convey to compel 9: “aha” moments

Build suspense, then relieve it.

Imagine you could build an emotional connection with customers by asking simple questions. Imagine you could read their mind, and they loved you for it…

Both are effects of the method we’re about to look at.

As you may have noticed, one of the underlying themes of this communication series is fostering clarity and understanding. We want our audience to grasp our thoughts with as little friction as possible, and we want them to retain as much as they can.

Asking short, simple questions is a great way to do that.

How does mind reading come into play? How do we ask a question and read their mind at the same time? We do it by setting up a question. We create a question in their minds with the information we deliver with our words.

We do this by delivering an idea for the first time and purposefully leaving out a minor detail that prevents them from fully understanding. We’re essentially creating an unknown in their minds. An unknown to which their human nature will desire resolution through clarification.

Now, we’ve mentioned time and again that people fear the unknown and that leaving unknowns in our communication with them is not ideal. This is why with today’s technique, we resolve the unknown immediately after creating it.

We do it by asking out loud, then answering the very question that we know they’re asking in their minds. The question that asks for the minor detail that we specifically left out. The question they need answered so as to satisfy the unknown we’ve created. The question we set up in the first place.

So what do we do after we ask them the question? We answer it.

What are the effects of this technique?

Well first of all, it makes your communication with your audience more like a conversation and less like a lecture.

Second, you take them on a miniature, sometimes subconscious emotional roller coaster that ends positively, leaving them feeling good. Here’s what happens:

First you deliver enough details about your idea that they gain some understanding, which peaks their interest.. Then you purposefully leave out a critical point which prevents them from grasping the idea fully. At this point they feel a slight sense of intrigue, frustration and fear because it’s human nature to fear the unknown and to want to understand. You’ve created a question in their mind, and you know what it is. Then you acknowledge their fear and frustration by asking the question out loud. Finally you give them a sensation of mild relief and satisfaction by answering the question.

You are essentially creating an “aha” moment of sorts.

Let’s look at an example and give you your own “aha” moment, shall we?

Sample roller coaster:

In our last post we talked about how a technique called verbal priming can help you communicate to both kinds of thinkers: bottom-up thinkers and top down thinkers. (We actually applied today’s roller coaster technique twice in a row.)  First we applied it to the new idea of bottom-up and top-down thinking, then we applied it to the idea of verbal priming. It would serve you well to go back and read that post before reading further here.

First we gave you some intriguing facts about top-down and bottom-up thinking. We explained that they are the two different ways how humans process information to understand fully formed ideas, and that people tend to use one more than the other. We also hinted that there was a technique to better communicate to both these kinds of thinkers. Essentially we delivered some intriguing insights about the topic at hand, without actually telling you what it was (they were). The unknown has been created. The question had been formed in the reader’s mind.

“Alright already! So what is this bottom-up and top-down thinking that everyone resorts to?”

Then we ask the question in our post, literally asking:

“So what does this mean?” In so doing, we validate our readers’ curiosity and frustration of the unknown. It’s almost as if we’ve read their mind to pull that question,

Then we explain what both bottom-up and top-down thinking means. In so doing, we relieve our readers’ frustration with the unknown, creating that ‘aha” moment and leaving them in a positive state.

Then we continue with the roller coaster technique by reintroducing the new idea of verbal priming. Again we deliver some intriguing facts about it, including that it can help us better engage both bottom-up and top-down thinkers. We also explain how we developed the concept of verbal priming by using it and seeing great results in our sales career. This information drops hints about the value, function and origin of verbal priming without actually defining it for the reader. Again we have generated interest and then created an unknown. The reader is once again asking the question:

“So what is this verbal priming they’re talking about?” That’s when we ask that exact question in the post, and answer it. We achieve the “aha” moment again.

Even in this post you’re reading now, we developed quite a bit of intrigue and suspense by talking a fair bit about the theory of this roller coaster method without actually giving any concrete examples. Until the end. Now you’ve connected the dots and it makes sense. You have a small “aha” moment.

See what we did there? 😉

You don’t always have to use this method when introducing new ideas to people. But when you do use it, the intrigue, unknowns, relief and “aha” moment all work together as an emotional roller coaster that intensifies their experience all while ending on a positive feeling. This not only helps them grasp the concept better, but retain it better too. Lastly, doing this consistently (not all the time) throughout your writing can gradually build a positive bond with your reader, because those “aha” moments are literally making them feel good. They release dopamine, and they associate that feel-good feeling with the person giving them the info.

That’s you, or in this case, us 😉