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Influence through writing on divisive topics

Empathy in your writing is important, but the best moment for empathy is when listening and reading.


When speaking and writing, it is our turn to influence.


Moreover, many of us are contracted to influence others with our writing, such as advertising, marketing, sales, and customer service employees.


If you have been writing for a while, you might have been asked to write about a difficult topic. Many of us have had to profess an opinion we do not even share. The most uncomfortable requests for articles, however, are those on divisive topics.


What's a divisive topic?

Politics, animal testing, criminality, education, and drugs are just a few topics that might be considered divisive. Topics such as sexual orientation or gender identity can also divide opinions.


While it is saddening that many of these topics are presented as divisive by the media, you might need to write about one of them, so here's how to approach them!

Tip 1: Be accurate

Out of respect for those involved, fact-check.


Any journalist worth their salt will tell you to trace any link you plan to use back to the original source. That means finding the source cited in an article, going to their website, and searching for the source. This might send you to a few different websites, and if you land on a resource dated 20 years ago, rethink using that data.


Let's say you're asked to write about transgender people. How can you approach this with the objective of influencing people, factually? If you intend to quote a person, try to contact them to verify they still hold the same opinion as when first quoted. Do not, under any circumstance, take their quote out of context.


Remarkable news source for accurate stories:

Media Storm "starts with the people who are normally asked last," which means they get stories from lived experience. This is a stellar resource for accurate journalism.



Tip 2: Find the humanity

Projecting humanity in a story makes your writing more engaging, and it can also make the lifestyle or nature of a person more relatable. Here's a second example, imagine you've been asked to write about the death penalty. Regardless of your opinion on the issue, you can use the story behind the humans involved to persuade:

  • If you want to promote harsh punishments for criminals, tell the story of the victims harmed.

  • If you are postulating the idea of empathy before penalty, you might want to tell the backstory of a convicted criminal, or someone falsely accused.

These stories can be heart-wrenching to tell, but incredibly influential.


Remarkable news source for finding humanity:

The writers at QueerAF shift the narrative on topics like laws and human rights, using their own narratives. By giving voices (and their first commissions) to emerging and underrepresented LGBTQIA+ creatives, they inform without sacrificing humanity.

Tip 3: Offend with purpose

Credit to Syed M. Masood for this quote:

There is nothing wrong with offending the right people. When you’re making a point, especially about complex, sensitive, or painful topics, you are going to irritate some people. If I say, to use a simplistic and clear-cut example, that “racism is evil,” and that offends racists… Well, good."

By writing with a clearly-defined purpose, you are more likely to influence others. You are also less likely to offend, without any positive impact at all.

Remarkable news source for offending with purpose:

The YouTuber Blair Zoń and her team at iilluminaughtii are role models for those hoping to offend with purpose. While some find this channel critical towards topics they're fond of, the content is well-founded, researched, and pointed to a greater good. It has a purpose.


Ready to influence with your writing?

Check your sources, cite clearly, and remember to think about how the audience might read your content, with no previous knowledge of your reputation or trust in your authority on the topic.


Follow these 3 steps and you'll be on your way to influencing with your writing!

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