Storytelling Skills are essential for the corporate world.
We ultimately see individuals rise to the top, not for their technical prowess, but for their ability to influence minds.
And there are 3 main storytelling skills that are essential for influencing minds in the corporate world:
The best storytellers I know are also fantastic listeners.
They know that their stories must relate to others in order to get through.
Relating is the skill of taking your ideas, and making them meaningful to others.
The best storytellers I know are also extremely persuasive.
They know that persuasion is ultimately about giving people a better story to believe in.
Challenging is the skill of pointing out the flaws in their current stories, and sharing a more beneficial story to believe in.
The best storytellers I know make things easy.
They know that a path is made of many steps.
Resolving is the skill of illuminating that next step, and making it feel safe enough to take.
Why are storytelling skills so important?
Because storytelling is the language of the mind.
It works like computer code. Follow the rules of coding, and your software can suddenly be installed on any computer.
Follow the rules of story and your ideas can be installed into any mind.
I actually think it’s magic.
One of the joys I get from training storytelling skills, is sitting back and watching others share their stories in groups. The sudden change in body language, the hypnotic trances people enter, and the universal expressions of understanding are mesmerising to watch.
This magic comes from story’s ability to relate to our own unique concerns, desires and experiences.
Relating is the key to the mind. When we relate, we have peoples attention, we are understood, and we can start to change their mind.
No matter what you do in work or life, you always need to work with minds. The more skilled you are at grabbing attention, getting understood and changing minds, the easier your life will be.
And the more skilled you are at these things, the more magic you will be able to share with others.
This is why storytelling skills are so important.
Relating – The Storytelling Skill for Helping Others Understand
Relating is in my opinion, the most powerful leadership skill.
When you can relate, you can take any idea, any vision, any plan of action, and ensure it gets through to people.
Imagine you had an idea that could simultaneously solve climate change, global poverty, and prevent all future wars…
What good would that idea be if you could not relate it to anyone?
Without relating to anyone, no one would support it. With no support, no one would act on it. With no one acting on it, it remains as just an idea.
The best ideas, expertise and solutions mean nothing without the ability to relate.
Whilst relating is a storytelling skill, it ironically means listening more than telling.
We must listen for:
– Beliefs people hold to be true
– Metaphors people use to represent ideas
– The pleasures, pains, fears and desires that drive people
With enough listening, we can start to build bridges.
– Focus on ideas that align with their beliefs
– Use metaphors that are meaningful to them
– Place our ideas in a context they care about
When you need to lead, start by relating.
How do storytelling skills influence the way we think?
By challenging our beliefs.
We all hold beliefs about the way the world works. But some of these beliefs are costly.
For example, if you believed it was wrong to say “No” to leaders, then you would say “Yes” to all of their requests and get a heavy workload.
We hold on to these beliefs because they make the world more predictable. We know how to respond to common situations, and we are used to living with the consequences of these beliefs.
Stories work by then pointing out the flaws in people’s beliefs, and then pointing to beliefs that would bring more benefits. We could point out the pain they experience by never saying “No”, and the new benefits they could experience if instead they started saying “Yes, but only if…”.
A successful example, is a military veteran who opposed transgender rights.
When asked to reflect on times he was judged negatively because of something different about him, he remembered times when employers wouldn’t hire him because of his PTSD.
By relating to his own experiences, and realising that he was treating transgender people the same way employers had treated him, his beliefs were challenged and changed (source).
If you want to successfully change people’s minds, then challenge their beliefs by pointing out the flaws in them and offering more beneficial beliefs.
The Storytelling Skill for Inspiring Change
Your colleague believes they should never say “No” to senior leaders, and you want to change their mind.
To you, the flaws in this belief are blindingly obvious. They’re overworked, stressed and make commitments they can’t always keep.
But what’s obvious to you is not necessarily obvious to them.
When we want to change people’s minds, we want to move their beliefs to a different position.
But we must first acknowledge the benefits of their current position. If there were no benefits they would have changed position a long time ago!
“You want to please your boss don’t you?”
They nod their head to this statement. A nodding head is an essential sign that you are relating.
But as well as making heads nod by acknowledging the benefits of their current position, we can also do so by acknowledging their fear of changing position.
“And you are concerned that if you said “No” then you would be of no use to your boss?”
They nod their head again.
Now to challenge their position, we must point out the flaws in their current position, and the benefits of the new position:
“But you frequently make commitments you can’t keep, and this frustrates your boss. Your boss would surely be happier if you were able to follow through on all your commitments?”
Another head nod.
With enough reasons to move position, we start to change their mind. When we resolve the uncertainty of this new position, they will successfully change their thinking.
Resolving – The Storytelling Skill for Inspiring Action
In one of my training sessions, I shared a quick story about how eating more vegetables improved my mood.
I talked about a holiday where I got lazy and ate junk food, but one day decided to eat more vegetables. At the breakfast buffet, the first plate of my day was enough salad to hit my daily vegetable goal and my mood improved greatly from then on.
Interestingly, the next morning at the hotel I was training at, I went downstairs to the breakfast buffet and noticed something remarkable…
…A long queue of my trainees lining up to get salad!
That simple story I shared inspired action.
And it was for two reasons…
Firstly, I shared the benefits I experienced of eating more vegetables.
But secondly, and more importantly, I gave a specific context, that was highly relevant to them; the breakfast buffet.
Storytelling skills help inspire action because they shows contexts where that action can be taken (e.g. the breakfast buffet), and the steps needed to take action (e.g. fill your first plate with vegetables).
When we show people a context for action, and the steps of action, people are a lot more likely to take action.
Storytelling Skills Teach Action by Resolving Inaction
Everybody procrastinates. It’s a part of human nature.
And why do we procrastinate? Mostly because of a lack of clarity. We don’t know what to do nor how to do it.
A typical example is someone procrastinating on their goal of losing weight.
Exercise plans and diets on the surface seem so clear, but they don’t resolve the challenges some people face.
Completely changing their diet and starting a new exercise plan is too big of a change. It’s painful.
The challenge is not losing weight, the challenge is finding a way of losing weight that doesn’t involve so much pain.
People don’t do big changes.
We do tiny changes. And thankfully, every big change is made up of lots of tiny changes.
A path is made of many steps.
What step on the path are they at now?
For someone just starting to lose weight, their next step may be to simply introduce a few more healthy foods into their diet, and slightly increase their activity levels.
People take action when the next step is so easy it’s a no brainer.
People don’t like leaping over multiple steps at a time. When something is too difficult, we are more likely to fail. When we fail, we lose confidence. When we lose confidence, we lose motivation.
Stories get people to act when they relate to where people are at NOW. When they illuminate the next step THEY need to take.
Learn Storytelling Skills
If you are interested in training to improve your team’s storytelling skills, then check out my Story Habit training or coaching.
Or download my FREE Story Habit – Story Guide: