Business Stories Help Us Build Trust And Connections
February 18, 2015 Leave a comment
A lecture allows us to share information while storytelling allows us to do so much more. Stories allow us to share our principles, ideas, values, actions, beliefs, needs and lessons in a way our audiences are able to easily remember far longer than any lecture… they allow us to build trust and connections.
I believe business stories are one of the most underused tools organizations have. They would be used to:
- Hire new employees
- Motivate and educate existing employees
- Share information with and support customers
- More more more
And, even when they are used (which is usually for marketing), storytelling is often sanitized to evoke only mild emotion so not to ‘disturb’ people likely far away from being the target market… which unfortunately tends to turn a story opportunity into a lecture. I believe we strip down our message so aggressively because we fear causing a negative emotional reaction.
Do Not Fear Grumpy Attitudes
If you have a great story, tell it. For example, The ‘Dove Campaign for Real Beauty’ is a powerfully amazing and positive message to women AND men. The campaign shows women – all women – “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL” and “SEE HOW OTHER PEOPLE SEE YOU.” The Dove campaign is creative storytelling which shares in a visceral way that many women do not see their own beauty; the beauty others see every day. Bravo to the Dove campaign for sharing that story and for helping all of us be more aware and kind – even to ourselves!
But even with the positive message, they received some negative feedback because they created the campaign to increase sales. Seriously!?!? Of course that was part of the objective, but how about we look at the positive? These bold business stories and their message to women are amazingly powerful. Thankfully, they had great story to tell and they told it. Again, Bravo!
If we look to build trust we have to get and keep our audiences attention. We do that by supporting our audiences objectives as well as our objectives. Most of the time a good old-fashioned emotional push does the trick well… which should finish with a data point. When we lose our audiences attention we lose their interest in everything we are hoping for (a purchase, vote, etc.).
How To Build Trust And Connections Using Stories
- Use Familiar Language. The more complex your words, the more room there is for misinterpretation. If you are working with professors then use jargon they will understand – but even then, keep your message simple. As I said in my last post on email etiquette, “We have to remember that 10 different people can read the same words and depending on their education, experience and objectives they will interpret those words 10 different ways…” Everybody has many stories in their mind. Those business stories are often quite different from the story you want to tell… even at work
- Use Examples your audience will relate to. The Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign which focuses on activating grandmothers in America is a wonderful example because they use stories of grandmothers in Africa so grandmothers here can relate to the parental emotions. On a personal note – I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with Stephen and his daughter about this campaign: what wonderful people.
- Lead With Emotion and end with a data point. Like the following example that could be part of a fundraising letter, “Imaging being a mother in Africa where you have to bear the unnatural burden of having to helplessly watch your children suffer. Last year infant mortality rate remained high at 61 deaths per 1000 live births in Africa.”
- Use Metaphors to simplify complex stories. Metaphors are great because they can instantly evoke a mental image and an emotional response. But be careful not to use complicated metaphors your audience might not know. You might… “miss the boat” if your audience does not understand. Images can also be used – like an image of a tall mountain symbolizing a long struggle or… a photo of a grandparent holding a child.
- Be Positive. Especially if you are trying to motivate. Use positive language to lift their spirits and make them want to continue ‘listening’ to your story… and take action. Positive energy is contagious and inspiring.
Any long-term conversation and relationship will be different when your audience becomes involved – and they’re more likely to be involved when you engage them emotionally AND logically through a story.
Storytelling lets us share experiences and emotions. Business stories help us relate and understand each other and to build relationships.
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Bruce Mayhew is founder and President of Bruce Mayhew Consulting a Professional Development firm that excels at quickly and easily tailoring programs to meet the unique needs of our clients and their employees. In addition to being an effective trainer, Bruce is a popular conference speaker, writer and has been featured on major TV, Radio and Newspaper networks ranging from CTV to Global to The Globe & Mail.
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* The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty and Dove are Trademarks owned by Unilever Canada Inc. Copyright © 2015 Unilever.
* The Stephen Lewis Foundation and the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign are Trademarks owned by The Stephen Lewis Foundation.