How to connect with an audience that might not understand

It can be really difficult to imagine writing (or speaking) to an audience that is different than you. You might wonder how they’ll understand your perspective. All you know is they’ve had vastly different experiences, and you’re not sure what you have in common. How do you make a point, get your message across, or simply communicate to be understood—what do you even say to them?

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When I visited Chicago during an unseasonably warm winter with no snow, I felt the shock of cold while others rejoiced in the pleasant warmth and celebrated not having to shovel out sidewalks. I’ve lived in California all my life with sunny India as my ancestral origin, so my body isn’t regulated for the cold. (Plus, I generally tend to run cold.) The weather is an external experience. My shivers when walking down the street and joy once I found the coziest hoodie were an internal experience. Though the Chicagoans around me were amused by my reaction to the “cold,” they could relate to (and empathize with) teeth chattering and the satisfaction of a soft warm jacket.

We all have different experiences of the world, shaped by our environment, what we’ve learned, and the unique way we respond.

Emotions and physical sensations can’t be argued with; they simply exist as part of an internal experience. Though two people could have contradicting beliefs of right/wrong or haven’t experienced the same thing (e.g. climbing Mt. Tamalpais, tasting mango pickle), they likely have similarities in emotional experience (e.g. feel happy with success, feel sad upon loss, scrunch their face when tasting sour).

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To make a deeper connection in your writing, describe the internal experience (your emotions and sensations) without solely focusing on the external experience (what happened). This is a universal core that connects us as human.

To a reader, an evocative piece that packs an emotional punch or mirrors their own feelings may be more interesting than a dry description.

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When writing,

  1. Try starting from the energy of “feeling” versus “thinking.” While your reader may not have traveled to the Bahamas, they can likely relate to the excited-nervousness of visiting a destination for the first time or the disappointment of ending a vacation.
  2. Take your audience on an emotional journey. How do you feel about the transpiring events?

In this way, you may have more success in connection, being understood, and desired response. You may also experience more satisfaction as your internal experience gets expressed more fully.

Good luck and happy writing!

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