Skip to content

What Writers Can Learn From Therapy

In the Better Business Writing course on Friday, a participant named Sydnee shared an insight about remembering to focus on the reader’s needs, especially in marketing messages. She gave me permission to share her idea with you.

Sydnee suggested imagining a session with a new therapist. Imagine the therapist sitting down with you and beginning, “Let me tell you all about myself. I got my degrees at . . . I studied with . . . I consider myself an expert in . . . ”

If you were the new client, you would immediately turn off. After all, you went to the therapist to talk about your concerns and how to deal with them. You did not go to listen to the therapist’s resume. You might think What an egomaniac! Why doesn’t he (she) focus on what’s going on for me?

The same is true when you reach out to clients and potential clients in writing. They need you to focus on their problems and how to solve them. They are looking for your solutions, strategies, and expertise, but what you share needs to apply directly to them.

Too often sales emails and letters tell about the writer’s company with I and we and nothing about you the reader, your industry, and your challenges. The reader is asking “Why should I keep reading? What’s in it for me?”

Does Sydnee’s analogy apply well to the marketing messages you send or receive? Do you have an analogy to share? I welcome your thoughts.


Posted by Avatar photo
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

4 comments on “What Writers Can Learn From Therapy”

  • AC, I agree! The lesson does go beyond writing.

    Thanks for commenting–and complimenting.


  • As always… wonderful and insightful information.
    Thank you Lynn.

    I think this is applicable to not only sales communication but other areas as well. If we keep in mind what the other party’s need is and work based on it, our work environment will be a lot smoother.
    What do you think?

  • Thank you for these good things to remember! Even in our daily run-of-the-mill communications via phone or email, I try to remember to put a little line at the end that says, in some way, “You are more important than the work you can do for me today.” This is helpful for me, as well, as it lessens the intensity of deadlines and the piles of work that never seem to dwindle. People are important; taking care of them should be our line of work, an unwritten part of our job descriptions.

  • Fran, thank you for taking the time to share your uplifting comment. You make an important point.


Comments are closed.