If I had to pick one skill to master, I think storytelling would be a close contender for the top spot. Stories are how we organize our experiences in the world and how we make sense of events that have happened to us. But they’re also important for many other reasons you probably never considered.
The Hidden Power of Storytelling
So why is storytelling such an important skill? With the right kind of story, you can be very influential and persuasive. The reasons they have this power are:
1. Straight facts are forgettable and boring. If you try to influence someone through facts like graphs and statistics, you’re going to have a hard time.
2. Stories can hide your message. When you listen to a story, you concentrate on the overall plot not the underlying point. This why a lot of advertisements use storytelling as a way to convince you to buy their product.
3. Stories can subtly persuade you. Often you’ll barely notice what the story is trying to say so you have no position to argue against.
4. You can build a connection with other people through stories. Through this connection, you’ll build rapport and trust. These are two big qualities to have when influencing others.
5. Emotions are central to good storytelling. Emotions are also useful for building strong memories of what is being said and strengthening whatever message you‘re trying to get across.
6. It’s a good way to get someone to remember what you’ve said. Someone listening to a story is engaged as an active listener.
Stories Are Everywhere
Storytelling goes far beyond the territory of TV, books and movies. To name just a few places, you’ll see storytelling used in advertising, the news, politics, personal relationships and business. That covers just about every aspect of your life.
Think back to your last job interview. The answers you gave in response to the interviewer’s questions are basically short stories. In fact, the purpose of the interview process is for interviewers to get past the facts of your resume and figure out who you are – your story.
You’ll also need to be a good storyteller for many other areas of your life. For example, I had to use several stories from my past as part of my grad school application. The same goes for anyone owning a business. Many companies today focus on creating brand stories through social networking sites. They use sites like Facebook to get people to talk about the company and to share with their friends.
Being able to tell stories isn’t just a useful skill anymore; it’s starting to become essential to know. It’s not surprising that an emerging discipline in the field of management is organizational storytelling. This is an area focused on getting companies to tell stories in order to unify and motivate groups of employees. It’s not only starting to be seen as a powerful tool, but something every leader needs to be competent in.
You Are Your Story
With all this importance put upon storytelling, it is important to keep in mind your story. Your life is a series of events that all make up one long narrative. How you tell your stories and what you share with other people can make or break you in whatever area of life you are trying to succeed in.
Managing your personal story should be very important to you. After all, it is how you tell your story that gets people to hire you, buy things from you and like you. And if you’re not paying attention to the narrative you’re giving off, you might just be giving off the wrong one.
One of the easiest ways to illustrate this is through Facebook. If you’re applying for a position in a big conservative company, you are going to have to explain any unsavory Facebook photos they find of you. The same goes for any negative news articles you’ve been in or bad things that have been said about you.
This really does happen. I worked in a background screening company for several years and I did many comprehensive checks on job applicants backgrounds. And it involves far more than just checking criminal history. I personally checked Facebook and Twitter accounts of job applicants to see if there was anything notable to flag. I also searched local newspapers for any news articles on them.
People are no longer just interested in your facts. Otherwise companies like these would just look at a resume, do the interview and be content with that. But people are demanding a little more and want to dig deeper than ever into who you are.
Who Needs Facts?
Facts will always be important. There’s no denying that. But if you’re only focusing on the facts, you’re missing out on a large portion of what the world really wants to hear.
Storytelling is a skill that has been gaining importance over the past few decades. It’s about time that people started to take their storytelling skills more seriously. It’s never been more important than now for you to answer the question of “what’s your story”.
Do you think storytelling skills are important too? Have you used your storytelling skills recently?
photo credit: Pensiero