Expertise creates a paradox. We work hard to become masters in our fields, but the more skill we have, the less relatable we are. People perceive experts as superior and just plain like them less.
Copping to a blunder immediately dispels this. That’s the Pratfall effect, and it humanizes you and adds to your likability.
How we fall down in public
We use the Pratfall effect constantly, and it benefits our writing and our relationship as a team.
Our newsletter starts with the Gist. It’s a daily nugget about our gaffes, wrong assumptions, and bloopers. We want to teach you what to do, but we have a lot to teach you about what not to do. If you learn from our blunders, you can avoid them yourself – and laugh at us in the process.
And if you know our Tech lead Sam, you know he’s a frickin’ genius. So smart that we started a conspiracy theory that he actually knows everything.
He debunked our rumor by pinging the channel every time he blew something techy up. Instantly, he went from omniscient genius to a relatable guy who is just as enthusiastic about falling down as he is about crushing it.
If you want a writing style that is liked, known, and trusted, here’s how to use this cool phenomenon in your own copy:
Pratfalling with Style
- Be comfortable with uncomfortable. We’re taught that failure is a shame, but everyone messes up. Throwing around your bloopers teaches something and forges respect and connection.
- Start with the gaffe. Introduce your topic with how it all went wrong.
- Seed in anecdotes. Throughout the middle of copy or after main points, pepper in “I tried this once” or “The first time I…” to keep readers interested and empathetic
- Add a Do This, Not That to the end of your article to reinforce your experience and build credibility
- Make a list of relevant mistakes you've made as they relate to your topic or audience.
- Don't try to force or make up errors - the idea is to humanize yourself and be natural. Your attempts will fall flat if they don't fit your personality
- Be aware that the effect only works when you're viewed as competent- it has the opposite desired effect when you're not seen this way.