What’s the easiest way to lose the attention of a person or a group when you’re passing on information?
While there’s no denying that cold, hard fact is necessary in business, when it comes to communicating information to human beings, facts alone just don’t cut it. Fact, in and of itself, is not convincing. It’s boring. Pure fact has us yawning, looking at our watches, and wondering what we’ll have for dinner tonight.
We love story. It’s why we read fiction. It’s why we watch movies. When we use story, we move beyond the head and we get to the heart. Then, and only then, can we hope to achieve any level of buy-in.
That’s why great communicators know that naked data needs to be clothed in story. John Kotter, Harvard Business School professor, said “Over the years I have become convinced that we learn best – and change – from hearing stories that strike a chord with us…. Those in leadership positions who fail to grasp or use the power of stories risk failure for their companies and for themselves.”
Here are three simple ways of moving from “just the facts, ma’am” to delivering your message in a way that allows people to get it.
1) Use examples. The most basic – yet highly effective – way to clothe your message with story is by using examples. State your message, then simply say “Let me give you an example …” and continue.
I heard a trainer say, “No one can do absolutely nothing for very long. Let me give you an example ….” He then told the story of how he and his wife went on a luxury island holiday where they did absolutely nothing. At first they thought it was heaven. By day 6 were intensely bored and ready to go home. The trainer’s story brought his message to life in a way that the first statement alone could never do.
2) Use “because.” The word “because” creates a bridge between fact and story.
Imagine telling your team “I know you can do it.”
Now imagine saying, ”I know you can do it, because I still remember how you guys got XYZ Project over the line last month. The way you pulled together then is exactly what we need now.” Inspired team? You bet!
We like to have reasons for things. They give meaning to the message, and most people want to feel their work is meaningful. (Don’t you?).
3) Use analogy. Compare your message with something the team already knows. For example, “We can’t give up now. That would be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” It might be a cliché, but it gets your point across.
So keep people paying attention by clothing your naked message with story because when you do, you’ll have them buying-in with ease and they’ll take to your message like a fish to water. (Did you notice two of the three techniques in this last paragraph?)