The Gaps Are Important

22 February 2021

It’s May 2007. I’m on a week-long course as part of my journey of NLP and hypnosis fascination. The meeting room chair, pitched directly in front of another in one corner of the room, is more than comfortable as my partner continues to speak to me gently. I’m relaxed, very relaxed.

"And Craig, as we continue, just imagine you are driving your car down a lovely winding country road on a beautiful sunny day."

I sit bolt upright with my eyes wide open; relaxation disappeared faster than you can say “The Stig”;

"Sorry, I have to stop you right there. I drive like a prick!"

This episode still sticks with me 14 years later – having someone project their relaxing story onto me and dramatically changing my entire state in an instant.

The Power Of Words

I love words. I love the power they have and their ability to offer a semblance of meaning to complex things, not just objects and actions but feelings and emotions.

Words allow us to communicate. They evoke; they allow us to create stories for the generations.

But, there’s a flaw. They’re not enough.

How can you really share a burst of emotion using only words? And, when you try to explain something (anything), it’s impossible for the person being communicated to, not to put their stamp on it.

Take the word coffee; what does it bring to mind for you? A smell, a taste, a feeling, or a simple image of a jar? There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all communication package.

And that’s just one word!

Embrace The Gap

One thing good writers do is allow ideas to manifest in the mind of the reader. They create outlines for the reader to fill in.

If you, as a marketer, writer or broadcaster, can develop the flexibility to let your message breathe – leaving enough gaps along the way so that they can be moulded in the mind of others – you’ll have a much better chance of them sticking.

But, But, But...

Many marketers (and many people generally) tend to want an exact message to be received (as if that’s even possible). They feel their communication is not being understood, and they tend to blame the reader because  “they just don’t get it”.

They work so hard trying to get their message across that they stifle the core meaning. They leave no room for the receiver to join the dots in their own way. By embellishing and over-stuffing sentences, they actually block peoples’ imagination and their openness to listen and understand.

It may make the storyteller feel superior, but it sure is counter-productive.

A few years ago, I used an example from a healthcare company’s web page in one of my presentations. The text was so generic, full of vague superlatives, that it could have been selling anything. The fact is, it ended up selling nothing.

Stories and metaphors sell. When done well, the audience is allowed the room to buy into a story and unconsciously understand any metaphor to relate it to their own experiences.

I Got A Feeling

Communication is all about creating a feeling. Whether you want someone to read your case study, your CV, or your love letter, if you can not build that connection of empathy, you’re buggered. Great speeches rouse people, good books spark imagination, and movies can bring us to tears. It’s not by the author holding on to every word, it’s by creating an emotional connection.

It’s funny working in B2B. People think they are rational, that there is no room for emotion. It’s Bollocks. Emotions play a huge part. We’ve all seen big contracts given just because one person likes someone over another. Even on a macro scale, markets run on emotions and beliefs just as much as on facts.

And you can be damned sure that some marketer has used that to their advantage with you. Yes you!

Summary

Our brains are wired to be much more flexible than we think we can be, especially when it comes to communication – both within ourselves and with others.

You may end up so hard trying to persuade people of your argument/sales message/story that you end up stifling their innate brilliance in being able to fill in the communication gaps themselves.

Leave space.

Have a clear core message and hold back from trying to convince people – it’s much more powerful and engaging.

And, you never know, by leaving those gaps, they may well end up being a better storyteller than you when it comes to joining the dots.

the gaps are important