The Six Stories You Need To Know How to Tell
People don’t want more information. They are up to their eyeballs in information. They want faith — faith in you, your goals, your success, in the story you tell. It is faith that moves mountains, not facts. Faith needs a story to sustain it — a meaningful story that inspires belief in you and renews hope that your ideas indeed offer what you promise. Genuine influence goes deeper than getting people to do what you want them to do. It means people pick up where you left off because they believe. Money, power, authority, political advantage, and brute force have all, at one time or another, been overcome by faith.
Story is your path to creating faith. Whether you tell your story through your lifestyle or in words, the first thing people look for before believing in you is trust. There are six types of stories that will serve you well if you want to create trust and faith. These are:
- “Who I Am” stories.
- “Why I Am Here” stories.
- “The Vision” story.
- “Teaching” stories.
- “Values in Action” stories.
- “I Know What You Are Thinking” stories.
Before being influenced by you, your listeners want to know, “Who are you and why are you here?” If you don’t take the time to answer, they will make up their own responses, usually negative ones. It’s human nature to mistrust and to believe that others look out for themselves. You need to tell a story that demonstrates that you are different, that you are trustworthy.
A story lets listeners decide for themselves whether they should trust you. If your story is good enough, people — of their own free will — conclude they can trust you and the message you bring.
“Who I Am” Stories
You don’t have to tell a personal story as long as the story you do tell reveals something about who you are. For example, if you tell a story about Mother Teresa that reveals you understand gratitude and humility, you have told a “Who I Am” story. Your audience will conclude you aren’t bound by ego. If the story you tell reveals you understand self-sacrifice, your audience will believe you can blend compassion with the desire for self-gain. If your story reveals you have learned to recognize your own flaws, they will believe you can be trusted to deal head-on with tough problems.
“Why I Am Here” Stories
Your “Why I Am Here” story needs to reassure the audience that you have good intentions. However, before you tell them what’s in it for them, you must tell them what’s in it for you. If you don’t, they will suspect you have a hidden agenda. It’s a big mistake to try to hide selfish goals. The CEO who makes 50 times the salary of his subordinates is foolish to begin a company meeting about the upcoming merger with a, “We are doing this for you” speech. People won’t be influenced by those who treat them as if they are stupid.
“The Vision” Stories
Once your audience is comfortable with who you are and why you are there, they are ready to listen to what’s in it for them. Your job is to take your vision and transform it into the audience’s vision. You have to take the time to find a story about your vision in a way that connects — a story that people can see. Tell it from a place of authenticity. Tell it with conviction. A real vision story connects with people in a way that shrinks today’s frustrations in light of the promise of tomorrow.
Whatever your role in life, you have certain skills that you want others to have, too. Whether you need to teach someone to write a letter, design software, answer a telephone, make a sale, or manage a group of volunteers, story halves the necessary teaching time.
Use story to get your message across, especially when you need to show both what needs to be done and how it should be done. For example, telling your new receptionist where the hold, transfer and extension buttons are will not make her a great receptionist. But telling her that the best receptionist you ever knew was Mrs. Ardi, who could simultaneously calm an angry customer, locate your wandering CEO, and smile warmly at the UPS man, gives a better picture of the skills you want her to display. Later, under stress, your new receptionist will ask herself, “What would Mrs. Ardi do?” rather than, “Where is the hold button?”
“Values in Action” Stories
Without a doubt, the best way to teach a value is by example. The second best way is to tell a story that provides an example. Story lets you instill values in a way that keeps people thinking for themselves. “We value integrity,” means nothing. But tell a story about a former employee who hid his mistake and cost the company thousands of dollars or a story about a salesperson who owned up to a mistake, and earned so much trust her customer doubled her order, and you begin to teach an employee what integrity means. A good test for yourself is to figure out how many stories you can come up with to demonstrate the values you profess to hold. This will be the first source of your “values in action” stories. You need as many stories as possible in your tool kit if you want to influence the values of others effectively enough to change their behavior.
“I Know What You Are Thinking” Stories
Tell a story that makes people wonder if you are reading their minds. It isn’t hard to do. If you have done your homework on the group or person you want to influence, it’s relatively easy to identify their potential objections to your message. If you address their objections first, you disarm them. Often, the people you need to influence don’t trust you and aren’t ready to accept your advice. Instead, they may subtly attempt to sabotage your efforts. If you tell an “I know what you are thinking” story, you get to the heart of their objections up front and can begin building credibility that much sooner