Focus On The “Unspeakable Pains” To Write More Persuasively

And How To Trigger Them At Will

Source: Stencil

Three consecutive nights with the house all to myself. I had dreams of reliving a bachelor’s life.

Order in takeout every meal.
Kick back at a sports bar until I pass out.
Watch stupid movies until three in the morning.

Sure, I hold fond memories of such capers. Reality set in and I chose a different path.

I’m too old to spend late nights at bars. I never enjoyed that anyway. I’ve put a heavy focus on sleeping the last few months so I made sure I was in bed by 10:30.

Here’s my real victory. I avoided take out food all three days. Not only did I avoid it, I took it a step further. Something inspired me to make elaborate dinners. Last night I made salmon with mixed vegetables and jasmine rice. I haven’t cooked like this in ten years.

One of the three unspeakable pains nudged me to make better choices.

Pain Vs. Pleasure

Take out food would have been easier and more enjoyable. Going to a bar would be fun, at least in the moment. Staying up late to watch stupid movies? Well, there must be a good reason why I did it in my 20's.

All three of the easier activities would result in momentary pleasure.

All three of the easier activities would have resulted in pain later on.

Going to a bar means I would have felt like crap the next day (or two).

Eating takeout would have damaged my health — and I’m on a massive health kick.

Staying up late would have meant no sleep. That would lead to frustration and lack of performance the next day.

Reframing Short Term Pleasure

As I pondered what to do with my free time, I reframed each of these actions to look beyond the short term pleasure. Instead, I focused on the pain that would result.

Pain avoidance won the battle versus pleasure seeking.

Done the right way, pain avoidance motivates us more than pleasure seeking.

All Pains Are NOT Created Equal

This can be tricky. You need to look for the emotional, unspoken pain.

As a copywriter, I look for the unspoken pain. What are they too afraid to reveal or admit? Is there a sense of hopelessness? What’s causing it?

These are three of the common unspoken pains that spur people to action. Ask these three questions to spark your creative thought and discover the underlying motivation.

  1. What is the indignity of the situation? — Example: It’s not about getting six pack abs. It’s about regaining the courage to go to a beach without people staring at your flab.
  2. What guilt do they need relief from ?— Example: It’s your DNA causing your anxiety and difficult relationships. You can’t control it.
  3. How are they falling behind peers?—Never underestimate the effect of “Keeping up with the Jones’s”

Focusing on these pains makes you more persuasive. Combining these with the pleasure seeking benefits gives your writing a one-two punch of power.


I put together a few guides to improve your persuasive writing and creativity. Get yours here.