Why writing is better than talking
Ever asked someone to ‘put it in writing’? There are lots of reasons why you might want to do that – to have written verification, to have longer to ponder over what has been suggested, or to generally have a more structured explanation. Now, it seems, there is proof that writing also triumphs over talking in another sphere, namely wellbeing.
I’ve just started to read a book called ‘59 seconds’ by Richard Wiseman, which looks at the scientific evidence for self-help strategies and claims to de-bunk many of the myths that have bubbled to the surface from the mud of armchair psychology. If you are a fan of positive affirmations you might want to look away now.
One of the strategies the author looks at is expressive writing and an example is given where people were asked to spend a few minutes each day writing about a traumatic event in their lives and their feelings about it. The people who took part showed improvements in physical and psychological wellbeing, happiness and self-esteem. Hearing this is a bit like having an elderly aunt praise the china teapot you bought by accident at a car boot sale – all writers will be feeling a genteel, self-effacing flush of triumph and justification.
In contrast, talking to an untrained but sympathetic listener felt to the participants as if the chat had been helpful but actually in terms of helping them cope, it made no difference. The author of the book points out that the process of talking is often chaotic and unstructured (he’s obviously met me) but in contrast, writing generally imposes structure in order to create a coherent narrative. In the process this might help people to understand their situation and in turn to create solutions.
Working in public relations, means paying a lot of attention to the words that are used, as well as the mood, rhythm and tone of a piece of copy. And there are few things more satisfying than writing a proposal and seeing all the elements come together to create an exciting campaign that’s so good it’s ready to dance off the table and grab the limelight.
So, I can’t help but agree with Mr Wiseman (surely not a made-up name). The next time you need an insight, don’t talk it to death in the board room, chew the fat over the coffee machine, or indulge in group brainstorming. Tell your story and write it down.