I went to a festival today, and the number of people wearing sunglasses struck me. True, it was a bright, sunny day, and I sported sunglasses of my own. But there was one distinct difference between me and everyone else: When I spoke to other people, I pushed my sunglasses up on my head so they could see my eyes.
I noticed it when I met up with someone I used to work with. We talked, and something was missing. The company was fine, the conversation was good, but I couldn’t put my finger on why I felt uncomfortable.
Then I realized that I couldn’t see the person’s eyes. Hidden away behind overlarge black shades, the person was depriving me of facial expression necessary to communication. Was he looking at me? Was his smile a real one? Was that a look of confusion? Was the person interested in the subjects we discussed? I couldn’t really tell; I could only guess, basing that guess on the rest of the body language cues I could pick up.
On the way home, the relation between sunglasses and writing snuck into my mind. (Somehow, I always seem to find ways to relate events in my life to my job.) People hide behind sunglasses. Part of them is missing. Some of the message they deliver is lacking.
Likewise, people hide behind words. We use words to portray an image, but the true image hides behind. The real message isn’t on display – unless those words are like my sunglasses, propped up on my head to let my face speak volumes.
My sunglasses portray an image. Hey, I’m cool, I have nice shades. I look good. (Alright, and I can see without squinting against the sunshine.) But together with my face, my image shows it all. I’m not hiding behind my sunglasses; I’m using them to complete the whole picture and portray the real me – looking sharp, of course.
This all reminded me of each time I read sales copy trying to sell me something. I scan the sales copy, reading the merits, features, benefits. I take in the look and presentation of the website. I check out the product. I can’t help but wonder whether the product is what it claims to be.
So many people use words to hide what they’re really selling. Their copy works and they earn money, yes, but they present one image and give the consumer something different. Their shades cover the eyes. The consumer has an idea of what he or she may be getting, nothing more. Are the eyes behind the sunglasses green, brown or blue? No one knows until they plunk down the money to find out.
Other people use words to dress up. They have a great product and they know it. They embellish it, make it look its best, accessorize with some sales copy that enhances the overall presentation. They don’t hide behind words – they use them to show what they’ve got going on in the best light possible. Consumers know what they’re getting before they even buy it – right down to the color of eyes.
When I write, my words hide nothing. They’re up front and bold, on display, but they don’t get in the way of my message. They aren’t concealing the truth by prettying it up or making it sound tempting. There’s no scam, no smoke and mirrors. My words say what they’re supposed to – they deliver the message without hiding a thing.
The next time you have to write to sell your product or service, think about whether your words are just a great pair of shades hiding the real deal or whether they’re pulling the whole image together to be the best it can be.
Oh, and the color of my eyes? Hazel, with little flecks of brown.