Business communicators regularly underestimate the value of their stories. When they do this, they are self-sabotaging their opportunity to impact others’ beliefs, attitudes and actions. So, what stops us from using our stories to become more credible, convincing and charismatic? Here are some common answers:
Most people – unless you’re a Kardashian – underestimate their ability to interest others. Alfred Hitchcock said, “Movies are just life with the boring bits left out”. Everyone has at least one great movie in them. The trick is to identify the bits to leave out.
We all have at least one awful storytelling experience. You see people’s eyes glaze over; they’re looking over your shoulder to see if there’s anything else more interesting going on. Or, worse still, you are interrupted halfway through a story – and nobody asks you to finish it! We remember these experiences, and they negatively impact our storytelling confidence when it could simply be just the wrong story and/or time.
Most story failures are the result of the wrong intent:
If you stick to the first one, you can be confident of avoiding the boring bits.
The fact that others have had similar experiences does not make your story less unique. Instead, it will often make your story more vivid for them. Your originality comes from your unique viewpoint and your willingness to share.
Often, the best stories are about mistakes. Many professionals believe that it will tarnish their personal brand if they talk about their mistakes. On the contrary, it’s the opposite. Nowadays, people are more likely to trust those who are authentic and willing to accept their vulnerabilities. Any personal brand built on trust will survive the sharing of an anecdote.
Rather than presenting a ‘perfect’ story, I am more likely to trust someone who admits their mistakes and learns from them or helps me learn from them. When you are prepared to share the learning from your mistakes with me, you are giving me a great gift.
While you might be more comfortable talking about a mistake you made ten years ago, it is more confronting to talk about the same experience if it only happened last week. This adds so much to a story’s credibility and the storyteller’s impression of confidence. In today’s fast-moving world, the more recent an event is, the more relevant it is. Only someone confident in themselves would be prepared to talk about a recent mistake.
I recently watched a video with a group of professionals, taken in 2016, featuring Kristen Pressner, Global HR Head of Roche Diagnostics. She talks about a mistake she made that made her aware of an unconscious bias against female employees. All of us agreed that her story was more compelling because it was more recent and enhanced Kristen’s image as a true professional.
Business communications today is laden with mundane marketing terms, slick slogans and forgettable one-liners; those who can communicate with credibility in a compelling way will create the cut-through that makes them stand out. Choose wisely, and your stories will make you more credible and confident. They will even improve your charisma.
Article contributed by Mr Kelvin Ryan, an Associate Trainer at the Management Development & Consultancy, MDIS’ corporate training arm.
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