A Shortcut to Persuasion: Storytelling, Part 1

A lot of people ask me: is there a shortcut to hooking people so that they would listen and pay attention to what is actually being offered? There are so many approaches out there and a handful of them might work in some instances.

But what if you need an approach that works in print, in meetings, in seminars or in other situations? What approach do you turn to? In the world of influence, one approach has stood out and has withstood the test of time: storytelling.

Storytelling can actually be so effective that it can be used in any scenario and you can be sure that you can get a good result. However, every technique can fail. That’s just how reality works.

You can’t have a completely waterproof technique because when you are aiming for persuasion and influence, a lot of things can go wrong. So the main goal for every influencer is to get the technique right first before all else.

That way, you can be assured that a good result will emerge from all your efforts. Because you can expend a lot of energy doing something but if the technique itself is flawed, you can’t expect perfect results.

What happens when you tell a story?

Why are stories so effective in the first place? When a person tells a story, the receiver or subject actually enters a trance state. This trance state gives you access to the subject’s subconscious mind.

A trance state is simply a mental state wherein the person experiences heightened focus and awareness of what is happening. It’s a bit like finely tuning the mind to block out everything else.

Distractions and other non-relevant stimuli from the environment are blocked out. Now, providing a story to a subject can produce either a good result or a bad result.

When the subject is captivated by what you are saying and is subconsciously agreeing to everything that you say, then we can say that you are a persuasive storyteller.

You are lending your energy to the subject and his attention doesn’t waver at all while you are relating your story.

A negative result emerges when the subject becomes bored and exhausted with the story that you are relating. So how can you avoid a bad result in the first place? Here are three main points that you always have to keep in mind before even thinking of using a story in a conversation, presentation, meeting, etc.:

# 1 Are you telling a story with an intention in mind?

Too often, people tell stories without thinking of any useful goal. Are you telling a story just because you feel like it or does your story offer deeper insight that will directly contribute to your bigger goal? Why are you telling the story in the first place? What are you trying to show the subject by sharing your story?

If you can’t answer any of the questions here, then it’s possible that your story does not have any significant bearing on your success. Drop the story or better yet, find or create a story that would help you achieve your goals. Don’t tell a story for its own sake.

Relate a story because you want the subject to understand or feel something. Because if your story does not connect to the subject at all, the subject will feel mental exhaustion fairly quickly. And when this happens, you can be sure that they won’t be paying attention to everything that you have to say.

# 2 What kind of effect or impact do you want to create with your story?

Stories have intended effects and unintended effects. A really good storyteller can have an immense impact on his audience without even trying. But for the rest of us, we must make sure that our stories are built around an intended impact or effect.

This will ensure that after telling your story, your subject would have that mindset that will readily accept your main points or arguments. Because in the end, influence is really just getting the other person to agree or say yes to what you’re saying.

That is what makes influence so tricky in the first place because people tend to say no because through disagreement, people are able to protect their resources more easily.

For example, if a salesman was offering an expensive new TV set to a young couple, the couple could just say no to the offer because they have this mindset that focuses on preserving financial resources. When you relate a story to a subject,

# 3 What is your game plan?

If you want to take the storyteller route, there has to be a game plan. What stories will you be relating to your audience to achieve your goal? What points do you want to enforce with your stories?

There has to be continuity and relatedness in your stories. You must not jump from one story to another without any clear plan. Some people make the mistake of shifting from story to story without any clear plans; nothing could be more exhausting.

Tell only the stories that you know will create a great impact on your audience. Tell stories to showcase important points that support your bigger argument. To make brainstorming easier, use this simple formula:

“I am telling ____________ the story about __________ so that he will ___________”

As you can see, the formula is pretty straightforward and you probably won’t have any difficulty creating the stories that will help you achieve very specific goals. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to sell a product or an idea to someone. If you tell the right story, you would be able to influence another person more quickly.

You don’t have to memorize complicated diagrams when you’re planning. You can create a short list of themes and topics as a guide. You just have to remember the main themes from your list so you won’t forget anything.