Are you forgetting someone?

Imagine you’re round at someone’s house. They look up at the corner of the room and announce: ‘We provide a range of teas, including ordinary black tea, green tea and peppermint tea. Anyone who would like a cup of tea should let me know.’

Were they meant to be talking to you? Were they basically just saying ‘Would you like a cup of tea?’

You’d think they were mad. But that’s how websites talk to people.

I’ve been looking at the websites of a lot of therapists and counsellors recently, as I have a client who is one of them. Remember, these are people who are trained to focus on other people’s needs. So it’s quite remarkable that the majority of their website home pages start by saying something like:

Hello, my name is Clare and am a trained interpersonal therapist with 7 years experience as a practitioner here in the UK. I am highly qualified in a range of modalities as well as interpersonal therapy, which is one of the most effective therapies for a range of conditions. I offer free consultations… 

Hello, therapist? I’m out here. I’m waiting for you to notice me. I’m waiting for you to stop talking about yourself.

To be fair to therapists, so many organisations dedicated to helping people will also start by saying something like this:

We’re here to provide a listening ear for everyone who is facing emotional or other problems… 

When they could have said, say:

Talk to us whenever you need to about whatever you need to…

And the therapist could have said:

If you’re suffering from anxiety or depression, talk to me. Interpersonal therapy could help you become happier and more confident…

It’s a simple switch of perspective, but it means the world. Instead of broadcasting messages about yourself or your organisation – effectively talking to the corner of the ceiling – you’re acknowledging the presence of another human being. You’re opening a conversation. You’re treating me with respect.

Of course, by talking to ‘you’ on your website you risk being presumptuous. You risk telling people who they are or what to think (a topic I’ll address another time). But by not addressing them, you risk making them feel as though they just don’t matter.

Which is a bit of a problem if your whole purpose is to help them.