Storytelling is one of the oldest, most effective forms of human communication. Long before Twitter, Facebook and even the printing press, humans informed and instructed others via stories for thousands of years.
Why has storytelling as a communication art form stood the test of time? Because it’s compelling. Just try listening to only half of Jim Croce’s “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim,” Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” or Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle.” It’s almost impossible. Even if you’ve heard those songs before, you still want to know how the story ends.
Stories also can be instrumental in helping you convince others — a colleague, a potential customer or maybe even a complete stranger in an elevator. I call them “situational persuasion success stories.”
These are pre-created retellings of how you previously helped improve someone’s condition in given situations. This elevated skillset can yield tremendous results in your persuasion efforts and will accomplish five things. You will:
1. Create a nonthreatening way to share information
In many persuasion situations, your target can be on hyper-alert, wanting to avoid feeling uninformed or ambushed. And if the conversation is focused on him or her, personal defenses are often heightened. But if you attempt to make your point with a story that does not involve the individual to whom you are speaking, it’s much easier for that person to relax and focus on the discussion.
2. Allow your targets to insert themselves into the role of your situational success story’s main character
The best situational persuasion success stories are ones in which the main character is someone other than you or the other person. Inserting yourself into the lead role could send the wrong message — suggesting that you are self-centered and your story is contrived. So don’t be the hero in every story; make the main character someone else, such as a friend or colleague.