The Actors Voice
by Bonnie Gillespie
week of August 24, 2015
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/002020.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.
The Power of the Woo
“Language was invented for one reason: to woo women. And in that endeavor laziness will not do. It also won’t do in your essays.” — NH Kleinbaum, Dead Poets Society
If you’re me, you speak “dude.” You are masculine and you’re direct and you may write long-ass emails but they’re not filled with flowery language or words like “please” or “thank you” or “if you have a minute” or “perhaps you might be open to” or any other such nonsense. You’re a tweet-length speaker in an email world. You’re all about getting down to it. And that feels really good. WHEN you’re dealing with someone who is ALSO all about getting down to it.
The problem comes when you’re dealing with someone who needs, frankly, a little “fluff.” In case you must identify people as one or the other, let me share a story in which I — the very direct conversationalist in the bunch — needed to be warmed up a bit.
I best tell the story here, in a vid with copywriter-slash-actor-slash-dancer-slash-badass Quincy Cho, in which we discussed my second book and the feedback I got from my proofers. It’s clear. When someone said, “You used a comma here when you shouldn’t have,” I got defensive and protective of my over-comma-ing. But when someone (a professional editor) said, “Perhaps you’d gain better clarity by…” I was all over that next phrase, exploring the OPTIONS of greater clarity that could come, if I were open to the experience of revisiting it.
If you’re NOT me, maybe you already speak “chick.” And that’s got that whole extra layer of asking for permission, seeking approval for the conversation, gently suggesting. All the shit that, personally, drives me CRAZY… because I speak “dude,” not “chick.” And before you get mad at me for genderizing this whole thing, please understand, I GET that an actual chick (me) can speak dude and that it doesn’t mean anything positive or negative. It’s a label in the very Deborah Tannen sense of the world of the word.
And here’s why all of this is important to you, whether you speak chick or dude or some other label you prefer: You are GOING to communicate in writing to your potential buyers. You are GOING to write a cover letter. You are GOING to write a bio. You are GOING to put content on your website. You are GOING to fling emails to people and want to be understood and OMG if you could possibly filter through this chick/dude thing, you might possibly make a huge tier jump, just by knowing where you stand.
A director is going to give you direction. It’s most likely gonna be “dude” direction. Whether or not the director *is* male, it’s likely that what you’re going to hear is something closer to TERSE than POLITE. It’s not personal. It’s not about you. It’s just business, which needs to be done, and if you’re the type who NEEDS “chick speak,” you may benefit from coming up with a filtering process that allows you to HEAR what seems abrupt in a way that fills you with joy for moving forward in that new direction.
Be open to notes. Be open to change. Be open to tweaks. Be open to the NOTE. And more importantly, if you’re a note-giver, be open to adding a little SOMETHING to your words so that they’re better-received. You’ve joined the collaborative process and you know that’s a part of your world. Try to come from a place of “If you might consider” or “I’d love to suggest” or “Perhaps this might make a difference” if you tend to go for the jugular (like I do) when you start a conversation.
Remember that coming from a place of authority — while it may feel GREAT from the inside — might not get you what you need. There’s great power to the art of the “woo.” And here’s what I mean by that: We are all seducing everyone about what it is that make us awesome, always.
So every time we are absolute, overly direct, or full-on authoritative, we are NOT wooing anyone. The “woo” comes from a place of seduction. And there’s nothing negative about that. It’s just being purposeful in your every keystroke to be certain you are WOOING your buyers, your reps, your fans. When you’re putting up a Kickstarter campaign and telling people how awesome you are, you’re not inviting them in. When you’re instead using words that make them feel INSIDER, you’re inviting them to be a part of your process, you’re showing them something behind the curtain, you have a chance of huge fanbase support, and these folks come on as producing partners! And THAT is how campaigns get funded.
It may seem as if I’m encouraging you to manipulate people so that you FEEL like an insider to them, but I think the more ninja move in all of this is to identify who you *actually* are and to steer your language — whether it’s in a cover letter, a bio, a resumé, an email, or any social networking engagement — in that direction. Woo because it feels good to do so. Know a part of your job is to seduce. Don’t feel yourself as skeevy for that truth. Instead, embrace it. And let’s show everyone how it’s done, shall we?
Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Follow Bonnie on Twitter, circle up at Google+, subscribe at YouTube, download THE WORK podcast at iTunes, or hit “like” at the Facebook. For cool weekly emails from Bon and a free MP3, opt on in. Looking for Self-Management for Actors coaching? START HERE! Yay!