You already know your idea — or product or service — is an answer. It’s your answer to a question your audience (or clients or customers) have.
You also know that, for some reason, whatever they’re doing now to find that answer isn’t working for them, or isn’t working well.
They’re tense. So are you.
They’re tense and frustrated because they want an answer that works. You’re frustrated because you have that answer… and they can’t see it.
And that’s a problem. Actually that’s THE Problem (capital P), the one you need to identify in your message: the shift in perspective that needs to happen before they can see why and how your answer is the right one.
It can be tempting to think that the Problem is what people are doing (or not doing). At one level that’s true. After all, if they acted on your idea they’d solve their problem, right? But if you agree that people are always trying to do the right thing (or at least trying to look or feel smart, capable, and good, then you have to look at why they’re doing that other thing now in the first place.
And that almost always comes down to how they’re looking at the situation, and what they’re focused on. You may have even heard someone say, “Why isn’t this working? What am I not seeing?” That’s key. As I’ve said before (and will no doubt say again): how you see drives what you do. That also means you can’t change what people do until you change how they see.
That’s why, long before you introduce your idea as the answer to their question, you have to identify the perspective that’s the Problem.
So, how do you do that? First, it can help to remember what creates tension, physically: at least two things pulling against each other. In this case it’s coming from the pull between the known and the unknown. The pull between a perspective that isn’t working, and the one that could work… but what? (Hint: your job is to show them that.)
That two-partedness is useful for a bunch of reasons, but one of them is key in helping people change: contrast. Showing people both sides helps them (a) understand where the tension is coming from, which helps them feel more confident in the ultimate decision and (b) see exactly how the new perspective is different — and yet consistent — and yet consistent from what they’re seeing (and doing) now.
So, the second step is to identify what’s creating that tension for your audience. Find what I call the “Problem Pair.” The Problem Pair is (usually) a pair of short words or phrases that are related, but are in tension with each other. For example, I often use “efficiency | effectiveness” as an example. Those two work well together, but if someone were to focus too much on only one of them, the tension would be off… and that would be a problem… and our Problem.
To start your thinking on what the Problem Pair might be for your message, think of common Problems of Perspective. You might not think there are any, but in fact, they’re all around us:
- Forest / Trees — As in, “you can’t see the forest for the trees.” Is someone so focused on the details they can’t see the big picture? Or so focused on the big picture, they can’t see what’s creating it?
- Cart / Horse — As in, “putting the cart before the horse.” Is someone seeing the right components, but in reverse order?
- Right hand / Left hand — As in, “the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.” Is someone so focused on one part of an equal balance that the whole thing is out of balance? (Efficiency / effectiveness could be seen as a problem of this “type.”)
- Shallow / Deep — Is someone only looking at the surface and missing the deeper implications? Or vice versa?
- Centralized / Decentralized — You get the idea…
- Parts / Whole
- Hub / Spoke
- Pieces / Process
- Show / Tell
- Internal / External
- Me / You
- Container (or Channel) / Contents
- Cause / Effect
- Structured / Unstructured
- Open / Closed
Once you have the general “type” of tension you’re looking at, customize the words and language to fit your audience’s situation and the words they’re familiar with or would use themselves.
- “How can I get my audience to see that my answer is the right one?” [Audience GOAL]
- You need to look at both what they’re doing and why they’re doing it [PROBLEM of perspective = what / why, a variation of shallow / deep]
- How you see drives what you do [TRUTH]
- Identify the perspective that’s the Problem [CHANGE]
- Find the Problem Pair [ACTION]
So, yes, that’s the Red Thread® of what you’re reading right now. And yes, I started the process of writing this today by figuring those out first, and stitching them together.
If you’re struggling to find your Problem Pair, try the Conversational Case™ I introduced recently. Since it matches the natural pattern of your brain as it makes a case for something, it can help you find the Problem of Perspective that’s right on the tip of your tongue. For what you’ve read today, that would have gone something like:
- When I work with… message-makers
- They often want to know… “How can I get my audience to see that my answer is the right one?”
- So they can… get people to act on it.
- When looking for that answer, people often focus on… what their audience is doing now [Problem of Perspective, part 1]
- Rather than on… why they’re doing that. [Problem of Perspective, part 2]
- Yet, I believe… how you see drives what you do,
- Which is why my answer is to… identify the perspective that’s the Problem
- That not only answers their question, it also… changes how people see, it changes what they do as a result.
In the beginning, thinking in categories of perspective like this may feel difficult. Rest assured, though, that difficulty is only because thinking this way, consciously, is unfamiliar. It is, however, far from unnatural. In fact, as psychologist and author Susan Weinschenk notes, “People naturally create categories. Just as learning a native language happens naturally, so does learning to categorize the world around us.” In fact, we’re able to create categories as young as age seven, because it’s necessary for us to learn how to make sense of the world.
And ultimately, that’s what you’re doing for your audiences, clients, and customers when you help them understand the Problem of Perspective. You’re helping them make sense of the situation they’re in, in a way that makes sense to them.
The best part? When you change how people see, you’ll change what they do as a result.Long before you introduce your idea as the answer to their question, you have to identify the perspective that's the Problem. Click To Tweet
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