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UNLEASH THE RACONTEUR

- 21 May 2015
Posted by: Andrew Roberts

Telling a story is a wonderfully effective way to communicate. Just think of the raconteurs who grab and hold our attention.

Stories represent, in effect, the shortest distance between two people. They can engage and disarm listeners and convey an idea in a form that is easy to recollect.

That’s because stories convey emotion effectively, and emotion united with a strong idea is persuasive. We remember what we feel. And our emotions inspire us to take action.

Stories are concrete and have the ability to transport us imaginatively to a place where we can visualise the conveyed situation. 

And stories are memorable: we are up to 22 times more likely to remember a story than a string of facts (such as a presentation of dot points).

Stories are a pull strategy, unlike the push strategy used when we argue in a more traditional way. Stories engage the listener, pulling them in so that they can participate in a conversation, rather than telling them what to think.

Storytelling is not the exclusive domain of the gifted raconteur. It is inherent in all of us, though often deadened by parental and school socialisation. But we can all rediscover and polish the skill, particularly those looking to be effective leaders and influence change. 

Everyone will tell a story in their own way, but try not to be overly rational and argument-based. People are afflicted by what psychologists call the confirmation bias, which results in us digging in our heels whenever someone tries to convince us to change our minds with sophisticated rationale.

This is particularly so when dealing with technical experts who tend to rely on data-driven problem solving and quantitative analysis and will focus on detail and not necessarily the interconnected elements of any issue before them.

In fact, we often come away from formal exchanges doubly convinced of our own opinions. Think how most presentations normally flow: we outline our argument, and then follow on with examples, having already unwittingly activated inherent bias.

Telling stories and listening to stories make for more effective workplaces because they tend to engage and foster the contribution of colleagues, rather than push them away.

 

Heard any good stories lately? How well can you recollect them?

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