In a world becoming increasingly polarised between us vs them, right vs wrong, etc., we’ve lost sight of what connects us to each other. Our stories create the common ground that allow us to connect with each other.
It’s easy to have our attention diverted by the stories of division and difference peddled by various news platforms 24/7. These stories blind us to seeing what is so important and so very simple. We have far more in common with each other than divides us.
Where do we put our focus?
What can we do to make that change? We can shift our focus away from staring at how wide the divide is between us. Instead we can look for the stories that create the common ground ground we all share; the common ground that is right in front of our noses if we took the time to look.
While this might seem an impossible task right now as the fractures between us seem to grow wider and deeper every day. It’s actually not that difficult once we choose our starting point.
We can begin by focusing on the stories we tell, the stories we listen to, the stories we share and re-share, the stories we decide to own, ignore or discard. What are those stories about? Are they stories that celebrate our common humanity – the common ground we all share? Or, are they stories that pitch us against each other and highlight our differences and disagreements?
Stories are the common ground
The writer Kate Forsyth nails how stories can make or unmake us, can build bridges or widen the divide between us:
“Stories are the common ground that allow people to connect, despite all our defences and all our differences.”
What if we started to REALLY listen to the other’s stories and talk TO each other – the essence of real dialogue? We could discover a simple, obvious truth. We all nurture the same fundamental desires – for love, security, fulfilment, healthy + wellbeing, happiness, …
What if we first identified the common ground we share and then work on narrowing the gaps on how we want to reach our shared human desires. These are the experiences that make the stories we tell each other?
There are many reasons why the race to embrace storytelling in business has often ended up being a swift race to the bottom. Here’s just one example of bad storytelling advice:
“Tell YOUR story”!
The idea behind this advice is that ‘your’ story will inspire people who don’t know you to do business with you! Think about this. Would you want to do business with someone you knew absolutely nothing about after you heard them talking about themselves? No, you wouldn’t.
Why the rush to tell your story?
Plain egoism is a biggie here. There are lots of people who love talking about themselves and live under the illusion that others find their stories interesting. How many times have we been cornered at a party or a business event by someone like that? Another popular argument put forward for telling your story comes from Simon Sinek’s theory Start with Why. As I pointed out in a previous post, he applied his theory to established, well-known businesses and he has since revised his theory.
One of the keys to successful storytelling is correct timing!
No one is interested in YOUR story until they are almost ready to buy from you. So telling your story too early is bad timing and bad storytelling advice! Basic neuroscience helps us get the timing right.
When we talk to strangers, we are operating from the reptilian brain. That‘s the part of the brain that is responsible for our survival mechanism. It knows only yes/no and fight/flight responses. When we are in the reptilian brain we cannot hear the other’s story. We can only ‘hear’ someone else’s story, connect with it and respond to it after we have moved into the part of the brain that is responsible for our emotional and logical response, located in the front lobe.
How do you move someone out of survival mode into receptive mode?
Tell them THEIR story.
Until that shift in the brain has happened, the only story you should tell your potential clients is the one they are able to hear, i.e. THEIR story. That’s how connection happens! To get their story right, you have to know their story. To know their story, you have to have listened to them so closely that when you tell it, they can say:
“That’s me!” “That’s exactly what I struggle with!”, “That’s what I want now!”
If that’s not their response, you need to go back and listen again so that when you tell them their story you are holding a mirorr in front of them in which they see themselves more clearly than without it.
Only when you have successfully done that, are they are ready to hear your story. Otherwise, your story will fall on deaf ears!
If you could do with some help with telling the right story at the right time to the right audience, I’m here to help you!Learn More