Frequency: Left-brain loving
On including credibility markers your audience can take to the bank
(Introductory series on Frequency, part 10 of 20)
This is the litmus test: Our left brain would rather be right than happy. And our right brain would rather be happy than right.
— Dr Jill Bolte Taylor, Butler University commencement address 2016
Giving your left brain a power nap
So I have a little confession to make.
In this Frequency series so far, I’ve made an intentional choice to mostly appeal to your right brain, and to mostly ignore your left brain.
I began with a fairy tale. Gave permission to your rational left brain to have a little power nap.
No rationality needed here! It’s a fairy tale!
And what’s this? A bit of symbolism in the fairy tale?
Some anthropomorphism going on?
Lonely, deep-diving mammals humming timeless laments?
Still nothing much for the left brain to do.
Because: Emotional! Colorful! Playful sketches!
Subsequent articles might have given a little stimulation to your left brain a little bit here or there, adding some layers of interpretation, some details to this color-coded concept of empathic colormapping.
A few literary cultural references, a few citations from cultural curators and a social psychology experts. Some remarkable concepts — dazzling visuals and word pictures about cetaceans resonating and prose enchanting and discovering a transcendent enlargement of being.
And sure, because as Jill Bolte Taylor reminds us, the left brain deals with language, that means the very act of reading these articles engages your left brain.
But still, getting real cozy with the emotional right brain, by continuing to harness the playfulness of colorful data viz and evocative sketches, and focusing on the emotional stakes — our longings for belonging, significance, meaning, enchantment and not merely to be informed or equipped.
Then, giving you a case study from Shonda Rhimes’ TED talk, whose talk arguably (note the nine proposed empathic colormapping elements) lights up both sides of our brains, but perhaps mostly our right brains with her enchanting concept of how we, personally, might rediscover the hum, the hum, the hum. — Life’s hum, love’s hum.
Placating the left brain — introducing the four W’s
But the main way I’ve been ignoring your left brain is that I never introduced myself.
And I know your left brain has either been bugging you about this for a while, wondering whether it’s worth your while to really engage with this material. Or your left brain convinced some of you to stop reading several articles ago.
Because this might be the chatter of your left brain:
“Who is this person?”
“She’s tagged her articles communication strategy, data visualization, frequency, resonance, empathy — is she really an authority on these things?”
“When it comes to emotional intelligence and social intelligence we’ve heard of Daniel Goleman…”
“Psychology of persuasion? Robert Cialdini is a respected name in that space…”
“Marketing, storytelling, brand positioning, information design, and other big-idea nonfiction? So many credible voices including [peering at the bookshelves lining my office wall] Seth Godin, Bernadette Jiwa, Daniel H. Pink, Nancy Duarte, Chip & Dan Heath, Julie Dirksen, Donald Miller, Olivia Fox Cabane, Jeff Goins, Susan Cain, John Maxwell, Pamela Slim, Carmine Gallo and, and and…”
All good! I hear your left brain, because it’s speaking to my left brain.
And my left brain is apologising for the fact that my right brain made your left brain feel a little bit left out in the beginning of this series.
See, I get it.
Really I do.
Because I also inhabit a brain that has two hemispheres —including the left brain that, according to neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor, would “rather be right than happy.”
I’m intimately acquainted — as you probably are — with a left brain that wants rock-solid credibility, reliable expertise, hard-won insights, and the kind of research you can take to the bank.
I’m a professional, and I know what it is to tease the left brain by withholding information it urgently requires.
The four W’s your left brain urgently demands
What is this urgent information, you ask? I call these the four W’s.
- Why you?
2. Why this?
3. Why now?
4. Why bother?
1. Why you? (Exposing deep-rooted credibility markers)
In this case “why you?” applies to me, although it does feel awkward to address these points, because I’m used to addressing these things on behalf of my clients, in the introductions of their books or the About pages of their brands.
So, I’m a linguistically-inclined freelancer.
That looks like different things on different days and weeks, depending on what project I’m working on at the time.
On any given day, information designing for me might be represented by the following kinds of verbs:
I’ve ghostwritten, outlined and edited, scripted and mind-mapped countless pages of content for various clients over a location-independent career spanning a couple decades across four continents.
But that’s not really the “why you” answer I want to give.
That’s the expected answer.
Because our left brains are in a hurry, we just want the business card.
We want the elevator pitch — and make it snappy — so we can pigeonhole people into the “ah, that’s what you do” box.
As if “what you do” is something static and concrete rather than something fluid, dynamic, evolving, and really — in terms of emotional labor, the dance of diplomacy our messy humanity demands — largely indefinable.
But the real “why you” answer, is that as far as hungry, hungry, hungry is concerned…
I’m the hungriest person I know.
2. Why this? (Really, why explore this particular space?)
The short answer is that I’ve edited and ghostwritten several long and short nonfiction books for clients in the past couple years.
It felt really good — after a career break that involved getting married, having babies, and transitioning back home to my birth country (Australia) after more than a decade abroad (Asia, Europe, the USA)— to finally get back into the thick of working with language.
I was able to throw my linguistic and communication abilities behind helping a handful of clients to communicate timely ideas and stories to their audiences.
For a couple of years there, after that career break, I also took on a wide range of branding and copywriting projects, stretching outside my comfort zone and challenging myself to take on really interesting and not simply easy work.
And it felt great.
When more clients began to approach me in 2017 to craft business books for them, it got me wondering if there was some way to codify the recurring patterns of next-level non-fiction.
I wondered if what I’d been doing intuitively, in my ghostwriting and developmental editing, could be done more intentionally, not just for the books themselves but for the surrounding platform, content, marketing and promoting of ideas.
These new questions fueled a personal literary pilgrimage I was already well into, and made me curious about digging deeper into the secrets of engaging and integrity-infused communication.
In books and beyond.
3. Why now? (What makes empathic colormapping so timely?)
I’m not sure I’m communicating the genuine sense of urgency I feel about what’s at stake here.
But the times do seem to be demanding that we expand our abilities to show up with empathy, diplomacy, and compassion more than ever.
The big fish are singing to us.
Those big-hearted communicators.
Those global-brained titans.
They’re telling us that the stakes are high. That you and I need to show up now more than ever.
They’re telling us that now, more than ever, we need to share true stories well told that illuminate our shared humanity.
They’re telling us that now, more than ever, our increasing proximity to people who are not like us reveals an urgent need to grow in empathy and compassion for “the other.”
That’s probably the biggest why behind empathic colormapping.
The change I seek to make involves crafting some kind of medium-gnostic mental model, some kind of workable, usable, color-coded and empathic framework to help big-hearted communicators broadcast their stories, innovations, inventions and ideas farther and wider.
Exploring emotional literacy
Empathic colormapping is merely a means to an end, to explore diplomacy and emotional literacy in deeper — maybe even unprecedented — ways.
The goal is synthesizing some of the existing research through my unique combination of editorial and writing experience as well as a pattern-recognition lens that continually evolves with input from multi-disciplinary research.
The goal is to help us show up and communicate across present and future channels in the datasphere, to help solve problems in an increasingly complex and problem-riddled world. (That’s all.)
And in the context of discovering resonant frequencies, the goal of empathic colormapping is also about seeking answers to deep and ongoing questions about things like:
- what it is to be human,
- how to discover joy in life in spite of complicated and messy realities,
- and how to live life with wholeness, compassion and integrity.
4. Why bother? (What’s the promised transformation?)
The final W of the four is something that easiest to grasp in the context of a nonfiction book introduction.
Answering “Why bother?” involves demonstrating to your reader what they have to look forward to.
Sometimes (putting on my structural editing hat for a sec) this looks like including a quick overview of the book, the parts and chapters and sections.
Sometimes it involves mapping out a bit of the hero’s journey (the hero being your reader or listener in this case) so that they can see what kind of payoff is waiting for them at the end of the journey — what kind of promised transformation they might expect to walk away with.
(This is part ten in a twenty part introductory series exploring the intersection of frequency, resonance and nuance. Find part 1 “Frequency: A fairytale” here, part 2 “Waving to the whales” here, part 3 “Ravenous beasts among us” here, part 4 “The magic of enthralling prose” here, part 5 “Illuminating the abyss” here, part 6 “It’s all about the hum” here, part 7 “Empathic colormapping” here, part 8 “Engaging the grey matter” here, part 9 “Audacious mental models” here and part 11 “Hero’s journey” here.)