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Tell Stories

Tell Stories

    We live in a world with information overload. Data, facts, statistics and definitive answers to specific questions are immediately available from search engines on the internet. But people want more than facts.  They want understanding.  They want meaning. They want context.  They want stories.

    Children ask their parents to tell them stories because they like to fit the pieces of the story into a context they can understand. It is the same with adults. Audiences at conferences do not want to be bombarded with data and figures. They want stories with emotional impact that hold their interest and convey meaning.

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    Telling a story is a powerful way to get your message across. One of the reasons that Christianity took hold is that Jesus conveyed his message not in sermons or theological discourses but in parables – he told stories that people could easily understand and repeat to others. Stories involve people, emotions, feelings, consequences and outcomes. They hold our interest because we want to find out what happens to the people in the stories.

    When you want to communicate an important point then tell a tale.  Compare these two approaches that a bank might use to let entrepreneurs know about business loans.

    A. Last year we made over 15,000 loans to small businesses with a total funding in excess of $1200 million. On average we arranged the loans within 27 days of initial enquiry and we have streamlined our applications with on-line systems that speed processing. We have over 250 trained account managers to optimize customer service. In surveys of small business owners we are consistently rated one of the top four banks to deal with.

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    storyteller

      B. Last year we made over 15,000 loans to small businesses. One was to Gerry Martinez who runs his own office fitting company. He is the 35 year old son of Spanish immigrants and he had built his business to a level where he employs 20 people – including many of his relatives. He secured a major contract worth over $500,000 to refit the purchasing offices of a large retailer and he needed a loan of $50,000 to fund the stock and equipment required. Gerry was anxious because he was in danger of losing the contract if he could not secure the funding and he had been turned down by two other banks before coming to us. One of our most experienced advisors, Eddy Jordan, quickly assessed the situation and arranged the loan within 7 working days of first meeting Gerry. Eddy was able to offer further help with insurances and in securing training grants for some of Gerry’s apprentices. Gerry’s business has doubled in turnover since he got the loan and he says, ‘Thanks to your help, we pulled through a very difficult time and I am proud of what we have achieved.’

      Which message is more likely to gain your interest? If you want a loan which approach is more likely to convince you to look further into what the bank has to offer?

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      How do you tell a story? Here are some simple steps to follow:

      1. Introduce the characters. Stories involve people so describe them.
      2. Set the scene. This often involves some challenge or difficulty that has to be overcome.
      3. Explain what happened next and how the situation resolved itself.
      4. Draw out any conclusions or lessons learnt.

      Go through your own life and think about some of your most vivid memories, some of the difficulties or problems you faced, some of the funny or emotional things that happened to you.  What were the lessons you learned? We all have stories within us and sometimes we can enrich the lives of others if we tell a relevant story well. You have to be prepared to bare yourself, to share your feelings and frailties.  But by doing this sincerely you can gain enormous respect and sympathy from your audience. Do not short change your listeners; vividly describe your feelings, your emotions, your pain, your joy. They want to hear how bad it was, how scared you were, how surprised you were, what happiness you felt. Above all they want closure. They want to know what happened and why.

      When, in later life, you think about your parents or grandparents what you will most likely remember are not the facts about their lives, nor details of their earnings, wealth or qualifications. You will remember the stories they told you; especially heart-warming stories about when they were growing up, their relationships with their parents, the mistakes they made, the adventures they had.

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      Build your own store of interesting stories. Be prepared to tell them in social and business contexts.  You can tell a personal story on all sorts of occasions – on a date or when giving a keynote talk. The stories about things that happened to you are the best. But interesting stories about other people are also worth retelling if they are really amusing or make a great point.

      E. M. Forster explained it very simply. A fact is, ‘The queen died and the king died.’ A story is, ‘The queen died and the king died of a broken heart.’ When you want to convey a message, don’t think just in terms of giving information. Ask yourself how you can illustrate the message with examples and tales.  Use fewer facts and more stories.

      P.S.  Here is a personal story I told on Lifehack:

      We Need to Challenge Our Children

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      Paul Sloane

      Professional Keynote Speaker, Author, Innovation Expert

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      Last Updated on May 21, 2019

      How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

      How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

      For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

      If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

      Example 1

      You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

      You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

      In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

      Example 2

      You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

      People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

      You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

      Example 3

      You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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      The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

      Example 4

      You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

      Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

      If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

      Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

      • Understand your own communication style
      • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
      • Communicate with precision and care
      • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

      1. Understand Your Communication Style

      To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

      In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

      Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

      2. Learn Others Communication Styles

      Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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      If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

      “How do you prefer to receive information?”

      This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

      To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

      3. Exercise Precision and Care

      A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

      On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

      Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

      I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

      I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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      In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

      The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

      Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

      4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

      Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

      In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

      “Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

      Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

      Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

      It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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      It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

      It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

      Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

      Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

      The Bottom Line

      When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

      I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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      Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

      Reference

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