We live in the age of celebrities — big and small; long-lasting and flash-in-the-pan. You can have your own webpage, channel, followers and fans.
Snapshots have become “selfies”, every minute detail of your life can be tweeted to eager followers, every interaction becomes a story worthy of a Facebook post. And, let’s be honest, most of us are over it! We have been numbed by irrelevant stories about unimportant issues.
But this should never cause you to doubt the value of the right story told at the appropriate time. Those who can tell a story effectively have a powerful business skill.
Here are some reasons why stories are so valuable:
Stories make the intangible become tangible
Love, passion, trustworthiness, discipline are all concepts that are difficult to define. Mention “loyalty” and you introduce an abstract concept. Tell a story about a pet watching the front door of the apartment all day until its owner returns and the abstract suddenly becomes real.
Stories sell you subtly
Some of the most important stories are the stories about you. We all want others to appreciate our expertise and experience. But most of us feel uncomfortable praising ourselves.
If, however, you share a relevant story, and inherent in that story are messages about your experience, your expertise, your values, then your listeners will get the message. Your stories define the “brand” that is you.
Stories really are the secret weapon of communication because they engage listeners where other methods fail. Even when the story is bad, the engagement factor is still high.
Remember watching a movie on television and recognising early that it was not a good movie? Yet, an hour and a half later you are still watching it — because you want to find out what happens. That is the engagement power of narrative.
Stories engage the whole listener
Stories can create physical reactions in the listener (gasp, facial expression, change of body position) that are rarely seen in other forms of oral communication.
A touching story will warm your heart, a frightening one will make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, a sad one will bring a tear to your eye. Because more of you is involved in the listening process, you are more likely to remember it.
Stories make difficult messages easier
Stories provide one of the few formats where you like being wrong. Stories with twists and turns and unexpected endings entertain you. So the brain experiences pleasure for being wrong.
Because of this, you are more likely to listen to a challenging message in a story format than in any other. More than that, if you find the story relevant, you are more likely to act on it.
Using stories to advance your career
Stories are important in many key points in your career. Here are some obvious ones:
In the recruitment interview
Often candidates fall into the “sameness trap” by filling their answers with instantly forgettable platitudes. Have a story to tell about every one of the key selection criteria. This is the best way to show them your experience and expertise in a way that is memorable.
As a leader
The stories about you are the greatest gift you can give to you staff — particularly in the early days. In the stories, you can demonstrate your values, priorities, problem-solving approaches and any other characteristics you would like them to understand and emulate.
As a change agent
The only thing certain about the future is the accelerating pace of change. Those who can facilitate change will have increasing value in the workplace.
One of the most effective change-management tools is the “change story”. These are the stories — present in every industry — where change has been met with initial resistance yet has resulted in improvements that can now be seen clearly in hindsight. Those who can tell these stories are best equipped to help other see future change with a positive attitude.
As a salesperson
One of the oldest — and truest — sayings in sales is: every buying decision is an emotional decision. Stories touch the emotions where dispassionate lists of features and benefits often struggle. Part of showing off your new acquisition is telling the story behind it. Stories sell.
Article by Kevin Ryan, managing director of Training Edge Australia and an international speaker, workshop leader and author with Training Edge International. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.trainingedgeasia.com