I’m in Vancouver at the moment, attending Michael Port‘s seminar on “Beyond Booked Solid”. It’s about the whole “okay, your business is thriving madly, now you need better systems to keep you sane” thing.

If you’re wondering how I manage to be attending a seminar and writing blog posts, I’m not. My superpowers aren’t that super.

Because man, it’s intense and we’re in session ALL DAY. I wrote this a few days ago!

I know you probably don’t want to annoy the people you want to help.

Or to scare them off. Or to do anything that would result in losing their trust completely.

But since a lot of us do that anyway, inadvertently, play along with me. Here are three ways to seriously annoy the people you so dearly want to help.

And — even though I’m talking about this mostly from a business perspective because that’s what’s on my mind — it doesn’t matter what kind of people come to mind for you. The people you want to help or support could be friends, clients, customers, students, someone in your family…

The point is: you have some sort of point you want to get across, so that they can receive this wonderful help you have to give. Here’s how to mess that up completely and ensure the most glorious backfiring of all time.

NOTE: Apologies to everyone who wants to get back to talking more specifically about patterns and habits and how to change them. We’ll return to regular programming soon, I promise.

Right. So this is a series. Three ways to annoy the people you want to help? Let’s start with the first.

Don’t speak their language.

There are so many ways to do this.

You could do it figuratively …

Like the yoga clothing company that sends me emails about how their clothes will help me be the hottest chick in the studio.

Um … if you know I’m a yoga professional, you should be able to guess that it’s a spiritual and/or personal development practice for me, not a hotness practice.

Or take products that help small business owners bring traffic to their websites. A bunch of these are designed for coaches, consultants and trainers. If you’re trying to appeal to these people, it’s in your best interest to remember that these people are helper-mice. They care about helping people.

So working in all those graphics of floating dollar bills isn’t really speaking to the thing they care about most. It might be an added benefit, but it’s not why they want traffic.

They want traffic so that the people they want to help can find them and receive that help.

It might even freak out the ones who are worried about people mistakenly perceiving them as only being in it for the money.


Or you could do it literally …

For example, if you’re trying to get your teenager to engage in conversation with you and tell you about his day, say things like “groovy” or “far out” or whatever.

Or worse, you can use whatever slang he and his friends use in the hopes that they won’t fall over laughing, which they will. And no, I have no idea what those words are this year. I’m officially old.

Or much, much, much worse, you can use words that actively drive your readers crazy. Like this:

I got an email from a marketing biggifier a few weeks ago. This guy works with authors and writers to help them promote their books. If you’re someone (like me) who writes as part of their work, this is obviously (at least potentially) very useful.

Here’s the subject header:

Havi, join Tom Antion and I for a book marketing bootcamp Saturday night?

Just so you get the whole picture, this is an email going out to several thousands — if not tens of thousands — of authors. Authors. People who write for a living.

That sound you just heard? Tens of thousands of authors yelling “Join me! Me! Not “I”, you nitwit! Join me and Tom Antion for a blah blah blah! What’s wrong with you?!”

Okay, not all writers get so worked up about grammar that they have to run from the room shrieking, but you know what? Most of them do. And at the very least, every single one of them noticed and experienced that awful, awful nails-on-chalkboard feeling. Nice.

Of course, to be honest, the likelihood of getting me, personally, to sign up for anything that has “Bootcamp” in the name is pretty close to zero.

It’s the yoga thing again. Nonviolence is a given. It’s built into every single thing I do and how I do it … working with fears, dissolving procrastination, letting go of patterns and habits and so on. The whole bootcamp thing just grosses me out.

(And yes, I know there is such a thing as “yoga bootcamp” and I really, really, really don’t want to talk about it. Trust me.)

But whatever, let’s pretend I did want to go to a book marketing bootcamp. Now our biggifier friend just ruined the chances of that ever happening by having a glaring grammatical error in the headline for his promotion. The headline!

Now I pretty much don’t trust anything he has to say about book-writing, because the impression is that this guy doesn’t really read or write or care about grammar and/or proof-reading. Which kind of separates him from most of his readers.

Do I make grammatical mistakes? Oh, for sure. And yeah, I take quite a bit of, oh shall we say creative license with language. Do I proofread carefully? Mmm, not always. But I’m not trying to work specifically with authors. I don’t need them to listen to me. That’s the difference.

So … how do you speak their language?

Okay, now let’s pretend you do actually want the people you’re helping to feel safe and supported:

Obviously the answer to this question is material for at least a couple of months of posting, if not a book or two. So for today I’m just going to sum up quickly and mention a couple of useful resources.

What you need to do is this:

Figure out who your people are. Pay attention to details. Know who you’re talking to.

It helps if you also are one of these people, at least to some extent, so you can identify with them. If you aren’t, find a bunch of people who fit the bill and interview them.

Do your homework.

Learn what would drive them batty and then Don’t. Do. It.

Oh, and read these two books:

Start with pretty much any of the books in Suzette Haden Elgin’s “Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense” series. Because she’s a genius.

And of course Marshall Rosenberg’s book “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life” (ignore the excruciatingly cheesy poetry that sometimes creeps in, and keep it by the bed for conflict emergencies.)

That’s it. Have fun. Talk to you soon.

The Fluent Self