5 Real life Lessons about Storytelling. Part 2, Power of True Stories
What’s the difference between these two stories?
A. When my car stopped after hitting the barrier, I had glass on my face and was bleeding. I hadn’t killed anyone, no one was hurt (except me). They told me that. I didn’t know till later, how close I had come to dying, till I saw the picture of my car in the paper. The front wheels were hanging off the bridge. They didn’t tell me that.
B. I went to the supermarket and decided to buy kiwis for my fruit salad. I hadn’t had kiwis for a long time and knew they tasted good. I also thought to add some pears, and to mix it up, seedless black grapes. I was beginning to get hungry. I love fruit salad!
They are both true stories. One is a recent shopping trip and the other a car accident that changed my life. Admittedly, the car accident is more dramatic, but both could be told as above or very differently, depending upon the teller, the audience, the theme being conveyed, the language used and the circumstances of the telling.
The Kiwi Story could be told as if going on an imaginary tour
C. The Kiwi I held in my hand came from New Zealand. I have never been to New Zealand and imagined its rocky crevices, lush pastures, snow, ice, sunshine and weird trees. Lord of the Rings country. I wondered who had held this Kiwi fruit? Who had picked it? Placed it in the box. What was their life like?
It’s a completely different perspective on the same story, a shopping trip to make fruit salad. It’s still real.
How does a Kiwi fruit relate to telling true stories from your business?
The thing is Story can be told in many ways. It’s dependent upon many circumstances. The same story can have different meanings, depending upon how it’s told. Does that mean its still a relevant story? It does.
Below, there are the bones of ideas for telling a real story well. It’s not different from fiction. Like any story, much depends upon the emphasis and meaning you bring to the telling.
COMPONENTS OF WHY STORY IS POWERFUL
- Drama, Imagination, and resonance
- Emotional engagement which makes us participants in the narrative
- Connecting through our human experience
- Shows our diversity and differences
- Stories are how we think, how we are wired
- Stories provide order and make sense out of disorder
- They engage our creative right brain
- A primal form of communication
- Links us to myth, ancient wisdom, symbols, rituals and a sense of a larger Universal reality
Some stories are simply the daily, ordinary stories or are they?
Like the guy who was a supplier and used to bring doughnuts to his clients every week, to cheer them up – cos that’s what he was like. When he had a downturn in his business, his clients, who after a couple of years of business, now had a vested interest in him the person, allowed him to have extended credit. It saved his business. It’s a small story with a big result.
- It could be used as an example of creating great working relationships outside of your company.
- It could be used as an example of getting out of a difficult situation.
- That daily small acts can lead to big outcomes.
The story could be used for marketing, though I doubt this man would. He just did what he did. But if he was to use it for marketing, perhaps he would do so to praise his suppliers, name them, give them free publicity. Tell their story, their business relationship. His customers would know what he was like too.
Perhaps he would use it in-house, to help create a culture of helpfulness and co-operation that would become known as The Doughnut Story. Or become a catchphrase like, ‘don’t forget the doughnuts,’ a cheesy shorthand for small acts of kindness go a long way. Stories are flexible for different situations. You can use drama or pathos, or heroism stories. Your stories, your choice.
Recall each of the stories on this page.
What do you remember about them and why?
The power of Story is at work in each example even story A.
Some things resonate, the drama of a situation, maybe a point of reflection with the supplier guy, the flight of imagination with the kiwi fruit, or simply the thought of a tasty, refreshing fruit salad, with luscious cream on top. The point is – just in the telling you get a response from your audience. That’s how it works with your clients too.
The various stories told here are to get you thinking about how Story can work for you in your business. The main idea behind this post is to get your imagination running, get you reviewing your business, or work, and ponder.
What kind of anecdotes, accounts or stories can you recall about your business?
Think of different situations, from getting your products sorted, the systems, the people you interact with, their characters, the clients (always get permission from the people you want to tell the story about, not just because of GDPR, but also out of courtesy), the internal dialogue, the challenges, then the payback. Each moment and phase carry potent stories.
Write them down. Highs and lows. Poignant moments, humorous ones, horror ones (yes you can use those).
Use the list above. How could you tell those stories using that list as a reminder?
I should mention a small disclaimer. You can make a story based on a real situation or person and elaborate it – but be careful – the line between fantasy and reality can be thin.
The Kiwi story is a great example – it is a truth, that flight of imagination is what I think sometimes, but if I elaborate it, take it further, take it to another level, by saying something like I love growing my own Kiwi fruit (it would be a lie), at some point, the truth will out that I don’t know what I am talking about.
I will be in la la land.
In the danger zone of embellishing who I am.
That way the story loses its weight, its merit.
You and your business will lose respect, and we know where that goes!
The strong suggestion is – DON’T GET INTO SPIN!
Story’s power is its ability to engage our humanity, and when we are connected to you, we are more likely to support you, because we want to, or we know the value of what we are getting.
Be clear about the stories you have and how you want to use them. What’s the message you want to convey? To whom? And Why? Do they have several uses? Be clear about that, then get to work creating, writing and telling them.
Tell the truth. Tell the story. Enjoy it.