Why Your Story Matters Most
Updated: Apr 19, 2019
Every decision we make in life is driven by story.
Let that marinate for a second.
Can you argue with me?
When was the last time you pursued or accomplished anything in your life that wasn’t shaped by what you heard from someone else?
I’m guessing you’re still struggling for an example.
Truth be told, storytelling exists at the heart of the human experience.
There’s a great video on YouTube that focuses on the six universal principles of persuasion, all covered in Dr. Robert Cialdini’s groundbreaking book, Influence. Not surprisingly, ‘consensus‘ is on the list (#6 if you watch the Doc’s video, and I think you should!) – which ties into what I opened with: one of the most intriguing things about the societies and communities we develop is the undeniable link between how people make decisions based on what others say or do.
That’s why it’s so important that YOUR story – whether it’s about your life, your business, your career goals or the relationships you’ve built – is rich in human emotion, contains compelling details and remains authentic at all times. To better your chances of closing a deal, making new meaningful connections or just becoming a more effective communicator, it is critical that you appreciate how the story you write and tell for yourself will shape the success you experience as a person and professional.
1. Stories capture people
Especially if your story includes them.
Now wait a second you’re thinking… didn’t you just use the word ‘your’ like 18 times in the last paragraph, and harp on the fact that it’s all about how we talk about ourselves?
By consistently referencing how your story relates to other people (preferably the individual/group you’re speaking with at that moment in time), it’s much more likely that they will be influenced by what you’re saying. Storytelling is infinitely more powerful when an audience can put themselves in your shoes, recall previous experiences or emotions that they have felt which tie directly to yours, and become fully engaged with what it is you’re telling them.
Getting people’s attention or trying to convince them to follow a particular course of action is all about capturing their minds.
2. Stories sway people
How many times have you changed your opinion on a topic or subject matter based on something you heard from someone else? While there are certainly individuals who stand firm in their beliefs regardless of the stories they’re told, I know that I’m more than willing to reconsider or at least re-examine my own ideas if I hear a compelling reason why I should.
That’s because the rich layers of a great story offer listeners compelling evidence that forces them to re-position themselves in the context of what they’re being told. For example, if I went to a restaurant and had a poor culinary experience, I would share my story with anyone who asked and explain what I didn’t like about the meal I was served.
But if a trusted friend assured me that I just ordered the wrong item, or that there was a reason I didn’t like the entree I ordered (“why would you order that, you don’t even like xxx”), would I give the place another shot?
I more than likely would.
The power of positive affirmation is a key ingredient in a story that sways. It provides the listener with a reason to take a step back, be objective, and potentially reverse course on a decision (i.e. whether or not I’d return to the restaurant).
3. Stories connect people
Humans are creatures of habit.
We like specific things in a specific way for a specific reason. Everything from coffee to exercise to significant others to cities we live in. Routines keep us from getting too caught up in the incredibly vast amount of choice we are actually faced with on a daily basis (have you looked down a cereal aisle lately?!).
But it’s the stories that we hear and share ourselves that help us ease out of our routine comfort zones and expand our boundaries. Whether that’s in terms of doing business with new clients, pursuing forms of professional development you haven’t otherwise considered, or something as simple as trying a new product someone recommended.
Stories are what drives the human engine and propels us all forward – without them, we would likely be the most boring species in the history of the natural world. Eat the exact same meal, do the bare minimum at the office, return home (alone) and go to bed, only to repeat the same thing the next day. Stories connect people and remind us that there’s a whole world out there for us to experience – and not just the one we perceive for ourselves. Without the power of story, and without the ability to create a meaningful one of our own, our day-to-day would be extremely sterile, unfulfilled and probably more lonely than you could ever imagine.
Your story is everything these days. As a professional and even just as a person, human beings want to spend their limited time on this planet with interesting, well-rounded people.
That doesn’t mean you have to be in the C-Suite, have tons of money or be a celeb.
It simply means that you have to live your life to the fullest, experience as much as you can at all times and ultimately, make a mark in the world around you that’s worth talking about.
What does story mean to you? Are you conscious of how story shapes the way you make decisions in your professional and personal life? Let me know in the 'Comments' section below!