The older I get, the more I come to admire storytelling as an art form. There are numerous ways a story can be presented (songs, movies, art, etc.) and as someone who tries to convey ideas and information on a regular basis, it’s become quite clear that history’s most influential people were excellent storytellers.
When I went to my local book fair, I wasn’t sure what I would walk away with. To say I was pleased with my purchase would be an understatement. “The Story Factor” by Annette Simmons was extremely well articulated. Whereas I’ve found other “storytelling” books to feel very monotone and rudimentary, this book paints a holistic picture on how to tell a compelling story while simultaneously capturing my attention through a litany of excerpts that share valuable insights on a wide variety of Truths.
This book was full of useful quotes, so without further ado let’s jump right into it!
Key Quote: Story is your path to creating faith
Who I Am?
It’s extremely important for your audience to know who you are. If you don’t tell them, they’ll make the assumption for you. When it comes to conveying “Who You Are” note that:
- Demonstrating who you are is far more powerful than saying it
- Personal stories let others “see” who we are better than any other form of communication self-disclosure
- If you trust someone enough to show them your flaws, they can trust you enough to show you theirs too
- True strength is found not in perfection but in understanding our own limitations
Key Quote: Give the world the best you have and the best will come back to you
Why I Am Here?
Everyone has an agenda. Whether you want to admit it or not, it’s best to come to terms with that agenda and make sure everyone knows what it is. Generally speaking:
- People want to know what’s in it for you
- Agendas usually reveal enough to allow people to make a distinction between healthy ambition and dishonest exploitation.
Key Quote: Giving is a necessary function of thriving and feeling alive
Take the time to find a story of your vision in a way that connects — in a way that people can see.
A real vision connects in a way that shrinks today’s frustrations in light of the promise of tomorrow.
- Teaching stories help us make sense of new skills in meaningful ways.
- You can never teach a skill that doesn’t have a reason “why”?
- Story allows you to re-introduce complexity so that the skills you teach also teach people to think about why and how they might use that skill.
- Teaching should blend “how I’d like you to think” with “what I’d like you to think about”
Key Quote: A good test for yourself is to discover how many stories you can come up with to demonstrate your values.
What is Story?
What makes stories so intriguing? Why is it that they are able to captivate us in ways that few other mechanisms can? Consider that:
- People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care
- A good story simplifies our world into something we feel like we can understand
- Good stories always have an element of Truth
- Story gives people enough room to think for themselves
- When you offer a story that helps people feel curious again or make sense of their confusion, they will listen.
- In many situations, you need only to create awareness to create change
Key Quote: Change their story and you change their behavior
What Stories Can Do that Facts Can’t
A subtle yet powerful shift happens when you influence people to make “wise” decisions instead of “right” decisions. Facts are helpful in doing so, but facts aren’t influential until they mean something to someone. In doing so, we must learn how to deal with emotions to convey a story properly. As such, understanding anger is an important part of telling influential stories. As a person of influence, your goal is to introduce a new story that will let your facts in regardless of prior views or judgement.
How To Tell A Good Story
There are plenty of tricks on how to improve any given story. Combined with the insights we described above, consider that:
- A moving story rings true at every level
- Body language says more than speech
- Subtle gestures are the most persuasive
- Imagination drives gestures. Picture something in your mind and your gestures will help visualize it
- Developing a conscious use of emotions and facial expressions will make you a better storyteller
- Using smell and taste can enhance the feeling of a story
- Timing can give people the mental space they need to feel the emotions you are portraying
- Silence and timing can be more powerful than verbal language
- Tone drives influence. Work on your feelings and your tone will follow
- A flawed story that is alive is more powerful than a “perfect” story
Key Quote: If you can’t persuade yourself, you can’t persuade others.
The Psychology of Stories Influence
When it comes to telling a story, it’s important to recognize that we are communicating a specific value, fact or idea that we inherently believe. The psychological goal of influence is to connect your goals to your listener’s self-interest in an effective way, shape or form. When it comes to understanding influence, it’s important to note that:
- Influence is a process, not an event
- Human attention is an increasingly scarce resource
- We all crave something that is real or at least feels real
- The more influential a story becomes, the more it taps into that which is meaningful
- Good storytellers are those who are attracted by the mystery of things that don’t make sense
- Genuine influence occurs between people who feel comfortable with one another
- Evolution favors the prudent neurotic
- The beauty of a story is its ability to last in memory long after the facts and figures are gone
- The path to universality is through our uniqueness
Key Quote: The most powerful narcotic in the world is the promise of belonging
Sound Bite or Epic?
It’s no surprise that past patterns often predict future behaviors. When it comes to being a compelling storyteller, we must be attentive to the stories we come across in our everyday lives. Furthermore, it’s important to recognize that our environments and interactions drastically shape our own internal stories. For example:
- The joy of life blends giving and receiving
- Understanding your relative lack of control over non-rational factors of influence stretches your perspective and lengthens your time frame
- True influence changes behavior without relying on constant reminders
- Learn to understand the stories that compete with your new ideas
- Pay attention to the story your actions tell
- Business is personal
- Don’t be afraid to tell your story with emotion
- You have to “let go” to tell a compelling story
- The secret of powerful influence lies more in how you react to failure than the tactics you use when you are successful
- The most valuable skill in developing influence is perseverance.
- The secret to perseverance is found in the support of people who love and believe in you
Key Quote: When you are clear on your life story on who you are and why you are here, you don’t have to spend as much time telling it to others. They know.
Influencing the Unwilling the Unconcerned or the Unmotivated
There are certain people in the world who see the glass half empty. It’s unavoidable. In this chapter, we examine tips and tricks to work with downers of different subsets. I’ve intentionally left out notes on this section to motivate you to read the book yourself.
Generally speaking, any story you tell is rooted in the big picture you tell yourself. Only when you feel hope can you bring hope. It is in our own interest to find collaborative ways to work together and take care of each other. The best you can do that is to tell a story that invites reflection in a certain direction.
Storytelling As a Tool of Influence
While many of us are intrigued when it comes to learning how to influence others, it’s surprising to realize that influence is garnered through trust. When it comes to building a framework for influence to occur, consider that:
- New ideas need room to grow
- If you want to genuinely influence someone you must create a place safe enough for them to admit to their true feelings
- Listening has a therapeutic effect that moves people out of a “stuck” place
- Listening is a great way to earn your way to talk
- Telling stories and being curious about the stories of others is a way of life as much as it is a technique of influence
- Good listeners always hear something new
Key Quote: Listen to people’s stories every chance you get. You never know how much you will learn or how deep a kinship you might create
Storyteller Do’s and Don’ts
Nobody likes a know-it-all. When it comes to telling to finding compelling narratives, the way we carry ourselves can greatly mould the stories we tell others. In particular, it’s import to:
- Let people draw their own conclusions
- Trust their judgement
- Your curiosity about whomever you wish to influence is the cornerstone of your ability to hold another’s interest
- Your most interesting stories are stories your curiosity reveals
- Add some color to your point. Make it more inviting
- Provide your listener with hope for a future that is reachable, worth their effort or both
Key Quote: When told that he should destroy his enemies, Abraham Lincoln responded: “Isn’t that what I do when I make them my friends?”
The Life of a Storyteller
Rounding out the book, we take a look at how we become storytellers in the first place. Regardless of our interests in life, those who embrace storytelling stand a much better chance of leaving a mark on the world. So the question then becomes, how do we master the art of storytelling?
It’s no surprise that anyone who wants to master an art needs practice. Storytelling is no different. Similarly, listening becomes a form of practice. When you see someone who has qualities or has achieved goals that you admire, ask them to tell you their story.
With this concept in mind, we can explore life as a new-found game. The more places we visit and the more people we meet, the more stories we have to draw from. The more stories that we collect, the better chance we have at creating one that resonates with the world at large.
Everyone has a story, what’s yours?