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A common email opt-in technique to avoid

person yelling through megaphone for how to not shame readers with your email opt in

A few weeks ago, I stumbled onto a financial tips blog. Within seconds of being on the site, an opt-in box popped up. Urrrghh!

Irritating…yes. Deal breaking…no.

I didn’t immediately move on from the site.

I typically close these pop-up boxes almost instantly. I prefer to get acquainted with the site for at least 30 seconds before I sign up for anything. My choice.

But in this instance, I didn’t see an ‘x’ in the corner of the pop-up to close it. I started looking around, I even put on my computer glasses, thinking I just can’t see it. Nope. No ‘x’. Nothing.

Then I noticed a line of grey text under subscribe button: ‘No, thanks. I don’t want to get better with my money.’ <<<<< This was what I’d have to click to close the pop-up.

And that wasn’t the first time I’ve seen this shame-triggering ploy in use.

On a fitness trainer’s site, I’ve seen something to the effect of ‘No, I’d rather stay out of shape.” That was the link to close the box.

Have you seen pop-ups like this? I first noticed them a few years ago and see one at least once every few weeks.

This reminds me of the men who hurl insults at you if you don’t harken to their catcalls. (If you’ve been to NY, you know what I mean. I digress.)

Let’s decode

There’s obvious shame-triggering at play here. By reading and clicking on the ‘opt-out’ text, you’re enforcing a negative message to yourself. The implication:

First: to be ashamed of yourself for needing their offer in the first place.


Second: to be ashamed of yourself for declining it.

It’s a powerful tactic to guilt you into clicking subscribe and signing up for the newsletter. But just because something is powerful, doesn’t mean we have to use it.

It’s easy for us to dismiss these ploys as minor irritations. After all, we have the option to click away, right?

But we need to remember that every day we are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages. The large number of messages in itself isn’t the issue on its own. The issue pops up (pun intended) when many of these messages are encoded with scripts that further trigger, shame, and guilt people, particularly those belonging to marginalized groups, who already face a multitude of negative triggers all day, every day.

This is why these messages are problematic. They are aligned with the Pseudo Positivity Culture: predatory, negative messaging disguised as positivity and empowerment.

Let’s rewrite

Your email opt-in is a chance to bring people into your world. It’s an invitation.

Subscribers are giving you a tiny space in their virtual mailbox. It’s a chance for you to be uplifting, not demeaning.

There are (obviously) a thousand reasons why someone could choose not to join your newsletter community at any particular time. Maybe you aren’t a fit for them. Maybe they’re still looking around. Maybe they’ve put their inbox on pause. Who knows?

But let’s not use our opt-ins as a means to further trigger people.

We share. We invite.

And when people chose not to subscribe or purchase, we keep rolling. Doing our work. There’s never a need to guilt and shame.

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If you’ve created an opt-in like this before, and now choose to change it, awesome! Don’t waste energy feeling guilty over it. We’re all learning to shake off the shackles of what doesn’t serve us.

First, we decode, then we rewrite!


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Filed under: breaking the code, Let's decode

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