In today’s increasingly connected world, it often feels like we’re more disconnected than ever.
Thanks to the bombardment of news — and opinions, and opinions masquerading as news — that greet us whenever we go online or turn on the TV, we’re more aware than ever of the huge and growing divide between “us” and “them.”
It doesn’t matter how you slice it – Democrat vs. Republican, liberal vs. conservative, religious vs. atheist, Christian vs. Muslim, rational vs. spiritual, white vs. non-white, libertarian vs. socialist, progressive vs. traditional, and so on – we are increasingly encouraged to think of the people on the opposite side of the argument as ignorant, foolish, black-hearted, and quite possibly insane.
How can we bridge the widening rift and get to a place where people on opposing sides can communicate openly and respectfully with each other — and develop the shared understanding we need to come together and solve the problems we face as a society?
The answer to this daunting question could be the key to world peace.
It also happens to be the secret to writing great copy.
What is it, you ask?
In honour of today being the 50th anniversary of the first episode of Star Trek, here’s a hint my fellow Trekkies should appreciate:
Deanna Troi would have made an amazing copywriter
The secret to writing great copy – and becoming a more effective online communicator in general – is to have a keen sense of EMPATHY.
When you have a strong empathetic connection with people, you’re able to see the world through their eyes. You feel what they feel — and you develop an intimate understanding of what their life is like, what they dream of, what they most want and need, and how to satisfy those wants and needs in a way that works for them.
This is what allows you to write copy that speaks to people’s hearts and inspires them to take action.
And it’s also what allows you to communicate with the “other side” of a political or ideological argument in a way that promotes shared understanding and brings you together instead of widening the gap that separates you.
5 tips to strengthen your empathy muscle
How do you learn to see the world through other people’s eyes and gain deeper understanding of their lived experience? Here are some tips:
1. Get curious
You have to really WANT to understand what the world looks like from their perspective – and you’ve got to be able to ask the questions that reveal what you don’t already know.
2. Take yourself out of the equation
Ditch your ego, forget everything you think you know, and do your best to listen, observe, and understand without any preconceived notions or expectations. Then reflect their ACTUAL experience back to them to show you know what they’re going through.
3. Listen more, talk less
The only people who can tell you what your ideal clients’ lives are like are YOUR IDEAL CLIENTS.Same goes for someone who publicly claims support for an idea, organization, or political candidate you think is totally whack. So if you want to know what they think or feel about something, the only way to know for sure is to ASK them.
4. Cultivate a strong imagination
If you want to see through another person’s eyes, you have to be comfortable with exploring different realities. And that requires imagination. Reading great fiction and watching compelling TV (like Star Trek!) or movies helps. So does creative writing, journalling, drawing, painting, acting, or any other form of creative play.
5. Be willing to be vulnerable
Finally, if you want to become a more empathetic person, you’ve got to be okay with being vulnerable. You must be willing to admit that you’re not perfect, you’re not always right, you make mistakes, and that you still have capacity to learn and grow.
When you acknowledge this about yourself, you will find it so much easier to relate to and empathize with other people — and appreciate the fact that they too have hopes, fears, dreams, and the capacity to learn and grow.
Empathy is what brings us together
Empathy allows you to develop a much deeper connection to others. When you can see through their eyes and feel what they feel, it’s impossible not to care for them, and want the best for them. And that genuine desire to help them will definitely come through in your writing.
That’s why, if you want your writing to resonate with your intended audience and inspire them to take action, it’s so important to cultivate a strong sense of empathy. This goes for ANY form of online writing – from writing for your business, to posting on social media, to commenting on articles on your favourite news site.
Empathy dispels ignorance and reveals the fundamental truth that there is no “us” vs. “them” – there’s only us. If we ever hope to bridge the gaps between us, so we can work together to create a better world for everyone, this understanding is the key to making it happen.