One of the saddest facts of my life is that I do not look as cool as I feel. I generally believe (on my good days) that I am incredibly charismatic. Yet it’s been my experience that people who don’t know me tend to think I’m fairly ordinary.
They underestimate me and seem surprised when I exceed their expectations. As hard as I work, I get really annoyed at having to prove myself in this way. And yet I’ve come to the conclusion that I simply don’t have “the look” that automatically makes people think I’m something special.
Of course, once I do my thing folks tend to come around. Doing solid, reliable work is the main reason. Beyond that, the most important thing seems to be eye contact.
The more I’ve been able to make eye-contact with people I work with, the more they seem to respond to me as though I was highly charismatic. I think they like being “seen.” In other words, the more charismatic I make them feel, the more charismatic I am.
This isn’t a revelation to anyone. Of course people like eye-contact. Of course they remember how you make them feel more than they remember what you look like.
The question is: How do you do this when you can’t really make eye-contact: On stage, or in writing?
On stage is the easier one. You can certainly make eye-contact with folks from up there if you have enough courage. But I’m not sure that has the same impact as it does when you’re having a one-to-one conversation, since everyone knows you’re singing or talking to a whole crowd.
Rather, it’s doing whatever it takes to give people the feeling that you are including them. Even if you don’t look at them, as long as you are letting them in, are vulnerable to them, are talking to them in a way which makes them feel like a part of the group and not an individual, they will feel “seen.” This is the equivalent of “crowd eye-contact.”
The same must be true of writing. The way you write to people, the way you present yourself as an author or narrator, is vital to your success. If the reader feels like you “see them,” then you become someone important in their life.
Some of this is learnable writer’s technique. For instance, it’s using words which are the most direct in meaning to what you want to say. Writers should avoid using overly complicated “lexicon” unless there’s a compelling reason to employ it.
It may also be making sure that a situation or characters you’re describing seems plausible. Readers respect plausibility because it keeps them immersed in the writing. The second you break ranks from that, you lose the “eye contact,” because the reader stops reading!
Have I reached you today? Do you feel included? If I left you out, I hope you’ll set me straight!
News From a Jazz Musician Who Writes Books
Our album release party was a fabulous event! If you didn't make it, there will be other opportunities to hear the Front Porch Session Players. In the meantime, my song "What Doesn't Heal You" has just been released as a single! https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/frontporchsessionplayers2
Adam Cole is a Jazz Musician Who Writes Books. Author, educator and performer, Adam chats weekly on the subject of listening, creativity and living your best life. To take a quiz on what kind of music warrior you are, please visit www.mymusicfriend.net