Can you learn how to be inspirational?
Can you learn how to write in such a way that readers feel stirred and encouraged to implement your tips?
You might think some people are born to be inspirational.
You either have charisma or you don’t.
Martin Luther King Jr. had charisma. And so did Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, and Marilyn Monroe. Oprah Winfrey has it, too, and Michelle Obama, and the Dalai Lama.
But ordinary people like you and me?
I used to think I was too plain and too boring to grow an online following. Interacting on social media frightened me. What if my followers would find out how boring I am?
But I’ve learned that my thinking was flawed. Even I could learn how to inspire my audience. Even I could have fans.
How to inspire a raving audience
In her book “The Charisma Myth,” Olivia Fox Cabane argues charisma can be learned. Charisma requires three core elements: presence, warmth, and power.
Cabane explains why charisma requires both power and warmth:
Someone who is powerful but not warm can be impressive, but isn’t necessarily perceived as charismatic and can come across as arrogant, cold, or standoffish. Someone who possesses warmth without power can be likable, but isn’t necessarily perceived as charismatic and can come across as overeager, subservient, or desperate to please.
And about presence, Cabane writes:
Being present—paying attention to what’s going on rather than being caught up in your thoughts—can yield immense rewards. When you exhibit presence, those around you feel listened to, respected, and valued.
In face-to-face contact, a sense of presence relies largely on body language. In writing, it may seem more difficult to be present as we can’t make eye contact with our readers. However, we can mimic the idea of presence: Write for one reader in a human voice, so you make each reader feel you’re writing for him alone.
The elements of warmth and power also apply to inspirational writing…
How to write with both power and warmth
Powerful writing exudes confidence.
So, write without “ifs” and “maybes,” and avoid “I think” and “in my opinion.” And don’t be afraid to use the imperative voice.
An example of a wimpy voice:
If you’d like to write with more confidence, you should perhaps try writing with fewer words.
Want to write with confidence? Use fewer words.
Confident writing is concise and precise.
But confident writing without warmth feels distant—as if you’re writing to impress and command rather than to educate, engage, and comfort your readers.
Writing with warmth means skipping the gobbledygook which makes you sound like a company. Instead, use everyday language and sensory words. Connect with reader’s emotions and show you understand their fears, worries, and dreams.
An example of cold words:
When you constantly use the words “I should” in your thoughts, you stress yourself out. Instead, try “I could.”
A warmer version:
Feeling overwhelmed by your ever growing to-do list?
I’ve been there, too. I kept telling myself I should do more. I should be more active on Twitter. I should open a Facebook account. I should make more progress with my next book. I should focus more. I should be more present. I should stop feeling so overwhelmed.
The endless stream of “shoulds” made me feel incompetent and miserable. As if I was spinning out of control.
Recently, I stopped beating myself up with “I should.” Instead, I rephrased my thoughts: “I
shouldcould be more active on Twitter, but right now I’d rather focus on my writing.”
The result? I feel less stressed, lighter and more at ease. I can even concentrate better.
A warm voice is compassionate, making readers feel understood.
Writing with both power and warmth requires a delicate balance.
A powerful voice uses fewer words while warm writing tends to use more. The key is to know whether your words convey meaning and warmth or whether they’re weak words—filler phrases expressing little or no meaning.
Also, you may know more and share your knowledge with readers, but that doesn’t mean you’re better. Write with authority and power, but don’t make your readers feel stupid, bad, or small.
Your readers are your equals.
Treat them that way.
Take a step back and slow down
When I started blogging I felt insecure.
I didn’t think I had enough knowledge. I doubted my writing skills. I was afraid to be seen as a fraud. That’s why I crammed as much information as possible into each post. I wrote posts with 37 tips, 21 mistakes, and 58 ways to be more persuasive.
But how often does an abundance of tips inspire action?
When I gained confidence, I started diving into smaller topics, sharing fewer tips per post.
Writing about ridiculously tiny topics goes completely against most blogging advice, which tells us to write about what keeps people awake at night.
But the huge advantage of tiny topics is that your advice becomes doable.
In their book “Switch,” Chip and Dan Heath call this “shrinking the change:”
[If] people are facing a daunting task, and their instinct is to avoid it, you’ve got to break down the task. Shrink the change. Make the change small enough that they can’t help but score a victory.
Make tiny ripples
No matter whether you’re teaching people how to write, how to practice yoga, or how to run a thriving business, your readers face a daunting task.
So, if you want to inspire your audience and spark change, start small.
Get readers to implement one tip, and make them come back for more.
Let them score tiny victories.