform me, and I’ve learned to use my ears and my intuition to hear the subtlest inflections in both the tone of voice and in the way a client uses language. One of the most consistently accurate measurements of what clients are actually feeling can be found in their grammar, especially in their choices of when to use first, second or third person in their verbal rendering of a story or situation. For instance, when someone gone through a very painful or even shameful trauma (which could be anything from childhood abuse to getting fired from a job), it is extremely common for that person to deflect their feelings of shame and pain by saying things like, ‘When that happens you feel like you’re not worth anything,’ rather than saying, ‘When that happened, I felt like I wasn’t worth anything.’ Usually, when someone relates a personal experience in the second person ‘you’ rather than the first person ‘I’, they are distancing themselves from the experience and the emotion.
I’ve found there can be many reasons for this. One is that the emotion is still very painful and they’re distancing themselves from the pain by putting it ‘over there’ instead of inside them. Another is that they might be judging themselves for having the emotion (or for having done something for which they are ashamed), and by saying ‘you’ it gives them a feeling of social proof, i.e., that other people also feel the same as they do. And lastly, and especially if the client rarely if ever uses the first person, it can also reflect a chronic dissociation to their feelings, usually stemming from a deep lack of self-worth that goes far beyond a specific incident or memory. For such clients, saying ‘I’ can be one of the most uncomfortable things they’ve ever done, because they have lived for so long not being able to acknowledge their own opinions, feelings and ideas that they have lost the skill of standing in their own presence. For them, the biggest shift they often experience is simply by my pointing out every time they aren’t ‘owning’ their emotions, until they develop their own awareness and begin to step into their experiences without shame or fear. It’s amazing how a simple change from ‘you’ to ‘I’ can do so much to heal a wounded soul.
But what is even more interesting about this shift is that when we begin to ‘own’ our experiences through our language, we also become more ‘direct’ in how we express ourselves. This doesn’t mean that we suddenly become rude or show fits of anger with our family or in public. In fact, it usually means we are much less prone to do so. What it does mean, rather, is that we cease putting up protective barriers around our feelings, making us more able to walk fearlessly in life, even around conflict, without feeling the need either to fight or flee. Directness makes our relationships with people ‘clean’ and straight-forward, enabling us to have a deeper and more intimate connection with others.
Directness plays a big part in marketing as well, and it can make or break the relationship between a business and the consumer. In my upcoming book The 7 Graces of Marketing, I dedicate an entire chapter to ‘Distraction’, which I have named as one of the ‘7 Deadly Sins of Marketing’. In that chapter I describe all the subtle ways in which many marketers use Distraction to take our attention away from the truth, in order to make a sale. Later in the book, there is another chapter on ‘Directness’, one of the ‘7 Graces of Marketing’, which is the ‘antidote’ for Deception. What is interesting about Directness in marketing (or lack thereof) is that it can stem from the very same reasons we might lack Directness in our personal relations–an underlying disconnection. We might be lack connection to self or to the values being expressed by the business or product being marketed.
Here’s a little story that gives an idea of how lack of Directness can impact our relationships, both in life and in marketing. Let’s imagine a marketing message as a suitor, and the consumer as a young girl being wooed. At first, the girl is charmed by the suitor’s sense of humour, his charismatic ways and his suave and sexy words. She feels when she’s around him and finds herself desiring to spend time with him. Other boys look at the suitor and shake their heads. ‘How come all the ladies are attracted to him?‘ they mutter amongst themselves. They don’t understand why he seems to get all the girls. But after a while, the girl tires of how much he dances around the truth, and she realises she doesn’t really know him at all. His humour, charm or sensuality only makes her irritable, because she knows there is no real connection between them. She gets frustrated because he’s all fluff and little substance. Eventually, the proverbial honeymoon is over and she ends the relationship. He cannot understand how it could happen, as he’s been ever so sweet, charming and entertaining. She herself cannot quite put her finger on what went wrong either, but the whole experience has left her feeling disappointed, and perhaps cynical and mistrusting of future suitors.
When a large company uses Distraction in marketing just to get the attention of the consumer, it’s very much the same scenario. It might very well work at first, but in the long term, most people are going to tire of it unless they find some substance within their relationship with the company. What’s worse, once consumers have been seduced by contests, quirky or provocative ad campaigns and other gimmicks that have little or nothing to do with the product or service involved, they are far less apt to trust a company later on when they want to get serious. But when marketers practice Directness from the onset, they are laying the foundation for long-term relationships with the consumer. Directness is one of the most life-giving attributes of any interpersonal relationship, including marketing.
To pull it altogether into a single sentence:
‘Directness is the practice of using elements in your marketing that that provide plain, unambiguous and relevant information about the product or service being marketed AND express the genuine thoughts, opinions and values
of the company or business owner.’
In other words, Directness tells it like it is.
The above article is a short adaptation from the chapter entitled ‘Directness’ in my book The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell. I hope you’ll subscribe to this blog for more articles on ethical marketing and the forming of a new business paradigm.
And, as always, your comments and feedback are MOST welcome!
The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing.
Brit Writers Awards Finalist
eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues
Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically, by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media.
eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales
Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.
Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors. Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.
(not just for Londoners, as we meet also on Skype)