Interview: Greg Faxon Shares His Unique Take On Selling and Enrollment Conversations

greg-faxonI came across Greg Faxon (pictured here) about a year ago when someone shared his brilliant article Why You Don’t Need A Niche (And 11 Simple Alternatives). Well, as it turned out, Greg got a few clients from my sharing that article and we ended up connecting on Facebook and decided to get on the phone with each other to have a call. During the call, I learned that his central passion was about selling and how to have effective enrollment conversations. This got my attention because it’s not something I do in my own business model but it’s a place of much struggle for so many of my clients.

The first group of clients this is a struggle for are those who’ve never learned how to do them. They’re winging it every time. They get on the phone with a potential client and hope for the best. They’re terrified with being too pushy and often end up giving their client a free session to try to solve the whole thing right there. It’s a kind of collapsed, over giving. 

The second group of clients for whom this is a struggle are those who have learned how to do these processes and, even though they were taught to them by ostensibly conscious marketing gurus, they still feel uneasy about it. It still feels pushy and salesy.

The rest sort of beat around the bush with people in indirect ways or avoid conversations around their business like the plague as if this is a sign of enlightenment.

Personally, I’d rather build my business model so that I don’t have to have these conversations. As Peter Drucker put it, “The purpose of marketing is to make selling redundant.”

Additionally, I’m not a fan of wasting my time in conversations with people who aren’t likely to buy. I’ve got no interest in trying to convince anyone of anything. This is why I’m so big on people figuring out and clearly communicating their point of view, figuring out their niche and creating things like an Are You Sure? page to filter out those clients who aren’t likely to be a good match. There’s a lot you can do to make sure that, by the time you’re talking to them one on one, it’s likely going to go somewhere.

And, even if you filter a whole lot, there are going to be times where people are going to need to talk to you directly about what you’re offering and times when you’re going to want to talk to them to make sure they’re actually a fit. You can call that conversation a lot of things (e.g. sales conversation, enrollment conversation etc.) but sometimes two humans have to talk it out a bit. 

Greg submitted himself to a rigorous interview with me and has given his insights extremely generously here. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did talking with him.


What’s your story? How did you get so nerdy about enrollment conversations?

The short version is that I’m a guy who has always been really obsessed with transformation. I’ve always been fascinated by what allows people to grow and evolve in different areas of their lives. And so when I found out there was this thing called “coaching”, where that’s what you help people do all day, it was obviously really compelling for me.

I started holding small personal development workshops, and I even picked up a client or two. The problem was, I only made about $1,000 in the first 6 months of my business. In some ways it was really cool to have made money helping people. But I also knew that it wasn’t going to be sustainable.

What I realized was, it doesn’t really matter how good you are at the coaching piece if you don’t have coaching clients. I had been avoiding enrollment conversations because it felt safer to work on my website and think about URL names and get logos designed. That all changed when I invested in my first group coaching program and my coach called me out on the fact that I wasn’t spending time in conversation.

So over the next month I had over fifty enrollment conversations, got some great longer-term clients, and left my consulting job. I actually made twice as much from my coaching business the month after I left my job. In the process, I became really interested in how to hold an enrollment conversation that not only results in an ideal client, but actually transforms the person in front of me. And so that’s where my passion to teach this stuff comes from.

What have been your major influences in selling?

I’ve had a lot of great coaches and mentors throughout the years, but there are three books that I’d recommend for people who want to really understand how sales works in business.

  1. Influence by Robert Cialdini
  2. SPIN Selling
  3. Getting Naked

I’ll be honest though. A lot of the stuff I found around selling just didn’t work that well for me when I applied it to my coaching business specifically. And so that’s why I eventually reached a point where I decided I was going to have to create my own system.

What is sales? What is the role of selling in a business?

Sales is not just the process of exchanging money for a product or service.

Sales is about helping someone visualize and take action towards a future outcome that they want.

Sales is the lifeblood of every business. If you do not sell, you do not make money. If you don’t make money, you don’t get to keep playing the game of business. And if you don’t get to keep playing, you don’t get to keep serving people through that business.

If you want to create transformation in people’s lives, but you don’t know how to enroll people in what that transformation requires, it’s game over.

Here’s the good news:

Sales is not something that you do before the real work starts. Sales is the work. It’s what we do as leaders, coaches, and human beings every day.

What if instead of viewing sales as a necessary evil, you learned to love it instead?

Why do people hate the idea of selling so much?

A couple of reasons:

  1. They see sales as inherently pushy and inauthentic. The fix here is to reframe selling from something manipulative to something transformative. Selling can be one of the most important services you provide for your customers and clients. If you don’t help them make the decision about whether your offer is right for them, or if they don’t know what you have to offer them in the first place, they will never experience the benefit of it. When you view selling as an extension of the product or service you offer, you put more intention into the sale.
  2. They haven’t discovered their own way of selling. One that feels authentic to them. Everyone has their own unique style, and the way I sell will look different from the way you sell. The problem with scripts is that they take us out of the moment with our potential clients and we end up sounding stilted and awkward. The solution is having a system that allows you to play to your natural strengths. That’s what I give people. I really believe that if you don’t like selling, you’re doing it wrong.

You say that sales is one of the best ways to provide people with the transformation they’re looking for. How so?

When someone comes to us with a problem they haven’t yet solved, or a vision they haven’t yet achieved, there’s a reason they haven’t gotten the results they want yet. And it’s rarely because they don’t have enough information.

Often the reason is simply indecision. They say they want something, but they haven’t truly “thrown their hat over the fence” and committed to getting it handled. It’s our job to figure out what’s stopping them from making that commitment. Often times, indecision comes down to fear – fear of failure, fear of success, fear of being judged.

I find myself wondering if this is really ‘indecision’. It sounds like they’ve decided not to, or, at least, not decided to. I notice a resistance to framing it as indecisive when it sounds like, for very good reasons, they’ve decided not to proceed.

I’m not sure I agree. Think about the person who really wants to lose weight, but they haven’t lost it yet. Is that because they’ve decided not to lose weight? Or is it because they haven’t committed to what the transformation requires? If people have already decided, then why do we shoot videos and write marketing copy? Other example: if people haven’t chosen a niche, is it because they’ve decided not to choose a niche? Is it because they shouldn’t choose a niche? Or is there an opportunity to support them in that decision making process? Are there irrational fears holding them back from specializing?

Got it. And I’m curious about your thoughts on this blog post I wrote, “But aren’t people indecisive?” 

I’ve actually shared this post with some of my groups, and I like and agree with the overall thesis. People are not indecisive by nature. But they do need help making the decision – that’s why sales exists.

“They’re not indecisive, they’re just not sure it’s a fit. They’re not sure it’s worth the investment. They’re not sure it’s the best use of their money. They’re not indecisive, they’re deciding. And our job is to facilitate the decision-making process (whether that’s towards a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’).”

I think the lines become blurred here, because if they’re not sure it’s a fit, that to me is what indecision means. They’re not sure what decision to make. The barrier is indecision. That’s why we are having a conversation about their challenges and goals and dreams. In a way where they are not being controlled by their own fear or limitations.

By helping them see clearly what it’s costing them to stay where they are, and all the positive ramifications of accomplishing their goals, we make it easier to throw their hat over the fence emotionally, logically and financially. We make it easier to confront that fear head on – whether they decide to work with us or not.

If we get this part wrong – if we don’t uncover their deeper challenges and motivations enough to flip the commitment switch – then it will be very hard to support them through the rest of the journey (even if we get them to commit temporarily).

If we get the enrollment conversation right, though – if by the end of the enrollment call they’ve committed 100% to accomplishing what they want – then everything after that becomes way easier because we can see when they are falling into old patterns and we can remind them why they are taking this journey.

By helping them confront the truth of their situation, and by inspiring them into action, we provide one of the greatest services one human being can for another.

This seems to me to be where this conversation can go horribly wrong and this piece of digging into the pain and building up the future is one of the parts that often feels like the most manipulative to people on the giving and receiving end. What are your thoughts about this?

You’re right. This is one of those times where we have to be very careful about the power we yield as marketers and salespeople. Because it’s absolutely possible to do this in a manipulative way. This makes me think of a brilliant Seth Godin post called Marketing Morality.

Consider this. If a client comes to me who is wanting to create a certain result in their life, we’re going to discuss the exact same things. That’s how you create momentum and gravity for them. You’re going to discuss why they want this thing now, why they are seeking change. You’re going to talk about the future they see for themselves.

The line that separates manipulation from transformation here is your agenda as the coach. Are you doing this in service to your client or in service to you? Don’t confuse the tool of sales or the tool of marketing with how different people might use it.

These days, I notice people are leery about ‘discovery sessions’ because they’re pitched as a ‘high value coaching session’ and yet – they end up being an hour long sales pitch. What’s your take on this?

You’re right. And I think it’s understandable that some people are leery. But I actually see that as a good thing; it means that if you really overdeliver during that session, you’ll set yourself apart from all of the other coaches out there.

The best way to combat that hesitancy is to build trust before you offer a strategy session and then to be very specific about what you will cover during the session itself. If you know the right way to frame your discovery sessions, you’ll have no problem getting the right people to sign up.

What do you see as the top three mistakes people make in enrollment conversations?

  1. Not having a framework. If you don’t have a consistent, proven system to walk your potential client through, you’ll get inconsistent results. That’s because you’ll be flying on the seat of your pants every time. You’ll be more confident and more effective once you’ve learned the exact steps to take someone through. Now, this doesn’t mean you want to use a script. But you need to understand the optimal flow of an enrollment conversation so that you can inspire your ideal clients to step forward and pay you if it turns out that you are a fit.
  2. Not having your inner game handled. It’s one thing to understand the external strategies of enrollment. But the truth is, you’re not going to be able to enroll many people if you haven’t also installed the key mindsets of successful coaches. Our clients are a mirror for our own doubt, fear, and insecurities. So for example, if you have blocks around money or around your own value, it’s going to be really hard to make any system work for you.
  3. Not leaving enough time. I’m not a big fan of 15 or 30 minute taster sessions. I suggest leaving up to 90 minutes to have your enrollment conversation unless you are very well established and have a lot of demand for what you offer (in which case the enrollment conversation is just more of a formality/sanity check). A good enrollment conversation requires depth, and you need time to go deep. You also need to leave enough time at the end to propose your services if it turns out they are a fit. There’s nothing worse than being all teed up to propose right when one of you has to hop on another call.

This notion of ‘fit’ feels central. I’m curious what you do or recommend that people do in order to really identify and make sure that there is a fit between yourself and your potential client. What do you before the call and during the call to facilitate clarity around this?

One of the most important things here is for you to know your ideal client criteria. So asking yourself in the Connect phase:

  1. Can I help this person?
  2. Do I want to help this person?

You can figure out what the red flags are by looking back at previous clients and seeing what the most successful ones had in common, and which one’s you enjoyed working with most.

Amen. I teach the same thing in my workshops. So important. So, what are the Three C’s? We discussed this in a call we had a while ago. This seems to be central to your point of view on selling.

The 3C Sales System is something that I initially developed just for myself because I had studied all of these complex sales frameworks and I needed something really simple to follow so that I could focus on the person I was talking to. It all came into place when I noticed that virtually all effective enrollment conversations followed the same three steps. When I focused on following my own system, I started getting a lot more clients. And then I shared it with my fiance, who is a teacher and permaculture practitioner, and she made her first sale right off the bat. That’s when I realized I was onto something and so I started sharing it with other coaches and service providers.

The Three C’s are Clarify, Connect, and Commit.

The first step, Clarify, is about getting really clear about the other person’s problems, vision, and challenges. Plus the deeper impacts and motivations behind all of those things. So not only do you get clearer about what the person needs, but they get to step back and finally see the truth of their situation, which is really valuable. Often we can’t see our relationship to our problems and goals because we are so close to them. Think about the person who shows up at the doctor and their arm is hurting, so they want some pain medication. If the doctor finds out that their arm is broken, that’s really important information because the prescription will be different. So the final thing we do in the Clarify stage is to recap what we are hearing, both to make sure we are on the same page and to have them understand what’s really going on. That’s our bridge to the next step.

The second step is Connect. This piece is something that almost no other sales trainers I know even talk about, but it’s one of the most important parts. Connect is all about connecting what they need to the service that you offer. If you get this stage right, they’ll see you as the best fit for their situation (if in fact you are the best fit).

Finally we have Commit. This is where we propose a solution and support them in making a decision to either get this area of their life handled with you or continue to work through it on their own. It’s also where we’ll help address whatever concerns come up for them in a non-pushy way. A lot of people focus on the “closing” phase of the conversation, but the truth is you should spend most of your time in the first two C’s. That way when it finally comes time to make a decision they are totally clear on what they want and need.

So that’s the high-level summary. The cool part about the Three C’s is it can expand or contract based on what you need from it. If you just need to remember the general flow of the conversation, then you have a really simple process to follow. And all of it is expandable, so my clients and I can go deep into each section and learn how to be most effective in that phase of the enrollment conversation.

More on the Three C’s here.

This piece about ‘connecting’ is so compelling. What are the consequences of skipping this step?

The Connect step is all about building a bridge.

Most people go straight from clarifying to closing. The problem with doing that is the person won’t be able to see the connection between their situation and the thing you are offering them. If you get this step wrong, then the person will be really clear on what they need, but they won’t understand why you’re solution is relevant to them.  They may even assume that there’s nothing special about them and that you are just proposing the same thing to everyone you talk to, which shouldn’t be the case.

You shouldn’t be proposing the same thing to each person? How so?

So depending on what your offerings are, you probably have a few ways of helping people. It’s possible that the program you are enrolling for isn’t actually the best fit for that person. It’s possible that your 1:1 coaching is all bespoke, in which case you are customizing each proposal. It’s possible that this person isn’t a good fit for you in general, in which case you shouldn’t be proposing your stuff at all.

Basically, what you are helping them commit to should be different depending on what you helped them clarify.

When we spoke before, you related this to dating, could you share this?

Sure thing. So in dating, there are different levels of intimacy, right? And each step that you go through in the relationship needs to be bridged in just the right way or you’ll get stuck. A great example of this is in the later stages of a relationship, during a marriage proposal. It would be pretty strange if things were going well in the relationship and one person just went ahead and asked “Hey, want to get married? I have the ring here.” Not many people would do that, and it probably wouldn’t be successful. Actually it would be really jarring because there’s no connection between the good time you’ve been having and marriage.

Most couples talk about what the future would look like together. And they tell each other what they like about the other person. This all culminates in the actual proposal, where traditionally one person gets down on a knee and connects the experience they’ve been having up to this point to the life they imagine with the other person. They talk about why it’s such a great fit, and how they’re feeling about the relationship. So when they finally pop the question, there is a clear connection that’s been established.

That’s exactly what we want to do before we propose to a potential client. Minus the ring.

What are some of the things you do to help people see the connection between where they’re at and what you offer?

Remember that the goal of the Connect stage is for them to connect their problems and desires to the solution you are about to propose.

One of the questions I like to ask at this point is “What’s been the most helpful part of the conversation so far for you?” Whatever answer they give here, it reinforces the fact that they’ve gotten clarity as a result of speaking with you. They start to build that bridge themselves between their situation and you as a trusted advisor.

The second thing I do is suggest a game plan for them based on what we’ve learned in the Clarify stage. So I’ll boil down the insights we’ve gotten into a strategy, adding my own insights as I go. At this point I still haven’t offered them anything paid. What I’m doing is giving them a sense of what we would want to work on together, and connecting those things to the results that they’ve said they want. So it looks something like “It sounds like here’s what you need ______ and here’s what we’d do moving forward if we were to work together.”

The final thing I do here is what I call the “Yes Test” (learn more here – it’s tip #4).

You speak about telling people something like, “I feel like we could be a really fit. You’re my ideal client and here’s why…” – Can you say more about this and why it matters?

So one of the really important parts of Connect is that you have to figure out if there actually is a strong connection between what this person needs and what you offer. If there isn’t, you need to send them to something or someone who can better serve them.

A big part of this decision is figuring out if this person could be an ideal client. Can you help this person? Do you want to help this person?

If the answer is yes, then I want you to tell them why. Why are they such an ideal client for you? What specifically tipped you off?

This isn’t just about stroking their ego. It’s really about demonstrating that you have standards, and that they have met those standards. When we feel as though we’ve been chosen for a specific reason, that opportunity is now much more appealing to us. To use the relationship metaphor, this isn’t someone just looking for a one night stand with anyone. This is someone who is interested in me for a specific reason. There’s a fit here.

What are objections all about and what do we do with them?

Objections are a natural response to any commitment that we are considering in our life. Often, right before people get engaged or married, they have doubts and concerns. A lot of times these aren’t rational concerns, but what we’re doing is processing them in advance because we know that once we’re in, that’s it. So objections are actually a healthy part of any good decision making process.

The role of the coach or service provider here is to be a mirror for the potential client as they bring up their concerns. The most common objections are usually lack of time, lack of money, or lack of certainty. This is when people often say “I need to think about it.”

Your goal in the Commit phase is not necessarily to get them to say yes, it’s just to get the truth so that they can commit to a Yes or a No.

What are they really concerned about? What are they scared of? For example, someone who says they can’t afford it might actually be saying that they don’t know how to justify it to their spouse. If you know this, you can help coach them through that concern directly.

The biggest mistake people make in this phase is trying to justify themselves or make the potential client wrong. All this does is create something for them to push back against. So what we want to do is continue asking questions, reminding them of what they talked about in the Clarify stage, and giving them lots of space to process the decision.

One thing I often find when I’m selling coaching is that the objection the person gives is actually pointing right to the thing that’s holding them back from their goals. If they feel like they don’t have enough time, for example, I’ll often ask, “Is that a pattern that comes up for you often? Not having enough time? How might that be affecting your results in this area.” The truth is that we all have the same amount of time, but we get to choose our priorities.

If the person decides not to move forward, it’s because they don’t believe that the amount of money they would have to pay is worth what they think they would be getting. If they say yes, it’s because the perceived value of what you offer, or the cost of staying where they are, is more than what they would have to pay. So helping them see that value and that cost is really important in this phase.

Sometimes people get into this grey zone of ‘should I? shouldn’t i?’ You have thoughts that this might not actually be a good thing. Why not let people stay in the grey zone? And can you speak about the difference between the micro and the macro?

The thing about sitting on the fence is that it’s really uncomfortable. We waste a lot of time and energy there. There’s a lot of power that comes from making a decision one way or the other. There are lots of ways we can combat this, but one obvious way is deadlines. Deadlines are the best. I love deadlines. Because instead of dragging that decision out forever, I have to commit to making a decision by a certain date and time. And then I can put my focus back on actually doing the work.

Part of your duty as the service provider is helping the person make a sound decision. And neglecting that duty, just because you’re scared to stay in that tension with them, I think is a cop out.

So on the macro level, we need to help them commit to doing something different in this area of their life. If nothing changes, nothing changes. So if they’re talking to you it’s probably because something’s not working as well as it could be. They need to really get this loud and clear by the time you end the conversation. Maybe they don’t actually want to make a change, and they’ve just kind of been saying that they will. Well, now we know that and so they can give that up. Either way, how are we moving forward?

Then on a micro level, we need to help them decide whether our solution is what they want and need. This is really critical, because, if it is, we want to get started helping them right away. And if it’s not, they’re going to need to find another solution right away. Wasting time in indecision is usually what gets us stuck in the first place. And that’s where fear and doubt start to creep in. That’s why I’m not a fan of the grey zone.

Do you tell people that one of the goals you have for the conversation with them is to help them make a decision one way or the other? How explicit are you with them about this and your opinion about the grey zone before the call begins or during the call? This seems like it could be an important piece of filtering information for them. I could imagine some people being drawn to that and others being repelled by that like, “It’s not your business to decide what I need.”

The entire time I’m asking permission.

So when I offer the session, I talk about why it will be valuable for them as well as why I am offering the session.

At the beginning of the session, I talk about what I’d like to cover and that, if after that it seems like we might be a good fit, that we can talk about that.

Towards the end of the session, I ask if they would like to hear more about what it might look like to continue working together.

At the very end, I ask what they would need to know in order to be able to make a decision. If that’s something I can address on the call, then we do that. If not, I ask if we can schedule a specific time to follow up together.

I’m never deciding what they need. I’m telling them what I see, asking if they see it, and offering my perspective on what next steps they might consider.

I love that last sentence so much. That’s beautiful. You speak about helping people understand what’s required of them? Why does this matter and how do you do this?

As I’m about to process their payment, I stop and say “Hey, are you really sure about this? Because this is going to take more than just your money. It’s going to take time and energy and bravery. So I want to make sure you’re committed to doing whatever it takes.” I don’t necessarily get specific unless I know something about that person that is a red flag for me. But I do have them re-affirm their commitment. This pause upfront makes the rest of the engagement a lot easier.

If people want to learn more about your work, where do they go and what are the main options?

The best place to go to learn more about me is my website.

One article that I think your readers might enjoy is “How To Fill Your Calendar With Potential Clients (Without Being Needy)”.

And if they want to go deeper into all this stuff, they’re welcome to reach out here and ask about my group and individual programs.


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too few entrepreneurs do this one. simple. thing. (but it might be exactly what you need)

If you’re feeling stuck in your marketing and want to get unstuck . . . and if you’re needing to make progress in your business there’s one thing I recommend.

Before I tell you what I recommend, I’ll tell you what I don’t recommend: waiting.

Most entrepreneurs have big ideas and plans but something is missing (e.g. funding, expertise, skill etc.) and so they just, kind of . . . wait.

But the biggest thing missing for your success isn’t more resources – it’s usually more resourcefulness. And the heart of resourcefulness is knowing that you can’t do it alone.

Here’s the thing too few entrepreneurs do.

Ask for help.

Do you struggle with accounting? Ask for help.

Do you know you need to do public speaking to get clients but are terrified? Ask for help.

Have a big event coming and not sure how to maximize the PR on it? Ask for help.

Have no idea how to organize your office? Ask for help.

Spend time with someone who can help you. Reach out for help.

The disease that plagues so many solo-preneurs who fail is the inability or unwillingness to ask for help. The feeling that you should somehow already know how to do everything in your business.

You never will.

And you don’t always have to pay for it. Sometimes people will be willing to just go for a coffee and look at your situation. Sometimes people will be willing to become your mentor at no charge.  Sometimes you can book time with a colleague to support each other without needing to spend money. It might just look like hiring someone part time to be your assistant.

Sometimes people will say no. Sometimes they’ll say yes.

And sometimes you’ll need to spend money. But it’s usually worth it.

The help might be in a book. Or a workshop. It might be in a consultant or coach.

But sometimes we’re just too close to our own situation to see clearly. Sometimes the combination of an external perspective with years of expertise can move us further ahead in an hour than we could have gone in months (or sometimes even years).

If you don’t ask for help – you’re left waiting. And then time flies by.

Last year, I went to a meditation workshop carrying a heart full of heartbreak. I’d struggled for years – fruitlessly – to resolve it on my own. But the facilitator was so kind, clear and skilled that I was able to take a very big step. A step I hadn’t been able to take on my own (despite trying very, very hard).

Years ago, I sat in a car with a fellow marketing consultant and listened to him share his own marketing struggles. After sharing my thoughts and reflections, he looked up and smiled, ‘Oh! So, that’s what it feels like to talk with a marketing consultant!’

I knew I needed a new website for two years before my friend Jaime Almond basically forced me to sit down with her and three hours later we had my website.

Two years vs. Three hours.

Ask for help. Or at least accept it when people force it on you. If you can’t be bold in asking be gracious is receiving.

Here’s my question to you: where do you need more support in your business?

Unsure? It’s probably somewhere where you feel like you’re stalled, waiting or kind of frozen.

Really sit with that.

And then ask for help. From anyone.

Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means you’re human. It doesn’t mean you’re a taker. It means you’re a part of a community.

guest post: ‘just listening’ by howie jacobson

by Howie Jacobson

In my last article, I talked about projection: what it is, why it keeps us from seeing the world as it really is, and how marketing offers us an opportunity to recognize and free ourselves from the grip of projection.

Now I want to talk about why it’s so important to liberate ourselves from projection. Not from a spiritual perspective, but from a marketing perspective.

The Ultimate Marketing Superpower: Empathy

Can we agree that empathy is one of the key skills necessary for successful marketing? If you can really understand what another person is thinking and feeling, then you can craft products and services and offers that appeal to that person’s sensibilities. And you can talk about those products and services in a relevant, respectful and attractive way.

Think of Nick Marshall, Mel Gibson’s character in the movie What Women Want. When his accidental electrocution gives him the gift to hear women’s thoughts, he immediately becomes the star advertising executive at his agency, celebrated for his ability to market effectively to women.

If you were suddenly given that ability, to hear the innermost thoughts of your prospects – their selfish desires, their secret fears, their poignant stories – can you see how that knowledge would instantly solve 99% of your marketing problems?

Getting the Data is Easy

On the web, all the data we require is at our fingertips. We can reverse engineer Google’s organic listings to find out what the world’s smartest computer thinks people want.

We can eavesdrop on forums, on Facebook, on amazon reviews, on blog comments, and dozens of other places to hear the uncensored, passionate voices of our prospects. We can conduct inexpensive yet highly valuable surveys of our own to discover the deepest desires and hesitations of those who might buy from us.

So what’s the problem? I’m telling you to read the mind of your market, and I’m telling you exactly where to go to get the information. Why isn’t that the end of the story?

The Filter that Keeps Us Clueless

Have you ever listened to a radio or watched a television that got lousy reception? Lots of noise, static, snow, wavy lines, and fuzziness. Do you think the program sounded or looked that way coming out of the studio?

Of course not. The program signal was not the problem. The problem was the poor quality of the device; its inability to translate the incoming signal into clear and meaningful output.

Each of us operates from a filter that keeps us from true empathy. It’s called projection, and here’s how it works:

When I hear you talk about something, I search for meaning in my own past experience. If you say “toothache,” for example, I go back into the file called “Howie’s toothaches” to try to understand what you’re talking about.

When you say the assistant manager at the store was rude, I likewise superimpose my own vision of “rude” on your story. Until you elaborate, I might picture a young guy with dreadlocks and tattoos and piercings giving you the finger. Or I might imagine a snooty middle aged woman raising her eyebrows in disapproval of your request for a refund.

The word “rude” has meaning only in terms of my experience, either direct or second-hand (movies, books, friends’ stories, etc.).

Until I listen to you tell the straight-up facts of what happened from your perspective, I fill in the blanks based on my preconceptions. That’s projection.

Projection occurs much more subtly and pervasively. If I think you’re angry, or sad, or frustrated – chances are I’m interpreting a set of signals through my own distorting filter. “If I were acting that way, it would be because I was irritated,” I reason. So in my mind, you’re irritated. And with that interpretation now projected onto you, I look for confirmation and ignore all contradictory signals.

Projection vs. Empathy

As long as my mind engages in projection (which is only about 100% of the time), I can’t be truly empathetic to you. I can only be empathetic to me. So to the same extent that you and I are having different experiences or different interpretations of those experiences, I’m missing what’s meaningful for you.

In other words, while I think I’m looking at you, I’m actually just seeing myself in a mirror projected on your face.

The Sioux medicine man Fool’s Crow believed that he could be a conduit for healing only when he made himself into a “hollow bone,” a vessel for divine spirit that didn’t superimpose its own particular stories and struggles onto the person seeking healing.
When I read Tarot for clients or engage in Shamanic healing, I have to be exquisitely sensitive to the presence of my own stuff, so that I don’t end up giving someone else the medicine meant for me. When I throw the 4 of wands, for example, do I tell them to chuck the corporate gig for a walk on the wild side because that’s what the card means in this particular reading, or because my own life story concatenates with that interpretation?

Am I Marketing to Me?

If I don’t get familiar with my projections, my marketing turns into a narcissistic festival of self-love and self-loathing. The self-love part is easy to see: I think about what I would want someone to say to me, and then I say it to myself and pretend I’m saying it to you.

But self-loathing? Absolutely!

You know all those “marketing tricks” that seem to work but you really have no stomach for? Like false urgency and false scarcity? “Tomorrow only.” “19 17 12 6 spots left!”

Or manipulative pseudo-reciprocity? “Here’s a free gift. Isn’t it great. Now you owe me.”

Or appeals to the lowest self? “If you buy this your neighbors will bang their heads against the wall in jealousy. Beautiful women will leave their husbands for you. All those jerks in high school will be sorry they didn’t give you more respect.”

We fall back on these and dozens of other gambits because part of us has no respect for our own integrity. We despise and are deeply ashamed of that part, but when we project it outward, it feels better. “What a bunch of sheep they are! What a bunch of insecure losers!”

So we end up attracting the customers and clients who share our most awful traits, and then wonder why we complain about them.

And those judgments diminish our prospects in our eyes. To the extent that we cannot love them. And if you cannot love the people whose lives you are supposedly improving with your products and services, why on earth would they choose you? Because you need the money?

Getting Past Projection

If you’re a lot more spiritually advanced than me, you might have figured out a way to stop projecting. I haven’t. I project like an IMAX theater; consistently, relentlessly, and with alarming realism.

What I am getting better at is recognizing my own projections. The ones that come up every time. The ones that I now recognize as my own face, rather than the face of my prospect, my beloved.

I find that getting quiet on a regular basis helps tremendously. The art of empathy is essentially the art of listening with the head and the heart. When I sit quietly and stop trying to impose my interpretation on reality, I start to listen better. The static mutes and the authentic signal comes through.

And listening as a marketer only happens when I let go of effort, of will, of the need to sell something or convince somebody.

Marketing Minus Projection

When I come to listen with the agenda of manipulating your will, that’s not true listening. And you can sense that. And distrust it. And run from it, if you can.

But when I come with no agenda other than a thirst for truth, for your truth, then your words and thoughts and feelings come through undistorted. I can respond to you naturally in a way that you trust. The word respond comes from the French, meaning “to promise back.”

Whether we speak face to face, over the phone, via email, or whether you’re just one person in my “target market,” I can hear you only when I rest in my own integrity, when I promise back to you to dive into your fears, your pains, your desires, your stories only to serve your highest good. Not to plunder your secrets for my advantage.

In What Women Want, Nick initially uses his gift of mind-reading to climb the corporate ladder and seduce women. But almost despite himself, he begins to form friendships with his co-workers and develop respect for women. His gift of empathy is so powerful, his ego can’t maintain its manipulative stance.

Ultimately, he tells a hard truth and gets fired, and ends up losing his power in a storm as he rescues his secretary who was thinking suicidal thoughts. But he finds redemptive love, both from his estranged daughter and the women who ends up with his job.

His transformation complete, his manipulative power is no longer necessary. He has escaped from the prison of the mirror, and he can simply be, live, and respond to others from his own integrity. He has become trustworthy.
So may we all.

Howie Jacobson, PhD, is the author of Google AdWords For Dummies. He has been an online marketing strategist since 1999, helping clients use the internet to discover, understand, attract and serve their ideal customers. He writes for Fast Company and Harvard Business, and his hippie credentials include teaching at a Quaker School, delivering singing telegrams as a summer job, and playing Ultimate Frisbee every chance he gets. He currently lives with his family in South Africa, where he’s learning to drive a stick shift and be more patient. Follow him at @askhowie, like him at, or sign up for his newsletter at

backstage pass: how i write blog posts

Just had a chat with my pal and colleague Jaime Almond (pictured below) about the behind the scenes of how I write a blog post and thought you might find it interesting.

I just had an idea for a blog post for you


you know how we were talking about how you turn everything into a blog? well look at this break-in you could do a inside look on how this turned into blog posts it started with posting on Facebook…


then you turned the experience into a blog about what you learned then you posted questions about backups on Facebook this might not be the best example, but it’s interesting

which i will then turn into another blog post about ‘online back ups’


i think what it hilights for me is the dynamic between my blog and facebook.

yeah, and how you blog about everything… also I love how I can say “you should turn that into a blog” and you do you really listen to others. seriously Tad, I bought 2 new hard drives on Saturday because of you I’m backed up! What a relief

i am constantly struck but the overwhelming amount of content there is. i think part of the challenge is most people don’t have a place to capture their ideas. every good comedian i know has a little back pocket book where they can jot down their funny ideas. and i think every serious blogger (and entrepreneur in general) should have a place where they capture good ideas. I’ve got 616 potential blog posts jotted down right now. plus fifty or so half written on my blog that i’ve not yet published. like when we were chatting in Toronto, I’d get an idea, jot it down and then forget about it.

it also highlights the power of word of mouth marketing. so i get my stuff stolen, put up some facebook posts, realize it might be a good facebook post and then someone writes a comment about how they use online back ups. that inspires me to do it. so i go to sign up for the service they recommended and thought, ‘wait. maybe there’s a better one out there. let me pause’ and so i posted a question on facebook asking, ‘what’s the best online back up service you know?’ and that will almost certainly turn into a really useful blog post for my crowd itself. so it becomes this neverending conversation. and i get to hear word of mouth recommendations from people i trust. this feels so different from trying to sell people. or ‘trying’ to engage them. i’m asking questions i’m genuinely curious about and then i harvest and share the learnings.

i think people think that they have to come up with all sorts of original content – and you don’t always. sometimes you can just gather up all the flowers and arrange them in a beautiful bouquet. you don’t need to grow them all yourself. or create some new flower no one has ever seen.

absolutely! it’s such a great way to learn too because you aren’t the expert in everything. you crowdsource. plus it cuts your research time down by a lot

so it feels like three main parts (in no particular order):

1) using social media to engage conversation and get different perspectives, ideas and suggestions or just express where you’re at.

2) my blog where i gather it all together and offer the synthesized versions back to the community (and often get even more corwdsourced wisdom) and

3) a place to capture ideas that come up through these conversations.

yeah, and then it helps you develop your content etc

can i turn this convo into a blog post?

of course

(for more of my thoughts on blogging click here)


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Fifty Two Kick Ass Blogs to Inspire Your Blogging

Sometimes people ask me ‘what’s a blog?’ or they feel stuck and uninspired in thinking a blog has to done in only ONE way.

Well, here are fifty blogs I’ve collected from friends.

I asked them all: “What is the most kick ass blog you know of. Not one that’s ‘okay’ or ‘cool’. One you read all the time. One you often forward to your friends. One that inspires the hell out of you.” And these are the fifty I got (with some of my own additions) divided by category. The comments next to them are from the people who sent them in.

Blogs are a powerful social media tool, powerful in positioning you as an expert and helping you become a hub and building trust.

Who knows – you might just find your new favourite blog in here!


Nine Recommended Business & Career Type Blogs:

  2. – my absolute favorite is Seth’s Blog – mostly because it is always short, sweet and to the point – his comments always totally relate to topics I’m interested in, he’s very quotable,and his site is beautifully laid out for referring back to older posts – I like everything about it and refer people to it all the time. Thought provoking blogs that give new perspectives on crowd psychology, being an individual, and “different” marketing. And the guy can get more thoughts in a paragraph than most people put in a book.
  5. always inspire me to actually get off my ass and do cool/important shit.
  6. – Copyblogger. It’s lucid, informative, focused, and often funny.
  8. Mark Silver
  9. Suzanne Falter-Barns

21 Recommended Personal Blogs:

  1. my friend Ted has a lovely blog about his dances with life and truth. I love his candor, and he always makes me feel less alone with my struggles.
  3. . Brilliant, simple, funny, thoughtful and all about thankfulness.
  4. Being a mom, I’m biased about my preference. I love sassy mom blogs like this. I understand that there are a lot of amazing people out there doing amazing things but I think I prefer to read about them in full scale articles. For my daily dose of something to accompany my coffee I greatly prefer those who can eloquently write about the things I wouldn’t dare say out loud, or those who can lend nobility to making mistakes, being human, and learning from it along the way.
  5. – is socially relevant
  6. – The parenting this woman does blows my mind, PLUS she is awesome. I love this blog.
  7. – awesome sexuality resources for poly and kink, really interesting person. wish she updated more.
  8. – best astrology ever. thorough, accessible, relevant.
  10. – Leo’s got inspiration and living a beautiful life down to a regular 200-500 word blog post. 1. My heart sang when I first saw his minimalist lay out and clean design. 2. His excellent writing about letting go of stuff, and simple living speaks to my soul. 3. And he walks his talk — he has a policy of “copy free” for everything he writes, meaning “go ahead and use it however you want” (he believes in the art of giving and receiving). And, finally when he sends his newsletter out his links don’t include any tracking – a minor point, but sort of floored me and reminded me that you can let go of the “rules” that no longer suit you and pare down to what really matters for you.
  11. it’s a crafting blog but it has ongoing amazing ideas, projects and links to tutorials and more for kids and adults.
  12. – New, off-the-beaten-track music every single day, and wacky little stories.
  13. I spent hours reading it and watching all the videos yesterday- ridiculous, but awesome.
  17. Personal Development for Smart People. He is brilliant and talk about things people would rather sweep under the carpet. He has over 2 million subscribers to his blog and he did it by just being straightforward, no SEO gimmicks or anything.

Five Funny Blogs:

  1. – Eccentric, hilarious commentaries about pretty much anything. Some of it could be a bit notsuitableforwork.
  2. – Web comic
  3. Fantastically unique and humorously tragic:
  5. makes me land others laugh every day

Five Food, Local Food and Farming Related Blogs:

  4. and – They’ve both changed my cooking life. Not even kidding.
  5. – she’s a fab writer and insightful as hell and I love that she started off with something completely different – the universe took her to such a cool place “I named this blog “Hitchhiking to Heaven” because what I meant to write about was the quirky, unexpected stuff we encounter along the road to a thoughtful, satisfying life. Then — surprise! — what I encountered was a lot of jam and jelly”

Ten Political Blogs:

  2. – David Climenhaga’s Alberta Diary – he is a very experinced journlaist and political activist who takes you behind the scences of power making in this province, very smart, witty and always very relevant for those who seek to understand the context of politics in alberta.
  3. is probably the single best, fair and balanced look at Alberta politics on the interwebs. Wherever you fond yourself on the political spectrum, that blog will provide you with some great information on what is happening in your province and how your tax dollars are being used or misused.
  4. dispatches from the youth climate movement
  8. detroitblog has some of the best stories anywhere of what it’s like living in a dying city:
  9. – It’s not fancy or incredibly well designed but it has my absolute favorite content:


So, what’s YOUR favourite kickass blog?

(please share the URL and why you think it’s so amazing below)


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soul filled cafe – very cool business building blogging strategy

Here’s a strategy that can take your blog from Deadsville to being a bustle of activity, connect you with key hubs and influencers in your scene, build your credibility and trust with your people – and ultimately get you more of the kinds of perfect clients you’re wanting.

You’ve likely already heard of my dear friend Alex Baisley and his work around helping people create a wonderful, eclectic and sustainable lifestyle. He’s brilliant. So, when he started raving about a woman named Heather Gray . . . I paid attention.

And then, as strange things in life occur, I found myself in Brooklyn (close to where she lives)  a few months later, sitting next to her at a beautiful little vegan and amazing food restaurant/cafe. And she told me a bit about her work in helping people to slow down, get really clear about what they want and then craft a lifestyle out of that.

And one of the marketing and community building ideas she had, had to do with her blog. It’s one of the most practical and innovative ideas I’ve heard in a while. So I thought I’d interview her for you and let her explain it herself.


What is the Soul Filled Cafe?

The Soul-filled Cafe is a guest blog event series hosted at my website

I launched the guest blog events as a way to feature other coaches and cool people I know to share their expertise with like-minded others. By inviting them to be available to answer questions through out the day, there expertise really shines and the post gains depth.

I also quickly realized that these blog events made a great way for other coaches to interact with each other.  So I see the “cafe” as a virtual place where “experts gather, share and connect. “    It’s a departure from the “Dear Abby” type of expert posts, where the expert knows everything and you are invited to come with your issues and ask questions anonymously. This is a “virtual cafe” where you have a conversation and get to know the expert and share yourself as well.    Building a coaching business (or any solo-venture) can involve a lot of time alone, talking with a mentor or working with clients, so a great benefit is that this creates a nice virtual hang out to meet other experts and get great information.

What’s the structure? How does it work?

I post an article or video from a guest expert at my blog in the morning and for an entire day people are invited to “stop by” and ask questions, share comments and interact with the guest and each other (all via the blog comment section).

Where did you come up with the idea?

In January 2010, Sarah Robinson of Escaping Mediocrity ( hosted a month long blog series with a different guest every day.  There was tons of interaction at her blog, and each guest would pour out great information through the questions from the blog  which helped to bring the article they had shared to life.  I loved it!

Borrowing her idea, I hosted my first “guest blog event” with Cherry Norris (The Hollywood Dating Director, in February 2010, which was perfect for Valentine’s Day.   She was great about “experimenting” with me.  I use google analytics to track the stats at my website, and there was a nice spike of traffic on the day of Cherry’s guest blog.

I know a lot of cool people, so through out 2010 I continued to host a new expert once a month, and they were called “Guest Blog Events”  (very exciting name).

In November, I hosted Alex Baisley, from the  Big Dream Program and he has a magical way with words.  During the blog conversation that day, he commented that he was excited to be hanging out at the “Soul-filled Cafe”  The name stuck!

In 2011 I have been playing around with more regular spots.  In February I hosted a week long event called “Rejuvenate Love” with back to back days of experts.  And starting this month (April) I am hosting weekly guest events.

The whole thing has become very streamlined, so it’s gotten easier to implement.  And it’s become a great place to invite cool people I meet to be spotlighted.

What’s the response to it been?

It’s been great!  As I mentioned I get spikes of traffic to the blog on the day of these events  (200-500 visits on that one day).  So there are lots of people who “stop by.”

However, only a fraction of the people that “stop by” actually submit a question or comment.  I think there is a “getting comfortable factor” with communicating or sharing yourself through a blog.    I hope I am helping to break down people’s barriers and that they will go on and share themselves at other blogs.  I know for myself, the more I comment at blogs, the more fun it is.

To help with this I’ve been starting to “educate” a bit when people sign up for the Soul-filled Cafe updates.  I share how to use “disqus” (the comment system) and recommend that they register, with their name and photo so we “see” them and encourage them to share about themselves and interact with the other commenters.  Just like you were at a real “cafe” hanging out with cool people. :)

The response from the experts has been really nice too.  Without exception, everyone has said that the experience has been both fun and informative.  I’m always floored by how generous they are with sharing amazing information via the blog conversation and I love seeing them in their zone of expertise helping others.  Such a gift.

This seems like a brilliant idea on how to use a blog. What are the three biggest mistakes you see most people make with their blogging?

#1 Not blogging. I have some clients and peers who are “shy” about getting a blog going.  And they are wonderful writers with wonderful ideas — so it’s not that —  but it’s a fear of being “seen.”  (Funny thing is once you get into it, then you switch to, “how can I get more people to see this?!”)

#2 Blogging ONLY because someone told you it’s good marketing. Great recipe for a boring blog.  I’ve seen blogs that feel more like a string of articles or uninspired posts.  Maybe google likes them, but if people are not “hanging out” and really reading it, it feels yucky to me.

#3  Not being creative with blogging. Some people don’t like to “write” and they think, well I won’t blog.  But your blog could be video posts, or if you enjoy taking photos you could do a “photo” a day post, or you can highlight other people and stuff you like.  So many ways to create fun, regular content.  Get creative!   And make sure it’s something you love doing (because you’ll want to do it regularly.)

What are your three biggest things you’ve learned about blogging?

#1  It is good marketing (just don’t have that be the only motivation.)  Without a blog, my website would be dead in the water.  I can’t imagine not having one now.

#2  Just get started! When I look back over the content I’ve created, mostly over the last 3 years, I see how it has helped me to articulate my core message.  So just get started!  There will be gold even in those first posts.

#3  Don’t be a lone wolf. Add the energy of others into your blog.  Either invite people to post on your blog, interview someone, or post at other people’s blog.   1+1 = 10 when it comes to blogging.  I’ve definitely experienced that.

What has been the impact of the SFC on your business and income?

The only way I can answer that is with the goolge analytics.  It has created 10x’s the traffic to which has led to at least doubling my list size, which has led to new clients.   It’s also led to some fun JV projects and some new income streams that way.

How does the SFC fit into your bigger marketing picture?

It’s become a big part of my free content piece.  It also brings new communities to via the experts. And then there is the “who knows who” factor: people respond to you because someone they like is at your blog.

If someone else wanted to start using this model – what would be your three most important pieces of advice?

1) Start by reaching out to the people you know will say yes. People you know well and people who just like you already.

2)  Don’t have the guest post be about “selling anything” My intention is always to create a great experience for people out of the day and learning opportunity.  I see the events as a “touch” point for the guest.  I know that new people will discover them and want more  (and people from their community find out about my business too.  A win/ win)   It also makes the guest event fun and spontaneous too.  Wonderful conversations have happened out of my blog, simply by coming from a place of “giving.”  And as a result more people know and trust me and the guest.

3) Don’t  aim for just the “Big Names” There are so many people doing cool things that have expertise to share.  I find that those who may have a smaller followings can be some of the best guests, because of the enthusiasm they bring to the event.

What’s the next level of this going to be for you?

Right now the Soulfilled Cafe lives at a page and a string of posts.

What I am working on is  creating some branding and a separate website for it (though linked to  My vision is to have  some sponsorships and a “cafe” shop where I could feature products from the experts. I recently registered “” –actually it was funny, the day I went to register it, my hosting service informed me it was “free” — I still have no idea why, but I thought it was a cool sign.


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How to Fill Your Events By Simply Being Love

One of the most brilliant and beautiful minds in conscious marketing today is Suzanne Falter-Barns. A lot of people ‘talk’ about spiritual marketing – but it’s often from a ‘how do you USE ‘the secret’ to draw in more clients’ and Suzanne’s approach feels so much cleaner, clearer grounding and uplifting to me.

I commend her upcoming Spiritual Marketing Quest to you. I might just be going myself.

I’ve had a really interesting mind shift today as we begin to invite people to join us at our next Spiritual Marketing Quest in April. What Spirit has shown me is that our natural inclination is to go ‘get people’ … and boy, that is the essence of Old Paradigm marketing. Control, force, manipulate. These days, it just doesn’t work.

The opportunity in promoting any event is to invite people in … just like you would invite dear friends over for dinner. That’s how you want to think of it — like you’re pouring the Chardonnay and cooking up a little something for these folks you just LOVE to have over!

Because in truth, these ARE dear friends you’re speaking to.

They love what you have to say, they follow your words, they are engaged in your work … they even want to know details of your personal life on Facebook (for instance, I recently got 55 comments and ‘likes’ when I changed my FB status from Single to In a Relationship.) And I didn’t personally know most of those who commented!

So who’s to say you’re not speaking to friends with your work … even if you don’t actually know these people? They are still involved in who you are — and so the way to approach them when creating, say, an event is simply to graciously invite them in.

Share from your heart what you love about the upcoming event, what excites you about doing the work, why you are doing it in the first place. You want to engage them in the conversation about it — as opposed to just thrusting the event at them and needing them to get in.

Think about it … when inviting good friends to dinner you wouldn’t call them up and say ‘OK, dinner’s at 8 and I’ll need you to be there.’ Instead, you engage in conversation because you want to hear how they’re doing, and share what’s new with you. And then you ask them. Or you send them a beautiful invitation that is gracious and welcoming. You tune into them … you read them. You feel them. And then you share your heart.

For example, about the Spiritual Marketing Quest I would say this is the work we were born to do. When we get these conscious entrepreneurs in the room, something magical happens — a love vortex is created that expands and fills every heart in the room, so people are changed by it. It’s an experience in the Divine that is directly applicable to business…. It’s our offering of love that leads people gently and powerfully into their own greatness by helping them set themselves apart on the Web and attract more people.

As opposed to just saying, “Come join us at the Quest. It’s good for your business. You’ll learn new strategies for defining your market, and standing apart on the Net. You’ll love it!

That’s marketing with love, and it makes all the difference in how your business rolls these days because people no longer are willing to be told what to do by advertisers. Interruption Marketing — as in those TV spots you’ve gotten good at avoiding with the Mute button — is dying, as is television as the primary way to reach people. Now we need the warm, fuzzy, relationship building Internet because we, as consumers, have changed!

This is great news as we enter more deeply into The Great Turning in 2011. May you enjoy all the benefits of marketing with love … it’s powerful stuff. (And yes, that’s just what we’ll be teaching at the next Quest.)


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be strategic, but don’t be a dick

I just watched this video about being ‘too strategic’ with social media on a new site I cam across. What  tagline, “Less stuck. Less struggle. More awesome.” I like it.

And how that can actually hurt you.

Simple wisdom. And funny!

Go watch the video by clicking here.

And of course – I bet he has more awesome stuff on the rest of his website –


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‘Shame on You’ Marketing

I want to talk about shame and marketing.

I’ve got a cough.

I’ve had it for about four years.

It comes and goes – but mostly it comes.

The truth is that I’m sick of it.

I’ve seen a naturopath, an herbalist and am working out whatever emotional causes there might be.

And when you go through sickness you start to notice things.

And one of the things you notice is how other people relate to it – what feels good and what doesn’t.

Here’s a deeper and more honest cut into this: I secretly feel ashamed of my cough. I hate it.

But I genuinely don’t know, for sure, what it’s about.

Maybe it’s because I’m not getting enough fat in my diet (had my gallbladder out a couple of years ago and it wasn’t working for ten years before that). Maybe it’s about not expressing grief. Maybe it’s a fungal or viral infection. Maybe it’s acid reflux. Maybe it’s all of the above.

I don’t know.

And I’ve been living with it for four years.

And so, it’s puzzling when people will come up to me and – with almost no diagnosis at all – tell me exactly what the ‘real’ cause of it is. With so much certainty.

Let me tell you what the emotional impact of this is: it’s shame.

I feel like I’ve not done enough. Like I’m stupid. Like I’m lazy. Irresponsible. And maybe those things are true.

I felt the same thing when I was dealing with my gallstones. No one had answers – but everyone had advice. A dear friend of mine had rheumatoid arthritis. It was crippling for her. And one day a friend who’d been giving her energy work said to her, ‘You know, I think your fear is getting in the way of your healing.’

She felt devastated. And ashamed. And angry.

Of course she was scared. Her hands were shrunken and swollen. Everything hurt. No matter what she tried – nothing changed. And she tried everything – raw vegan, raw animal products, chemicals, antibiotics. And nothing worked. After a while – you start to feel hopeless.

No shit she was scared.

But – as a practitioner – what do you do with the fear? Do you shame it? Or can you empathize with it? Can you let go of your agenda for their own healing long enough to love them right where they are?

And, what if loving people where they are is the most healing thing you can offer?

What if, when you encounter their resistance – you explored it with curiousity and not judgement. Just a sense of, ‘Wow. You’ve spent so much money but you don’t seem to be applying anything or taking your medicines – I’m so curious why that is! Let’s explore this.’ Perhaps you might help them uncover a block that ends up being the healing they really need.

When I’m struggling me tell you what I’m wanting: empathy. context. guidance. Those three things.

I’m wanting someone to be curious with me and explore what might be at the heart of it.

What I’m not wanting is: shaming, blaming, pre-mature advice.

What I’m not wanting is someone to say ‘shame on you‘. Not only does it feel terrible – it’s terrible marketing. And yet – it seems like this is how some people choose to market – by shaming people into action.

And this brings up a core ethical charge laid against so much marketing – the way it plays into (and helps to create) our insecurities. A lot of people are angry about marketing because of just this kind of thing.

This was all brought to my mind by a recent incident at a workshop.

I’d spoken with a man who was an holistic practitioner.

When we first met at one of my workshops he said,  “It sounds like you’ve got XYZ from your dog.”

But i don’t have a dog. He’d misheard me.

Lesson #1: Be careful against diagnosing your clients too soon and losing credibility.

But this wasn’t so bad.

It actually impressed me that he had such an exact sense of it. I even felt excited – maybe he was right! Maybe my cough could be gone soon. I told him I’d like to book a session with him on the following day. But, as it was, I couldn’t make it. I saw him at another workshop the next day and expressed my regrets that I couldn’t make it.

He looked at me and said, “if i were in the business of making speeches – i would make time to take care of my voice.”

My silent, gut response: “bah. screw you. who are you to assume that you can fix me? who are you to assume you should know what my priorities are or should be – or that you has any idea what i’ve been up to – or that i haven’t been doing OTHER things to take care of my voice? You have no idea of the number of supplements I’m carrying in my luggage as I travel (so many) and the money I’ve spent on it – or how hard it is to remember to take the pills and how gross they taste. How there are so many that sometime I almost vomit.”

Lesson #2: acknowledging people’s struggles and what they’ve already done.

If instead he’d said, “I know how it can be. I’m sure you’re so busy on the road – but i’d love to see you. hmm. Is there any time we can fit it in? No pressure.”

Or, if when we first spoke, instead of jumping in with a diagnosis immediately he’d said, “You were saying you’ve had this cough for a long time. How is that for you?

And then listened. Really listened. With empathy.

And when I was done, he might have said, “I can imagine so. I know when I’ve been sick I felt the same way. Here you are traveling and with a job that involves speaking and then you get this! . . . And now you’re carrying around half a bag full of medicine with you and it’s so hard to get it all organized and really stay on top of it. It’s like a whole other job. I’m sorry to hear your troubles. I know how overwhelming it could be. And I have some thoughts if you’re open to it – but no pressure.”

And, when I’d indicated that it was a good time and I would love to hear his thoughts he might have said, “Well . . . it seems to me that it may be XYZ. I’m not sure – but as I listened to it that kept coming up for me. And what I’d love to do is have you come in so we could explore it further. Would you be open to that?

I would have said yes – and felt honoured in the process.

I would have had my dignity still.

Can our marketing build up people’s dignity instead of tearing it down?

Pressure makes us recoil.

And, here’s the thing, I know he’s right. But I also know life is full of so many priorities. So much beauty. And it’s hard to fit it all in. Sometimes I forget to take my medicine. Or I choose not too because it’s late and I just want to go to bed. The thought of spending all my time in ‘treatment’ is overwhelming

When people are in pain, they don’t always address it head on – they sometimes do other things too.

When I thought of him sitting there throughout the workshop thinking, “if only Tad had worked with me, he wouldn’t be coughing.” made me feel angry and defensive.

And then I’m startled at my own bristliness. My own defensiveness. And I’m reminded at how much shame people carry around their sickness.

Lesson #3: When people are sick – they are often also ashamed of their sickness. And they are scared.

If you can meet their fear and shame with love, empathy and curiousity – what might happen then?

And I wonder: how do we engage with people without shaming, pushing or judging? How can our words encourage and uplift while also empathizing and loving?


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