You know how when conversation turns to talk of the best stock options or your brother-in-law describes renovations on their house in detail, your eyes glaze over?
It’s almost like you lose time in another dimension.
Once you’ve refocused on something else–like the oranges on the tree outside (yumm, orange juice) or the beading on your water glass, you’re back in your body.
There’s a reason for this.
Human brains have a radar system.
It’s called the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). The ACC scans the environment for what is relevant to you. The definition of “relevant” is unique to each person, based on life history. The ACC doesn’t encode what’s seen as irrelevant.
There’s a reason you might struggle to learn about or pay attention to things that don’t seem relevant–that’s not how the brain works.
Imagine this article opened with information on the ACC. How it’s the frontal part of the cingulate cortex surrounding the corpus callosum and has both cognitive and emotional components.
Unless you’re particularly interested in neuroscience, you may have tuned out the terms. You probably would skip right over the terms to get to the point–I would.
You can probably relate to the experience of tuning someone out, even if you do speak the language of money markets and structural engineering. Sometimes those you dearly love share things that just don’t interest you.
This is why there’s a “hook” at the beginning of most types of writing–to catch the reader’s attention.
And so they know the article, book, story, etc, will be relevant to them.
Even if you’re passionate about hydroponics, that doesn’t mean your audience is, or knows the ins and outs of the terms you use. Since you don’t want their eyes glazing over at the details, you want to find a way to link the details to the purpose, or how it relates to them.
You can use the knowledge of the ACC’s function around relevancy in various aspects of your life.
I’ve written before about why to write to an ideal reader and 2 ways to clearly identify them. To deeply engage your readers, you want to write to them directly. You can’t please ‘em all.
I believe that storytelling, archetypes, and emotions are universal while details are unique.
Whether you’re writing or you just want to feel seen, heard, and understood in your life, speak to those who get you.
You can do this by relating to universal archetypes and emotions. I’ve written about this here. It’s a huge gift to feel understood through reading someone else’s story, particularly when you’ve felt invalidated or lonely in the past around your interests.
Just by being yourself, you can find others who do find what you have to say relevant to them–you can connect to the deeper truths of what makes your story universal and engage your readers.
Goodbye attempts to please people and make everyone happy–hello authenticity, vulnerable courage, and connecting with your people.
Also, the next time you find yourself not feeling heard or understood–perhaps it’s not about you or your ability to express yourself clearly–it’s just others’ ACCs.