Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Emotionally Intensify Your Social Communications

Calligraphy by Positype
For many of us, 'palliative care' probably brings to mind images of people in hospital beds at home, surrounded by anxious family and friends - a gathering which is, well... waiting. In some places, though, palliative care means a few hours with others in the same situation; talking, laughing, and doing arts and crafts.

Taking Their Measure

An evaluation of this social daycare in the UK was recently presented and a secondary analysis made of the impact on the patients as determined through their use of metaphor and other descriptions for it. (The study is here, if you are interested.) The study referred to these descriptions as emotional intensifiers, which provide:
"...a measure of the impact of the effect of illness, the effect of the day services on users and carers and the intensity of feeling during the time of transition."
In electronic social communications, your posts have to be pretty pithy, since you may be restricted in the number of characters you can use (Twitter) or the type of post you can make (Instagram). Too often, this causes emotional intensifiers to be left out in the service of making sure the facts get in.

It's a Conversation, Not a News Bulletin

I think, the shorter your communication, or the more limited, the more you should probably strive to imbue it with emotion. It's the human story that makes the connection - the happy story or the sad story - and the hope your small nonprofit embodies for creating more happy or alleviating the sad. Your programs represent hope, like a lit candle in the window on a dark night for those sad stories or the candles on a birthday cake for the happy ones. That hope is underscored by the facts and figures, which demonstrate the need for your work.

Whenever you post, remember that you're not limited to one post. Since the idea is to begin a dialog with people interested in the work you do, there is no need to craft 'the perfect' post. You're having a conversation which doesn't begin and end with every tweet. It's ongoing and lives across all of your social communications platforms.

Your Parts of Speech

Use description, metaphor, and simile to lend humanity to your posts; not just to give your reader a mental image, but to engage them emotionally. Please note I'm not saying you should leave out the facts, only temper their use. Make the full case on your blog. Use microblogging to highlight and direct. And it's okay to make one post all emotional appeal and another all facts - your audience differs from person to person and no one approach will fit all. For example, on Wednesday you might post: She was crying from hunger, but you dried her tears. On Friday you might post: Thanks to you, 512 kids got a hot meal.

Just don't forget the power of descriptives - when Elizabeth Browning said "How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways" she didn't enumerate them spreadsheet style. Rather, she wrote:
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Descriptives can measure in emotional terms, the impact your programs have on your community and the impact your community has on you. The keyword is impact - important in all its shades of meaning.

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