Storytelling is the way we and our ancestors, worldwide, have transferred knowledge for millennia.
A story, in this sense, is a simulated (or vicarious) experience. Storytelling has a universally recognised form and structure which conflicts with the simple, direct messaging promoted in education and efficient business. For example, in business the point comes first; in storytelling, the point comes last.
Why is storytelling relevant? Because storytelling influences all communication, in both the speaker and the listener, and an influencer MUST understand this.
Let’s look at rational argument, storytelling, and antistory.
An influencer must know how to deliver a message, back it up, clarify it and drive it home, quickly and convincingly—in other words, how to get to the point. She/he must be able to answer questions, explicit or implicit, concisely and clearly. No deviating into complex explanations. No storytelling.
Your teachers, bosses, mentors taught you to ‘get to the point’, and rightly so. So will I. Aristotle taught this. He was a cultural ancestor of the Western world, and consequently of most modern education, business, finance, law, engineering and more.
A culture of rational argument—getting to the point and backing it up logically—has accelerated communication, productive relationships and learning for 2000+ years. However...
Storytelling is in our genes and in all cultures, and storytelling gets slowly to the point.
Aristotle also knew this, and taught storytelling. He also used it, as have many storytellers since: Lady Murakami, the world’s first novelist; Shakespeare; Cervantes, Mark Twain; Voltaire; George Lucas; Peter Jackson, and thousands of others who have engaged and moved people, and become famous, by tapping into our instincts to learn by living other people’s experiences.
So if you want your audience to be listening and receptive when you deliver your message; to understand and internalise your message completely; to remember your message, and act on it… then nothing can beat a good story as the delivery mechanism. Story-listening is the innate learning method of every human. We automatically connect and listen to a good storyteller.
A well crafted story captures the audience from the first word, holds them until the last, and prepares them for the aha! moment. But unless you have trained yourself in storytelling, you are not very good at it. (Am I wrong?)
Antistory is unstructured narrative that wanders around and doesn’t get to the point. We hear it every day, and we don’t like it. I believe it derives from the natural human instinct to tell stories, confused by the knowledge that we should be getting to the point.
Because story is the default way that we speak, often we bore and frustrate our listeners (and ourselves) by wandering off in all directions when they just want to hear the point. And like most defaults, we get worse when under pressure. Does this sound familiar?
To be a competent, persuasive communicator, you need to know—
- when, and when not, to tell stories;
- how, and how not, to tell stories
- how to use the argument form (from Aristotle—it’s not new)
- and then, how to interweave both forms to become a compelling speaker.
I teach this. I love it—especially the art of storytelling, as it is so creative, so fascinating and compelling, and so underused.
Bring me your objectives and I will show you how to isolate and craft a message; how to find and build a story to deliver it; how to structure; how to express emotion to bring the story to life; how to use conflict to build tension towards a resolution; and how to unroll your message and lock it in place with hard reasoning. And that’s just the start: next I will help you to deliver it, to draw your audience totally into the story so that it is their story, by being present, and by engaging their imagination, intellect and emotions.
I can show you how the ‘problem-solution’ structure we so often hear is a relic of the storytelling instinct which quickly degenerates into antistory—and thus should be avoided, unless you tell the right story. (It engages all the wrong emotions except in those already convinced!)
I can show you how a fable can be more powerful than a true story, how personal stories can work for you or against you, or even how a few well chosen words of introduction can turn a damp squib into a compelling argument.
I offer individual or group coaching, or training courses, on storytelling. It is included as a topic, to some extent, in all of my communication training and coaching.