Are you in touch with your shame?

Shame is probably THE most powerful emotion.

Perry Marshall once pointed out that it is THE defining emotion of human existence, as presented in the Bible.  That once Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge, they realized they were naked, and felt shame.

It was, at least according to that story, the original emotion of our humanity.

It’s enough to cripple you, if you can’t deal with it.

If you feel shame, you actually probably react in one of two unhealthy ways.  (We all do — don’t feel shame about this, too!)

Either you recoil from it, pulling back, living a smaller life, letting your needs and wants go unfulfilled.

Or you attack it, with aggression, causing destruction (self or otherwise).

The reality is that the way past shame is through it.  Feel it.  Accept it.  Even embrace it.  Let it do its worst, and realize you’re still alive on the other side.

Why is this important for marketing?

In case it’s not obvious enough…

If you’re getting at THE core emotion of human experience, you’re going to connect with people.

Well, you could certainly alienate them, by wielding this knowledge haphazardly and without empathy.  You could hurt a lot of people by laying out their shame in a way that doesn’t help them grow through it.

But if you’re compassionate, kind, and empathetic, recognizing someone’s shame is probably the fastest way to connect with them.

If someone sees what you are shameful about and accepts you, there’s almost no way you don’t suddenly like that person practically an infinite amount more.

But in order to really come from that place, you have to deal with your own shame first.

You have to deal with your own issues.

You don’t have to be “fixed.”  You never will be.  Nobody is.  But you have to learn to love and accept yourself, including everything about you that has felt shameful in the past, and including loving and accepting the shame itself.

This self-development is so important for copywriters and marketers…

I feel like I spent a lot of time on this.

Which isn’t always what tactical “give me a blueprint” marketers want.

But most often, your answer in marketing, business, or life is not to apply your next blueprint.

Most often, your answer is making yourself better, and the things around you will get better by default.

This is the deep work.  This is what will make you more successful in the long run.

And so this is what I’m interested in.  (Those who only want the latest Facebook ad hack can find the door on their own.)

If you’re willing to go deep to understand your own human experience, you’ll find it much easier to see that in others, and to connect with them.

And so much of it comes back to what we feel shame about.

Have you heard of Brené Brown?

I’m sure you have, if you’re not living under a rock.  I’ve been through a few of her books, a few times.  Plus her Netflix special.  Plus her TED Talks.  Plus who knows what else.

Her work is powerful.  Because it gets at these core issues of our humanness.

There’s a reason she’s so popular.

As much as most of us don’t want to face our shame (and hate the idea of following someone who self-describes as a “shame researcher”), at some point it becomes obvious that it’s what we need most.

And she helps us face our shame with that love and compassion and empathy necessary to work through it.

I was casually reading through her book Daring Greatly again this weekend.

And in it, I stumbled on a list that didn’t jump out at me last time.

It was…

The 12 Categories of Shame…

These categories came out of Brené Brown’s research…

  • Appearance and Body Image
  • Money and Work
  • Motherhood/Fatherhood
  • Family
  • Parenting
  • Mental and Physical Health
  • Addiction
  • Sex
  • Aging
  • Religion
  • Surviving Trauma
  • Being Stereotyped or Labeled

Together, they encompass pretty much every major dimension of shame we feel.  And they’re pretty universal across cultures — across the human experience.

I’ll also note — they really represent almost every single major product category as well.  Most products and services are created in one way or another to help us in these areas.

That probably shouldn’t surprise you.  Because markets are best defined by the problem being solved.  And for most markets, the experience of a problem is usually rooted in some level of shame.

What are you to do with this?

Well, there’s a couple perspectives anybody could take on this.

First, you could be really cynical and say, “Roy’s giving us this list because capitalists exploit our shame and get us to buy into the consumerist lie that buying more stuff will help us be who we want to be, and fight our shame, but really it’s just manipulation and exploitation.”

Secondly and alternatively, you could be generous and say, “Wow, this is a list of where people are hurting, and as conscious marketers and capitalists we can build products and services to help people heal the hurt and overcome these deep emotional issues.”

The reality is that most of us fall somewhere in between.  But understanding the spectrum and the dimensions or categories of shame gives us power that we wouldn’t have without it.

It gives us the power to speak to people about aspects of their experience that occupy their thoughts and emotions.  To connect with them.  And to make offers to them that they can use to address the negatives.

I lean toward the conscious, value-first end of the spectrum.  I lean toward compassion and care in your capitalism.  I believe the world is a better place when we work toward win-win, not win-lose.

And I also believe that if you truly want win-win, you do need to get into these deep negative emotions to truly connect with someone and make them understand how you can help them.

Now here’s how to apply this to your copywriting and persuasive messaging…

I have a metaphor I frequently use.

Imagine you’ve got your prospect by the shirt collar, holding them at the edge of a cliff.  You lift them up and out, so their feet are dangling over the edge.

At this point, they have the very real feeling that they could fall.  They have all the fear and uncertainty that comes with that.

But just as that feeling swells up, you have to pull them back.

They knew they could fall, but you won’t let them.

That’s how you use negative emotions in copywriting.

You can’t avoid them.  You can’t recoil from them because of your own fear.  You also can’t be so aggressive with them that the prospect never believes you won’t let them fall.

You have to call them out.  Acknowledge them.  Bring them to the forefront.  Remind your prospect just how real they are.

Then, really agitate them.  Perhaps with a story that your prospect will find themselves in.  One where you or another customer went through a similar (though perhaps WORSE) experience.

Acknowledge just how persistent the negative situation is that’s causing them so much distress.  Recognize that they’ve probably done a ton to try to fix it, but nothing has worked.

Then, pull them back from the edge.  Offer your solution, and make your offer.

This is the PAISA formula — problem, agitate, invalidate, solve, ask.

And it’s exactly how you speak to acknowledge and help your prospect move through their negative emotion, via your offer.

For more, I strongly recommend my training on Emotional Direct Response Copywriting.  It’s kind of advanced-level stuff, and it comes with a warning to only use it in the most ethical ways.  But it’s absolutely a core skill of the world’s best copywriters and persuaders.  And if you’re not well-versed in emotion-driven direct response copywriting, you’re missing one of the most powerful persuasion tools you could have in your toolbox.  Click here for the training.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

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