How To Capture The Hearts And Minds Of Your Readers

    Do you want to capture the hearts and minds of your readers?

    When you plan a piece, you often have concerns such as:

    • Am I providing enough useful content to readers?
    • Do I have the facts and data to back up my argument?
    • Does my writing make sense and flow logically?

    While these are important questions, one vital ingredient is missing.

    A connection.

    Your readers want to know that you’re in the trenches with them, that you understand what they’re going through.

    The simplest way forge a connection with your readers is to write a piece that stirs their emotions.

    Facts are read and forgotten, but emotions stay with us.

    As Maya Angelou said:

    People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

    Here is the 3-step process to harnessing the power of emotions so you can capture the hearts and minds of your readers.

    Step 1: Eavesdrop

    You can listen anywhere—in the mall, while hanging out with friends and family, or as you browse the internet.

    When someone tells you their problems or their aspirations or their deepest fears, be a listening ear. Notice the words they use, and their tone of voice.

    It’s surprising how alike people are. We tend to speak and act in similar ways, even though we like to believe we’re unique. So if one person tells you something, there’s a good chance that a number of people feel the same way.

    Sometimes, though, you need to look beneath the surface.

    For example, I overheard an interesting conversation the other day. One girl said to the other, “Ugh, my thighs look so fat in these shorts.”

    I’ll tell you how the rest of the conversation went, but first, take a moment to think what she might have been trying to say.

    Why did she say that? What did it mean?

    Did she need to go shopping for a new pair of shorts? Get liposuction?

    Listening isn’t just about hearing something and taking it at face value. Our words hide many emotions and thoughts.

    Her friend replied, “Yeah, they do look fat.”

    If you think that was an unusual (and horrible) response, here’s what the first girl had to say. “What?! You’re not supposed to say that. You’re supposed to say, ‘No, your thighs look fine.’”

    What a great response! Besides setting things straight with her terrible friend, she acknowledged her hidden emotions. She didn’t really mean she was fat. What she wanted was reassurance that she wasn’t fat.

    So pay attention to what people say.

    But also try to understand what they mean.

    Step 2: Expose your readers’ deepest, darkest secrets

    Empathy takes listening one step further.

    It requires putting yourself in another person’s situation and imagining you were them.

    Let’s say you’re writing about how to use social media to promote your business.

    Picture yourself as Jane, a small business owner. What would Jane think about using social media?

    If I were her, these thoughts would go through my head:

    • Would using social media take up all my time?
    • Everything seems so overwhelming and complicated. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…setting up a profile, connecting with other people…AAAHH!
    • By how much would social media help my business grow?

    By entering Jane’s head, I better understand her thought process, and what holds her back from trying something new.

    This makes it much easier for me to address these concerns when I interact with people like her.

    Another way to empathize is to talk to people one-on-one. Encourage them to tell you what they’re thinking.

    Initially, people might cover up what they feel. But if you push gently to go beneath the surface, they do open up to you.

    People often say, “I just need to figure out what to do with my life.”

    This deceptively simple phrase makes many of us uncomfortable, because nearly all of us face this issue at some point in our lives. As a result, we shift the conversation to something else.

    I suggest the opposite. Don’t flinch from the topic.

    Instead, dig. Dig till you get to the bottom of the matter.

    Be curious. Ask open questions such as “What have you tried doing? Why hasn’t it worked so far?”

    At first, the person might mumble a vague response.

    Keep digging.

    Eventually, the person will reveal what’s on their mind if you keep asking interested, non-threatening questions.

    Step 3: Connect

    By now, you should have a good sense of what your readers think and feel. If you’ve been following steps 1 and 2, people will have already told you!

    Now it’s time to write something that makes people think you’re speaking directly to them.

    Which you are, in a sense.

    There are two ways to relate to readers: focus on emotions, and keep your writing simple.

    1. Focus on emotions, not facts

    If you want to connect with your readers, appeal to their emotions. Research shows that we use emotions to remember important information.

    For example, if your tongue gets scorched eating hot soup, you will remember to skim a small portion of soup the next time. You remember the pain you experienced!

    Emotions are also at the core of persuasion. We rely primarily on emotions rather than logic to make decisions.

    For example, in the 2000 Presidential campaign, in a debate against Governor Bush on healthcare costs, Vice President Al Gore said:

    “Under the Governor’s plan, if you kept the same fee for service that you have now under Medicare, your premiums would go up by between 18% and 47%, and that is the study of the Congressional plan that he’s modeled his proposal on by the Medicare Actuaries.”

    He went on to explain how the policy would affect the average person.

    In response, Bush said:

    “Under my plan the man gets immediate help with prescription drugs. It’s called Immediate Helping Hand. Instead of squabbling and finger-pointing, he gets immediate help.”

    Instead of communicating his concern for seniors and rising healthcare costs, Gore relied on facts to make the audience think about the implications of an alternative plan.

    On the other hand, Bush tapped into the public’s emotions, showing he could relate to the average voter’s everyday struggles.

    The most potent way to capture the hearts and minds of your readers is to make them feel.

    Gregory Henderson does just that in his post How to Consciously Create the Life of Your Dreams:

    Do you ever feel dissatisfied with how your life turned out?

    You know there has to be more to life, but you know that what you’re living now just isn’t it. This is not the life you’ve always dreamed of.

    You had so many dreams when you were younger, but they just haven’t come to fruition.

    Later, he discusses how to address this issue.

    But first, notice how Gregory begins by crafting a feeling of dissatisfaction within the reader before offering practical help. It’s the build-up of emotions in the introduction that creates a sense of relief when he finally offers a solution.

    Facts don’t move people. This doesn’t mean facts are pointless. Rather, facts should be used within the context of a gripping, emotionally driven story.

    2. Keep your writing simple

    An important part of telling a memorable, captivating story is being able to break things down.

    Read this description:

    A quainter corner than the corner where the Doctor lived, was not to be found in London. There was no way through it, and the front windows of the Doctor’s lodgings commanded a pleasant little vista of street that had a congenial air of retirement on it.

    As great as Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities is, writing like this doesn’t work well on a blog.

    It may be tempting to use extravagant phrases to sound eloquent, but this backfires on the internet.  Readers will get confused and give up reading if you overcomplicate your writing.

    See how Derek Halpern talks about his upbringing in 2015: Be The Exception.

    When I was a kid, my mom was on welfare. And my dad was in jail. And I was surrounded by other drug addicts in my family who would steal money from my mom.

    Derek paints a grim picture of his upbringing, evoking sympathy and concern from readers. Notice how he states his situation in short, blunt sentences, as if understating his circumstances.

    The way he delivers his story makes it easy to understand, and easy to empathize with him.

    Use simple, everyday language.

    Because ultimately, you want your readers to know that you understand them better than anyone else does.

    Being a good writer means coming up with great ideas for your readers.

    But that’s only one part of the equation. The other part of good writing is getting others to listen to your ideas.

    By using the 3-step process to harness the power of emotions, you can write about issues that are deeply relevant to your readers in a way that moves them powerfully.

    What do you do to capture the minds and hearts of your readers? Share in the comments below.

    And if you enjoyed the post, please share it on social media.

    About the author

      Melissa Chu

      Melissa Chu helps people get productive and develop good work habits. You can download the free guide that shows you how to develop a framework for your writing goals, so that you can better connect with your readers.

    • LouisGrace says:

      Thanks so much for another beautiful, inspiring piece! I miss your more frequent posts, but am delighted that you still share what you can, peace.

    • Ohita Afeisume says:

      I like to write novellas because no matter how interesting your novel is, if it is too voluminous, there’s the danger of losing your reader along the way. Keep it short and simple(KISS) is my style.

    • HI Melissa,
      It is so nice to see your content on touch heart of your reader with your writing. I believe content should be write in own voice.

      I loved your tips on keep your writing simple and focus on emitions. Once we are able to write simple content reader will enjoy more to read content. If we can appeal with our reader emotion then we will be able to drive more viewer.

      Many thanks for your great content.
      Kind Regards
      Yasin Rishad

      • Melissa says:

        Thanks Yasin. Sometimes when I read something too complex, or a piece that uses words outside of the vocabulary I use on a daily basis, my eyes just glaze over. The first step is to be simple. Write in a way that everyone knows what you’re saying.

        And of course, put some feelings into it.


    • gigi wolf says:

      Good value! Thanks!

      I like the SEO feature on my WP site. It tells me the Fleisch Reading level on every post I write. It used to tell me my posts were somewhat difficult to read. Now, it usually tells me they’re fairly easy. That’s a relief. I’d hate to be another Charles Dickens.

      Learning to edit, and write clear, articulate sentences is no mean feat. Just by studying editing alone my writing has improved.

      • Melissa says:

        Hi gigi wolf,

        That’s neat that you use the Fleisch Reading level. I admit, I haven’t used it yet but I’ve heard good things about it.

        Isn’t it interesting how in school we were taught to use more complex words? Now it’s as if we’re rewinding ourselves back to simpler language.


    • Building a connection with your readers is so important.

      I try to write as i would write to a friend. Always positive, but letting some personality shine through.

      Meeting the reader where they are is a great way to connect as well 🙂 It’s actually pretty cool to think about them and their problems, so you can play your role in solving it.

      I love this blog. Always good to keep the writing spirit intact!

      – Jasper

      • Melissa says:

        Hey Jasper,

        I agree, writing should be as if you’re talking to a friend. When a friend tells us something interesting, we lean in and want to hear more. Contrast this to academic writing, which is much drier and you really need to put more energy into listening, which makes it easy for readers to stop listening.

        Thanks for reading!

    • Kimsea Sok says:

      Thanks for sharing…! That was a nice tips about writing…!

      I always found inspired tips here, and this another which I love.

      Writing sound like not so difficult for write, but it isn’t. You have wonder of many things about your reading.

      You, blogger is using article to build relationship with your readers thus you’ll need to know about what they want….

      I agree what you said here. The connection is really important for write to interact with their readers. If you are talking what your readers don’t to listen perhaps they’ll go a bit far form you…

      thanks, that nice tips..

      • Melissa says:

        Thanks Kimsea. Yes, building a relationship is really important, and it starts with listening to your readers. Facts and information can be found just about anywhere, but if you can find a way to connect to people, they’ll stay and listen to what you have to say.


    • Nicolas says:

      To capture the readers has to be instantly, the first words have to be strong, captivating, and interesting. with feelings and emotions, that pull your readers inside of your story and makes them. see, feel, and taste. Thank you for this wonderful blog, especially Maya Angelous most famous words, it has been very good reading. From The teller of tales. Not the original teller, Sir Arthur Conandoyle .

      • Melissa says:

        Hi Nicolas,

        I agree – the beginning is really important to “hook” in your readers and snatch their attention. There are only a few seconds to do this before the reader starts looking elsewhere. Like you said, captivating them emotionally is the key.


    • Pimion says:

      That post is REALLY GOOD. Thank you,Melissa. I’ll try to use these tips when writing the next book.

      • Melissa says:

        Thanks for the kind words Pimion! And you are writing a book you say? Congrats on taking on such a goal and hope your book goes well!

    • Mark Tong says:

      Hi Mellisa – very useful post reminding us not to write dry but with feeling. Thanks

      • Melissa says:

        Glad you appreciate the post Mark! Thanks for reading.

    • Michelle says:

      My parents loved big words and I had to learn them all. To write blog posts without using them feels like I’m targeting 12-year olds. But the Gore/Bush example is a great one. My father, the ever-rational wordsmith, told me he was voting for Bush. I asked him why and he just said, “I’d rather be his and not Gore’s friend.”

      Thanks for reminding me that empathy wins.

      • Melissa says:

        Hey Michelle,

        Thanks for sharing what your dad said. We often think we have to be the most intellectual or logical person in the room to win, but being personable is the quickest way to reach out to others.

        I know how you feel about avoiding big words. It was something that took me quite awhile to get used to, but at the same time it’s a relief. Do you feel the same about it?


    • PJ Reece says:

      Writing well is HARD! I’m not sure anyone ever gets it right. Especially me. But the trying sure does make a satisfying life’s work. Write on, everyone!

      • Melissa says:

        Hi PJ Reece,

        Very true. Writing is easy, but writing well…that is something that takes time and effort to master. And of course, writing blog posts is a different skill from essay writing back in school.

        thanks for your comments!

    • tulika says:

      I try to keep my writing light to read, to make the readers flow from one sentence to another. I also focus on making it happy and hilarious which resists them to skip the paragraphs.
      I do everything that doesn’t make the reader feel a sort of burden to read on…and yes! write to done is a great help in this process…

      • Melissa says:

        Hey Tulika,

        Those are good points you made – often if I’m reading something that’s too factual (i.e. lacking personality) or the paragraphs are in large clumps, it’s too burdensome like you said.

        It’s nice that you write to bring a smile and a laugh to your readers. Have you also tried exposing your vulnerability to readers as well?


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