Storytelling to Drive Results

Before I got married I am pretty sure I had never once been in an antique store. I figured I had worked hard to get a degree and get a job so I could buy new things. Why would anyone want to buy old things? But, as I said, that was before I got married. Since that time antique stores have become almost a weekly event and I am actually finally learning how to enjoy them.

One thing I notice in antique stores is how something that looks like a piece of junk can take on a completely different appearance when the person offering the junk puts a story with it. “Yes sir, that pocket watch you hold in your hands may not look like much, but let me tell you a little bit about that baby…” You might as well hand over the credit card right then.

Adding Value, Making a Connection

When I was first working my way up the public speaking ladder from one small event to another I would often overwhelm my audiences with facts and figures and PowerPoint charts that would test the limits for words on a page. I was less than engaging. Then I learned the power of stories. I decided that the minute I was introduced I would start a story. No “hello”, no “good to be here”, just a standing start right into a story. The response was amazing. My connection with the audience grew as did their engagement with me and my subject.

Why Does Story Connect

NYU Psychologist, Jonathan Haidt was quoted as saying, “The human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor.” From the responses I see when I resort to story to communicate a teaching point I would say he is 100% correct.

Stories capture attention and open a door for a deeper connection. I once started a story by talking about my teenage son. I saw people in the audience begin to smile and shake their heads. “Yep, my boy does that exact same thing.” They would mouth to each other.

Stories make you seem human, especially if the story is about you and a challenge you have faced and overcome. People respond very positively to authenticity and humility in others. Plus, telling a story on yourself almost always generates a laugh and the only thing better than a story is a funny story.

Getting Started

If you think that storytelling is for creative people and you’re not creative, well you need to get over yourself and try anyway. I usually start with the point I want to make and then think of situations where that has happen to me or where I saw it happen to someone else. If I need to change names or circumstances to keep things anonymous I will do that.

Here’s an example: When my son was a teenager and looking for a job, he secured an interview with a local company. I suggested he wear a suit to the interview, but he didn’t think that was necessary for the type of job he was going for. Now, I could have argued with him about it, but instead I sat back in my chair and smiled, “That reminds me of a time when I went to an interview when I was about your age. I was applying for a stockroom job so I wore casual pants and a dress shirt. When I walked into the interview the person I was meeting barked at me, “You don’t own a suit!” I assured him I did and he barked again, “Don’t you think today would have been the day to wear it??” He dismissed me with no further questions. Turns out they did originally need stockroom help, but were now looking for certain individuals to help them up front with some customer service work. A higher paying job, might I add.”

My son looked at me and quietly said, “I’ll wear the suit.”

Stories communicate on a different level and help you connect strongly with others.

Photo Credit – www.graphicstock.com

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