Why everyone is indifferent to your messaging

Peter Whent
February 12, 2019

When two dogs meet

Have you ever watched two dogs meeting for the first time?

Dogs don’t complicate things with etiquette or small talk. They get straight to the point. All they want is a quick answer to a very simple question:

“Is this dog a friend or an enemy?”

It’s a pretty primitive instinct that’s been developed courtesy of about 500 million years of evolution. Nothing’s been rushed.

Their sub conscious mind checks what they’re seeing against their inbuilt primeval database. They’re looking for a few basic signals. Enough to make a decision. The whole thing takes a micro-second.

But it’s a positive decision process. The dog doesn’t drop into one category just because it doesn’t fit in the other. If there is insufficient data for the other dog to be a friend or an enemy, then something interesting happens.

By default, the other dog is placed in a third category. “Indifferent”

If it’s not a friend or an enemy, then our dog doesn’t care, and that’s how 99% of dog interactions end up. With two animals not giving a dog shit about each other.

Note to dog owners: Dogs have got some pretty top-end circuitry going on. So, when they won’t sit on command, that’s you not them.

Like dog, like man

Why am I telling you this? Simple. Because humans are exactly the same!

When we first encounter someone, our primeval brain kicks in and makes a virtually instant assessment. It’s the same as the dog, except the questions are slightly different.

We ask: “Do I like this person or not”

Like the dogs, unless we can assemble a minimum set of data that allows us to categorise the person as one or the other, we treat them as insignificant to us. We completely ignore them.

And like dogs, that is the result of 99.99% of the encounters we have. We are pre-programmed to be indifferent to nearly everyone around us.

It’s why we find networking events so tortuous. We are surrounded by a hundred people who all want to tell us about themselves. Our dash board is flashing “indifferent” from the moment they start speaking.

Indifference online

Now let’s transport this idea online. Let’s imagine we encounter someone for the first time through some online content. Let’s say our first encounter is the messaging on someone’s LinkedIn profile.

We make the same kind of sub-conscious judgement. “Do I like this person or not”. But instead of behavioural signals, we are picking everything up from what is written.

And that is where the problem lies in the vast majority of copy and content that we see online.

The typical LinkedIn profile summary starts something like: “I am an experienced, result oriented…..”

That’s enough for our sub-conscious brain. There is nothing in the first ten words that make me like or dislike you.

You’re quickly filed under “Indifferent”

What about a Facebook Ad (this is a genuine Facebook ad):

“MSP? Looking to take the leap from Break-fix to MSP?”

I haven't got a clue what that means......."Indifferent"

Or that spam message in your LinkedIn inbox (again genuine):

“I’m reaching out to you to see whether the content of my research in the last year on emotions…..” 

That just reads like blah, blah, blah........"Indifferent"

Most online content talks about you and not about them. But I’m going to tell you a secret. They don’t give a shit about you. They care only about themselves and their own problems.

Unless you are showing them something that they think will help with their problems……."Indifferent"

The golden rules of content

There are two golden rules which should be the starting point for all of your messaging


Rule #1 - People don’t buy stuff from strangers. They buy stuff from people they know, like and trust.

Rule #2 - People will engage with you, when you show them that you understand what keeps them awake at night.

Ignore these two rules at your peril. If do, you are likely to spend a fruitless life being placed in the “Indifferent” category.

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