How to lose friends and alienate people

Not many men would go to the trouble of deploying a Soviet scientist to annoy his missus, but that’s what I’ve done. 

Why should you care?

Because I’ve also accidentally stumbled on the secret to getting more replies to your emails and social posts.

The best way for you to experience this (and I do mean “experience”) is to listen to the Nickelback song, “Photograph”. 

(I know… it’s Nickelback. Don’t worry, you don’t have to endure all of it and I promise it’ll be worth it)

My wife HATES the last few seconds of this song.

Listen to the last 15 seconds and see if you can spot why.

It’s missing a word, isn’t it?

It doesn’t “feel” finished.

“Every time it makes me… WHAT????”

Leaving something unfinished is a great way to annoy my wife.

This is why I’m always singing Gina G around the house:

“Ooh Aah just a little…”





Try it yourself. Pick a song, sing the main chorus and annoy the shit out of my wife miss out the last word.

It almost eats at you, doesn’t it?

Musicians tap into this. They’ll sing the first part of the chorus and point the microphone at the crowd to finish it off.

(I always liked Lee Mack’s joke about this – “yeah, we know the words, Robbie. Thing is, we paid £250 a ticket… any chance YOU could sing a few of them?”)

The scientist Bluma Zeigarnik was the first to discover that people tend to focus on – and remember – unfinished things. She noticed waiters were much better at remembering incomplete orders than those that had already been served.

Some people – like my wife – go one step further… they not only notice incomplete things…

… they feel COMPELLED to finish them.

Copywriters use this in their marketing, with open loops being a great example.

(Don’t know what an open loop is? I’ll reveal all – and a weirdly counterintuitive way of using them – in just a second…)

If you want someone to respond to something, see if you can end it on an “unfinished” note.

In an email, you might not miss out words at the end of sentences, but you might mention that you have two important things to share…

… and then only share one.

There’s a lot more to this idea, especially when it comes to one-to-one communication, but here are the main points:

1. If you want people to respond, add an unfinished element to something they want closure on.

2. Bluma Wulfovna Zeigarnik was a Lithuanian-Soviet psychologist and psychiatrist who discovered this “Zeigarnik Effect”.

3. I am familiar with the website: “Wikipedia”

4. I’m a terrible husband.

I think that’s everything… 😉

John Holt

P.S. Did you spot the meta-joke? Bravo! 10 points for you, my friend. 🙂