Humans are funny creatures. Even when we’re searching for the “right” answer or idea for something, we can hear various versions of that right answer over and over again without ever really hearing it at all.
And then one day, BOOM, we read or hear the version that we can’t shake. The one that shifts our perspective permanently. How does that happen? And how can you do it yourself?
That’s what the latest “Message in a Minute” video is all about. It’s about why and how you can…
Give them something they can’t unhear
Here’s the video’s Red Thread:
- GOAL: Have your audience truly hear—and act on—your message.
- PROBLEM: Trouble often arises when we spend more energy presenting the right answers (why our idea is the “right one”—from our point of view!) than on raising the right questions.
- TRUTH: But, as mathematician Blaise Pascal once said, “People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others.” It’s when we convince ourselves that we are most convinced.
- CHANGE: That’s why you need to give people something they can’t unhear. While answers are important, people won’t be convinced your answer is the right one until they hear something they can’t ignore.
- ACTION: An “unhearable” phrase like that usually has several qualities:
- Novel—it’s a new way of thinking about something (or a familiar concept applied in a new way)
- Agreeable—it’s a concept your audience already wants or agrees with, or readily would, given their own experience, expertise, or intuition
- Repeatable—it’s something your audience can easily remember and repeat to themselves or others
- These kinds of phrases often create, contribute to, or provide closure for a moment of truth in your audience, a conflict between what someone wants, what they believe, and how they’ve been looking at a situation so far.
- GOAL REVISITED: When you give people these distinctive (and often differentiating!) phrases in your message, not only are they less likely to ignore or forget your message, they’re often also less likely to ignore or forget you.
How to apply it
Have you ever read or heard something that just… stuck with you? That once you heard it you couldn’t unhear it? More often than not, those words and phrases seem to bring a sudden clarity about something. They give you that sudden feeling that you finally, finally have the right words to describe something you felt or knew already—or something you didn’t really understand at all until you heard those words.
It makes sense then, that when you’re putting your own ideas and messages together, that you’d try to find those perfect words and phrases from the get-go, and pack your message full of them. And yes, while eventually you want to make sure your message has those “sticky,” repeatable phrases in it, it’s often better not to start there.
Why not? Because those wonderful phrases are answers.
But if you don’t know the question, answers can lose their power.
Think about it like the game show “Jeopardy!,” where the contestants are presented with a series of answers in a category. The contestants’ job is to correctly guess the given question that leads to that answer. So, for instance, if you got the answer “42” in the category of “U.S. Presidents,” the correct question would be, “Who is Bill Clinton?”
But imagine if you’re never given the category. Imagine you’re given only the answer 42. How would you know which question would be the “right” one? You couldn’t know, could you? Sure, you might stumble on the right question, but there are a LOT of questions that could be answered with “42.” And so, without question or category, 42 just turns into a meaningless number, something easily forgotten.
Every answer needs a question. Every *idea* needs a question.
That’s why you want to make sure your idea, concept, or phrase isn’t just a snappy answer… it’s the answer to a very particular question. Questions like:
• Why is this happening?
• What should I do?
• Why is that the right answer?
That last one is critical because there’s often two more words included in that question, even if they’re never said (or even thought!) out loud. Most of the time, “Why is that the right answer?” is actually:
• Why is that the right answer…for me?
Even when you hear an answer to a question you have, there’s still a moment where—before you’ll act—you have to believe it’s the right answer for you. As the mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal noted so accurately, “People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others.” Or, as I like to rephrase it:
It’s when we convince ourselves that we are most convinced.Even when you hear an answer to a question you have, there's still a moment where—before you'll act—you have to believe it's the right answer for you. Click To Tweet
So how do you help someone convince themselves of your idea? Answer their question in a way they can’t ignore—yep, give them something they can’t unhear. More specifically, give them something that creates a moment of truth, an “anagnorisis“: a moment where they make a critical discovery that changes how they see themselves or the world. As a result, they have to make a choice that answers a yet more critical question:
• Do I give up what I want?
• Do I give up what I believe?
• Or, do I give up how I’ve been looking at my situation so far? (the third is the one people are most likely to say “yes” to, by the way…)
Those moments of truth happen when three things are in play:
1. The answer or concept is novel. It’s new. It’s a different framing or phrasing than someone has heard before. That makes them notice and attend to it more. But newness alone is not enough.
2. The answer is agreeable to the audience. It’s something your audience already wants or agrees with, or readily would, given their own experience, expertise, or intuition. Fun fact: “Anagnorisis originally meant recognition in its Greek context, not only of a person but also of what that person stood for.” [Emphasis mine] People need to feel that what you’ve told them is “right” for them, that it makes sense to them, at both intuitive and intellectual levels. If you have #1 and #2 taken care of, then you can move to making sure…
3. The answer is repeatable. It’s short enough, clear enough, and memorable enough that people can and will say it to themselves, if not others as well. (Proverbing is a tool that can come in *very* handy here!)
Note that any of those alone isn’t enough. You need all three to create something someone can’t unhear.
Is that hard work? You bet it is. But since it’s work that so many aren’t willing to do, if you put the effort in, the payoff is so worth it. Not only will people be more likely to hear, understand, and act on your idea, they’ll be much more likely to remember you as the one who gave them the answer they were looking for.
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This week’s Message in a Minute, give them something they can’t unhear. I’m Tamsen Webster of TamsenWebster.com, and that particular Message in a Minute applies when you want to make sure that your message is not only heard but acted on.
A lot of times, when we are trying to make sure that your message gets across like that, we focus a lot of our attention on making sure that we’re presenting the right answers more than on making sure that we’re raising the right questions in someone’s mind.
But, as mathematician Blaise Pascal said, “People are generally better persuaded by the reasons that come from their own minds than those that come from the minds of others.” In other words, it’s when we convince ourselves that we are most convinced. So if you want to make sure that your message gets heard, you need to create something. You need to give them something they can’t unhear. Something that creates what I call a moment of truth. That moment where someone has to choose between what they want, what they believe, and how they’ve been looking at the situation so far.
There’s going to be some piece of information that puts those three into conflict with each other, and your job is to find it. If you want more information on how to do that, find my book, Find Your Red Thread: Make Your Big Ideas Irresistible, and you can find more on that at redthreadbook.com. If you want weekly information on making your message as strong as it can be, sign up for my newsletter at TamsenWebster.com/newsletter.
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