Why Fear Is Your Best Friend If You Want Readers to Keep Reading

How Do Use Fear As Your Best Friend If You Want Readers to Keep Reading?



Fear is the most universal, dominant, and primal human motivator. And the key, as counterintuitive as it sounds, is to stop hiding from your fears and embrace them.




[tweet_box design=”default”]Because your own fears are the most powerful connection points you have to reach the very people who scare you the most: your readers.[/tweet_box]



So, to help you grab your audience by the throat right from the start, let’s take a look at Aaron Orendorff’s  (@iconiContent ) the ten most common fears we as humans face:



1. The Fear of Failure

  • This fear of failure, however, is what makes — in the words of copywriting legend Dan Kennedy — the “Problem-Agitation-Solution” formula “the most reliable sales formula ever invented.”
  • First, define the problem in simple and straightforward terms.
  • Second, agitate the problem.
  • As Kennedy explains, “You should have readers mentally wringing their hands, pacing the room, saying, ‘This has got to stop! I’ve got to do something about this! What can I do about this? If only there were an answer!’”
  • Third, reveal the solution.
  • The most common mistake writers make when trying to evoke fear is NOT driving the problem home.
  • We assume that our audience already feels the fear… but they don’t.
  • To do this in your own opening lines, think about agitating in terms of what Aaron calls the “it gets worse, much, much worse” principle.
  • Make a list of everything that failing over the problem will cost your reader: personally, professionally, financially
  • Only AFTER exposing them to the full consequences of failure are you then ready to move on to the solution.


2. The Fear of Rejection

  • Fear of rejection, on the other hand, isn’t about problems.
  • It’s about people.
  • Our fear of rejection stems from an underlying, deep-seated belief that other people’s rejection of us will reveal the fact we’re fundamentally unacceptable.
  • This plays itself out in myriad ways and is the primary reason why the $2.2-billion online dating industry is dominated by articles promising to relieve the fear of rejection.
  • One of the best ways to evoke the fear of rejection is to give it a voice — and not just any voice, but your reader’s own voice.
  • Articulating their fears vividly evokes them and — at the same time — develops empathy and connection by showing you understand.
  • Once you’ve given verbal life to something like the fear of rejection, be sure your hinge to the solution offers a way forward



3. The Fear of Missing Out

  • The fear of missing out is so common that it even has its own acronym: FOMO.
  • Do not underestimate FOMO’s audience-grabbing power.
  • Beneath its banal surface, FOMO is driven by what persuasion expert Robert Cialdini calls the principle of scarcity.
  • Basically, the harder it is to get something, the more we want it.
  • When this want is coupled with the impression that other people — lots of other people or people you admire — are getting the thing you can’t, the fear of missing out goes into overdrive.
  • Naturally, FOMO works wonders when it comes to making offers and crafting opt-out buttons with “negative consequences”


4. The Fear of Not Knowing

  • Not knowing is especially painful when it comes to being confused about existential questions like, “Who do I want to be?” as well as practical questions like, “What should I do next?”
  • With the former, we’re afraid of not knowing who we are… or even who we want to be.
  • With the latter — “What’s next?” — we’re afraid of not knowing the path forward.
  • Together they form a terrifying and bewildering one-two punch.
  • How do you deal with this fear?
  • More importantly, how do you grab hold of a reader struggling with not knowing?
  • You should start with common ground….Then turn toward the fear-inducing question mark holding your audience back
  • Quite often, your audience doesn’t know why they’re confused.
  • They’re missing some vital piece to the puzzle, and this is where you get to not only leverage their fear but demystify it and move toward an answer.


5. The Fear of Obscurity

  • As we get older, this fear of obscurity — of being forgotten — does nothing but intensify.
  • As adults, we still dread the thought of being left out or left behind.
  • In truth, our fears grow as we do: we don’t just want to be invited, we want to make such a big impression that we’re remembered by others even after we’re gone.
  • Feeling obscure sucks, especially when that obscurity is holding us back from professional and financial success.
  • But it is profoundly universal.
  • Even the most successful people fear being alone and feel more than a little insignificant now and again.
  • Being memorable yourself is the best and sneakiest way to reach an audience who themselves fear obscurity.



6. The Fear of Looking Stupid

  • Of all the fears we experience, looking stupid is relatively silly.
  • Whether you call it pride or ego, we all want to appear smart, not just in front of the people we admire but even in front our own inner critic.
  • That fear takes shape in an all-too-common refrain: “Don’t publish this. It’s stupid. People might think you’re crazy.”
  • Even more than wanting to look like we have all the answers, we dread making mistakes.
  • Unfortunately, we are only human.
  • We all make mistakes, and sometimes, they’re — yes — pretty stupid.
  • So how do you empathize with a reader who’s feeling dumb?
  • You start by letting them off the hook.
  • But just a little.
  • When it comes to the fear of looking stupid, be sure to stress that you are or were in the same exact boat.
  • That shared experience isn’t just another meaningful point of connection, it makes turning toward your solution feel authentic.


7. The Fear of Inadequacy

  • Whereas the fear of looking stupid shouts, inadequacy whispers.
  • After all, when you’re feeling dumb, you usually know you’re feeling dumb.
  • When you’re worrying about inadequacy, though, it often shows up subtly through little internal comments about how you aren’t enough.
  • The fear of inadequacy raises its head with a snide remark or a queasy uncertainty about your ability to handle the task before you.
  • As a writer, this means that connecting to your audience through their fear of inadequacy demands showing them exactly where they’re falling short.


8. The Fear of Embarrassment

  • Embarrassment is the first internal blush we experience before the full public onslaught of humiliation and shame.
  • It makes us want to hide, withdraw, or never stick our necks out in the first place.
  • And this is precisely what gives embarrassment its power to hook.
  • Leaning on the fear of embarrassment is especially helpful when you’re writing about topics that have to do with appearance.
  • But don’t limit yourself just to physical appearance.
  • Embarrassment holds people back whenever they’re about to take something private and put it out there: a new post, a new website, a new social account, a new product feature, a new… you get the idea.
  • By outing that internal fear and what’s driving it, you form an emotional bond with your audience, one that’s incredibly intimate
  • Naturally, you want your audience to feel a little silly, maybe even a little bad.
  • But don’t go too far.
  • To use the fear of embarrassment effectively, don’t overstep your boundaries (unless your audience comes to you specifically for written reprimanding).
  • Instead, emphasize and play on how silly we can all be sometimes.


9. The Fear of Being Boring

  • With all the incredible content that’s immediately accessible to us, today’s reader has absolutely no patience for boredom.
  • After all, boredom requires a measure of safety and comfort.
  • Directly addressing the fear of boredom, though, is how you show your empathy with bored readers.
  • Boredom is like dirty snow after a long, bitter February or the cobwebs before spring cleaning.
  • To use the fear of being boring, you have to find the cobwebs, and then break out the broom and feather duster.
  • In other words, colorful language and vivid imagery are not only perfect ways to illustrate boredom and its traffic-killing dangers, they’re also the antidote to address it.



10. The Fear of Pain

  • Writing about pain is difficult.
  • Pain is uncomfortable.
  • We don’t want to be in pain, and we definitely don’t want to be in so much pain we turn to words like “unbearable” to describe it.
  • That means if you’re going to evoke the fear of pain, your words had better have the same impact as a Mack truck.
  • Exploiting the fear of pain and using it to connect with your readers takes vulnerability and honesty.
  • It means exposing your own darkest moments and dragging them – in all their gory glory — out into the light of day.
  • It also takes time.



“The world of online writing is a scary place. And click bait – crafting an irresistible headline with zero follow-through to back it up – is the one unforgivable sin.  And yet, overcoming the urge to produce click bait as well as overcoming your fears both lie not in running from your fears, but embracing them……..says Aaron



Your fears are the most powerful, empathy-producing, audience-grabbing resource at your disposal. Fear isn’t your enemy. It’s your ally, especially when it comes to your post’s introduction.



Take hold of your fears. Call them out by name. Unearth each one in all its unholy, detailed brilliance.



In other words, use them… unless, of course, you’re scared.





If you enjoyed this post and found TONS OF VALUE, please take a moment and share….Thank you 🙂


Sharing IS Caring!


To Your Success,
Joan Harrington


P.S. (You Can Grab Aaron’s Content Strategy Checklist Right Here!)

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24 thoughts on “Why Fear Is Your Best Friend If You Want Readers to Keep Reading

  1. Hi Joan,

    Thanks for this post. I think we are in the same mind-frame with the difference being you have it listed above in your post and I sometimes still struggle with all you mentioned.

    Since my online time is limited these days, I find myself wasting time because I’m not sure what is the best thing to work on or maybe I will get in the middle of it and have to quit until I can get back online again.

    I do know what my project for today is, so again, thank you for sharing.

    • Hi Monna 🙂

      You are most welcome 🙂
      So glad you enjoyed the post my friend, yes we are in the same mind-frame as I can totally relate to my post as well, on so many levels 😉

      Appreciate your awesome comment, thank you!

  2. Hi Joan,

    Fear can ruin our lives. I had many in the past, but the trick is to do something about it and not give in. There were a few fears I had that crippled me in life itself, so I just went out and tried therapy, then hypnosis.

    There was once part of me that was afraid of success, but that’s all gone and I’m a fearless warrior in my mind’s eye.

    Awesome message here that needs to be shared all over the place!


    • Hi Donna 🙂
      Yes, fear can totally ruin our lives! Absolutely, never EVER give in to your fears 🙂 Thanks so much for your awesome feedback and comment….so glad you enjoyed the post and appreciate you sharing 😉

  3. Oh Joan how that article puts a smile on my face! I remember having those fears in about 1 year ago and after lots of personal work I felt I got over them. Now that I read this, those fears are insignificant to me. I feel much stronger and ready to help those in need!


  4. Hi Zaria 🙂

    Thank you SO much for your warm comment! Really appreciate your kind words and wonderful feedback 🙂 I am so happy that you are stronger and ready to help those in need!

  5. Yes! The fear of missing out is a huge one. A lot of people want to be doing whatever is fun or having whatever product is popular. I never really thought about playing on that fear in my posts, but when I do reviews,I really need to. All of these are great. Thank you for all the great info, Joan.

  6. Golly, how interesting, using fear as a motivator! I totally get all the points made and can see how they would inspire anyone to take action. It’s a brave thing to write about and I guess not many people would see marketing in this way.

    Enjoy the journey!

  7. Hi Joan,

    Nice post! I believe that fear plays an important role in anyone’s success because it motivates us to give our best shot and inspires us to perform better every time due to fear of rejection. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post with us.

    Have a great week ahead!

  8. Hey Joan

    The ideal life is not possible if we don’t realize the actual things which makes us helpless to do some ting and that is described in you article. The way you have described the real meaning and there classification requires lot of hard work that you did.

    Keep it up!!

  9. Hi Joan

    Wow! Seeing this is awesome. It is cool to take what humans trad the most and turn it into a motivator. You are so right and I do agree with all the fear types.

    I also love this quote ” Fear isn’t your enemy but your ally”. Thanks for sharing. Have a swell week.

  10. Indeed fear is our best friend, and using it positively to battle out ones odds is a good move, thanks for this tip, this will definitely keep me motivating in every aspect of life.

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