As you know if you’ve stopped by lately, I’ve been reflecting on the good things about 2015. One of the good good things in my life is my friend and writer colleague Alisa Bowman. Alisa Bowman, a former senior editor at Runner’s World, manages to get done in a few months what it takes other writers years to accomplish. She’s kind and funny and compassionate and she gives really good advice. Alisa has a brand new co-authored book out, called The Joy of Half a Cookie. When I asked her if I could brag like crazy about her new book on my blog, she volunteered to write a guest post for me instead. That’s Alisa. You want to help her and she finds a way to help you. The not-so-hidden agenda of today’s awesome content is to get you to buy and read one of Alisa’s books. If you can’t afford to buy a book, ask your public library to order a copy. (There are no affiliate links in this post.)
The Ghostwriter’s Guide to Great Relationships
7 Reasons Why Ghostwriters Make Better Lovers
by Alisa Bowman, bestselling author
I never thought, “When I grow up, I want to be a ghostwriter.”
No one ever does.
A novelist? Yes.
An investigative journalist? Yes.
A ghostwriter? Nuh-uh.
I fell into the trade accidentally.
A friend had a book deal but no time or skills to write the book. She asked for my help. That one project led to another and another and another. Now, more than 30 co-written and ghostwritten books later, I realize that being a ghostwriter has taught me a lot about people, especially how to gain their trust, get along with them, and help them find their voice.
In order to write someone’s story, I need to find a way to get that person to open up to a stranger: me. They need to tell me about their most embarrassing and painful moments in life – stories they might not have told anyone before. So I have to find ways to put them at ease. This is what good ghostwriters (and journalists in general) do best.
We put people at ease, so much so that they feel comfortable revealing their pain.
Putting people at ease is a skill that can help anyone, not just writers. It allows you to draw closer to the people you love, get to know them better, and help them feel closer to you.
Ever wished you could get that sullen teen to tell you what’s wrong?
Ever suspected that your mother is ticked, but can’t get her to explain why?
Ghostwriting skills can help!
Here are the 7 reasons why ghostwriters make better lovers. Use them to improve your connections with friends, family and coworkers.
- We practice the art of curiosity. Every human being has something interesting that drives them. What is it? Find out. See that person like a mystery waiting to be solved. What makes that person tick? How did that person become who they are today?
- We ask good questions. Don’t ask empty questions like, “How was your day?” No one ever has an interesting answer to that one, and almost everyone lies. They will tell you that their day was good or fine no matter how it really went. Ask meaningful, curious questions like, “Why do you hate your job?” or “Why do you retreat to the basement as soon as you get home from work?”
- We create a safety zone. No one is going to open up if you fill the room with sarcastic quips and negativity. You might think the sarcasm is funny, but trust me: it gags people, causing them to hide their most vulnerable (and interesting!) qualities. People—whether they be your spouse, your teen, your mother, or your co-author—only open up when they feel safe. You create safety by smiling, by encouraging, by complimenting them, by mirroring (“that sounds so painful,” “that sounds hard,” “that sounds confusing,” etc.), by laughing at their jokes and growing somber at their sadness, and by really and truly listening.
- We listen (which you’re not doing if you’re talking). All too often I hear people, usually extroverts, complain that other people, usually introverts, don’t talk and, therefore, are not interesting. When I watch such relationships, though, what I see is an introvert who talks and an extrovert who interrupts the introvert. Often the introvert will be right in the middle of the best part of a story. But the extrovert hasn’t been listening because the extrovert has been thinking about what they want to say next. With one interruption, the introvert shuts down. Introverts do talk, but, like an old car in the winter, they are often slow-to-warm. They need a lot of love and warmth in order to feel safe. When they are talking, give them the floor. Listen carefully, as if they are revealing the world’s best-kept secrets. Ask follow-up questions. Look engaged. I think you’ll find that that person in your life who “never talks” actually has a lot to say.
- We let them tell us their experience. Don’t tell someone you’re talking to what you think their experience should be. This is particularly important if you, like me, are a person of privilege: white, middle to upper class, college educated, straight, cisgender, the list goes on. When a gender fluid person tells you about the importance of pronouns, you are not listening to their experience when you say, “It’s not a big deal. It’s just a pronoun.” When a person of color tells you about the fear of being pulled over by a cop, you are not listening if you say, “I never feel that way when I’m pulled over by a cop.” When you bring everything back to you, the other person feels erased, as if they attempted to show you the masterpiece of their life but, rather than take that masterpiece in, you took your own markers and colored over it until it became a self-portrait. We all do this, to some degree. It’s part of the flawed human condition. But when we work hard to break out of our own experience so that we can hear, see and understand someone else’s, we gain a clearer, more vibrant, more loving view of the world. It’s worth the effort.
- We study people. Notice their posture, tone of voice, mannerisms, and facial expression. Did her hand just shake a little as she told you that everything was “fine”? Did a hint of anger slide across his face—just for a moment—as he told you it was “no biggie”? The more you notice, the less time you’ll spend second-guessing their feelings and intentions.
- We always look for ways to improve. If a conversation doesn’t go well, consider why. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s not true that you are “no good with people.” People skills take practice. I couldn’t get as many people to open up two decades ago as I can now. The more you practice, the better you’ll get.
Alisa Bowman has worked with more than two dozen authors on well over 30 titles, many of which she can’t talk about due to legal and privacy reasons. Her two most recent books hit bookstores in January: The Joy of Half a Cookie (about how mindfulness can help you overcome your struggles with food) and Outsmarting Alzheimer’s. She’s currently working on a historical memoir. Under her own name, she’s written for AARP, Prevention, Parents, Reader’s Digest, Family Circle, and many other publications about topics ranging from millennials and marriage to medicinal pot to tech gadgets for dogs. You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter (@alisabowman).