Head, heart and soul listening
That is one of the main benefits of a good story, well told. Unlike a dull slide presentation, by tomorrow, if the story is well told, we will still remember it. We listen to stories with our heads, our hearts and our souls. And, because we are emotionally engaged and moved by the story, we are motivated to behave differently.
One of the earliest coaching habits I learned was to stop trying to tell my clients what to do, and instead tell them a story. First, I would try to get them to realize the action they needed to take by asking them a lot of searching questions. If that didn’t work, I would tell them a story – something from my own experience that was similar to the problem they were experiencing. The effect has nearly always been dramatic. Even though my clients might not reach exactly the same conclusion I had in mind, they used the story to relate to their own world and create their own idea for action from the story.
And that is the point: a story enables you to package your message so that it is understood – uniquely – by every listener.
Why do we respond to stories this way? Because we are wired to think in stories all the time. Whether we like the idea of storytelling or not, we tell them all the time. Most of the day, every day, we are gossiping about colleagues, friends and relatives in story form. We are born experts in both story listening and storytelling.
As children, we naturally love stories and are excited by them. That excitement for a story never leaves us, but gradually, through school and university and our early careers, we learn to think that logical argument is better. We are taught to present our key messages in PowerPoint slides, and we come to believe that this is the way to persuade.