The Power of Professional Storytelling
Belief systems and mythical stories have risen from one generation to another, passed along by the power of storytelling — and it’s as important as ever in our ultra-social, technological, and sophisticated world.
Facts, numbers and raw data don’t make quite the impact on people that a charming or enthusiastic story can. Humans are almost hardwired to seek out amusing tales and anecdotes — that’s why books and movies are so popular. Professionals such as team leaders and business people who can integrate both of these are able to influence their colleagues and customers to a much higher level.
So how does storytelling become a valuable tool to have in a professional environment? Whether you’re writing your CV or making a speech to a roomful of strangers, here are a few ways that storytelling becomes useful and how to create your own.
Stories that are personal instantly become more relatable and raise the perceived importance of what you’re saying. If people can relate to what you’re saying through personal experience they can come together more and make individuals feel like they’re a part of a group — or even the stories themselves on some level. This makes persuasion easier and grabs attention for much longer.
Honesty and Openness
Credibility is a key factor — transparency and honesty is the way to achieve it. Credible speakers are much more likely to be believed and be approached in the future for advice too. It builds trust and respect. Someone who uses weasel words, beats around the bush, or actively embellishes a story too much does not engage people.
Break your Story into Manageable Sections
Complex stories are hard to follow, and if a story is complex, then breaking a story into smaller sections can help people understand what you’re talking about. People lose attention after a couple of seconds or minutes, so if you’re hammering someone with a long, complex story — chances are they’re nodding but not listening. Remove content that isn’t valuable from the story.
Always Add Context
Sometimes it’s better to add context to stories beforehand (or whilst telling the story) so the listeners can see progress, from start to finish, and how this relates to a conversational topic. If you want to explain why a business decision is a bad move, adding context (experience with similar situations, and how it all played out) will help impact the listeners.
Don’t Just Tell It — Show It
Many people don’t just want to hear you telling them a story, they like visual cues and sometimes tactile feelings too. Pictures are a common way for someone to show their story as well as speak or write it. People process visual stimuli much faster and respond to it more than just words alone.
Even small things like the right body language (hand gestures, body stance, eye contact, etc.) make a big difference in the impression your story makes. Would you want to listen to someone who only looks out the window with their hand in their pockets when they’re telling you a story? Probably not.
Building a Great Story
There’s no harm in rehearsing stories in your head. This helps work out the finer details and put together a more congruent story, so when it comes to telling someone it you have what you want to talk about fully nailed down.
Who Are You Talking to?
Never forget who your audience is. Are they strangers? Stakeholders? Close friends? Annoyed colleagues? The content of your story changes depending on your audience because not everyone wants to hear the same thing. Some people want to hear more, some want to hear less. Some want added humor, some want more information. It’s all about putting yourself in the shoes of the person listening.
Remember that flaws and failures are what make people lean in to listen more because whether people want to admit it or not, they’re fallible too and therefore can relate to others who are fallible. It forms a connection through sympathy and relatability, and it makes you more interesting as a person.
Try to be consistent. Chances are you might tell your story to multiple people, and those people might talk to each other. Keep your details in line every time you tell the story — that way everyone knows your story is genuine.
Always remember — you don’t have to be the most charismatic person in the world to tell a good story. If you can put together important details well, you can put together a good story well too. The digital world allows you to promote your story to hundreds or thousands of people, without the need to even speak it. That makes reaching out to more potential customers or employers with your story even easier.