DonnaM » Blog Archive » It’s not about you

It’s not about you

In the last few weeks I’ve been in different situations that all reminded me of a key principle in any persuasive communication – no matter whether it be writing, designing, pitching or delivering a report. It is a principle that is absolutely key, and all so easy to forget…

The situations I found myself in were something like this:

  • I was writing my new ‘Why choose me‘ page. I started out writing about how fabulous I am and why you should hire me (yes, that’s crude, but go see what most consultants do). Even to me it was boring and dumb and flat and I hated it. So I thought about why I hated it and what I needed to write instead.
  • I was helping someone interview candidates for a website manager job. One person really got up my nose – when asked ‘Why do you want this job’ he explained how he wanted to work in a new domain, how he needed a change and how interesting it would be. I spent some time thinking about why he annoyed me so much.
  • I was struggling with a content rewrite for a client. It was hard to understand, dense overly-complex and really dull. It was potentially an incredibly interesting topic turned deadly.

On reflection on the similarities between these situations, I realised the problem – in each situation the writer/interviewee talked about themselves and how great they were, instead of talking about the person they were talking to. And I remembered something that I already knew:

Nothing is about you. Everything is about the reader/listener.

I think it was Kathy Sierra who really nailed this a few years ago (and who I would like to thank for her many ideas and insights). She put it so eloquently:

who kick's ass

This is the key to every single piece of communication. No-one cares about you, but they do care about what you can do for them.

Remember it, embed it, do everything you can to make other people shine; and good things will come your way automatically.

5 Responses to “It’s not about you”

  1. Wendy Sharp Says:

    Kathy Sierra is awesome, isn’t she? But you have a typo in the first line of your “Why Choose Me?” page– “a extensive information” should simply be “extensive information”. (Feel free to delete this comment; I just wanted to let you know.)

  2. Donna Maurer Says:

    Thanks Wendy – all fixed. I think I might do some rewriting of that page – it is still a bit too much about me ;)

  3. Ruth Ellison Says:

    An absolutely wonderful post that has really striked a chord.

  4. Marie-Laure Bouchet Says:

    Just been reflecting on your 2nd bullet point about the interviewee – if I had been on the panel I would want to know why he felt the job was worth applying for – even if it may have been because it was just down the road from his favourite gym, that at least that would give me an insight into his motivation. If you heard stuff about how worthwhile it is working for a charity based organisation (for example) or that his skills in XYZ would be of great benefit, then you still wouldn’t know why he really wanted the job and so how he might fit into the culture of the place etc. – so I think I’m saying that in this scenario I would care about him and what he wanted – it is of course all for the ultimate goal of finding out what he could do for the organisation, but maybe it’s a question of balance – I would want to know about you and what motivated you, as well as finding out what you could do for me!

  5. Donna Maurer Says:

    Good point Marie-Laure. In this case it was quite clear that the interviewee only wanted the job to increase his own skills. When compared to everyone else who said ‘I have these skills and these are the ways I can really help your team’, it really stuck out.

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