Stories, tales and fables have been shared in every culture as a means of entertainment, learning, safe-guarding culture, and imparting moral values. Stories create “sticky” memories. They attach emotions to things that happen. That means leaders and coaches who can create, design and share good stories have a powerful advantage over others.
Fortunately, everyone has the ability to become a better storyteller.
Metaphors can make your story telling more personal, more memorable, and more persuasive.
Metaphors are useful because they engage the right brain. They can be irrational and lower a listener’s defenses. That’s why metaphors can make you more persuasive.
Metaphors work best when they’re simple, unexpected, and concrete. They can create a quick picture rather than a lengthy story. They can also surprise the listener and present a fresh angle on an old topic.
Ten tips: how to make stories and metaphors effective:
- Use sensory language so that the listener can see, feel, hear and notice what is happening in the metaphor.
- You need to have confidence in what you are saying and how you are saying it.
- Use suspense to entice the listener to want to know what comes next.
- Ensure the story is appropriate for the audience and will enhance communication, and not put up barriers.
- Practise and re-practise telling the story, visualising it in your mind.
- Encourage the listener to identify with the story.
- Use humour and change meanings quickly to increase engagement.
- Ask questions of the client and get them to relate it to their own situation in order to embed the learning.
- Enjoy it.
Here’s a metaphorical story designed by AsiaAus Leaders to help older workers appreciate their ‘deep smarts’.
Ask: Do you know how to drive a manual gearbox car? It’s a safe question because most older workers do.
Ask: Have you ever taught someone to drive a manual car? Usually this answer is accompanied by groans or sniggers because if you have attempted to do so you appreciate how hard it is teach the skill.
Say: The groans I hear are probably the result of your experience. You’ve probably found that it’s difficult to teach something that you aren’t conscious of – something that is embedded in your muscle memory – something that you take for granted – something that involves a multi-sensory appreciation for the task!
Say: Think about the tasks at work that you’ve been doing for many years – the skills and strengths that you might take for granted – the things you do that seem effortless and what you might call “common-sense”… For those people with less experience what you do might seem like magic or just “too hard”.
Say: It’s just like driving a manual car! In your work-life you will have many ‘deep smarts’ that you could be taking for granted – social skills; grammar; critical thinking; problem solving; risk management; leadership.
Say: The big question is, are you even aware of your strengths and, if so, do you know how to sell them in today’s marketplace?
That story is designed to get people thinking. More and more, coaching and leadership success is won by designing compelling stories that have the power to move individuals, shareholders, customers, and employees to action. Simply put, if you can’t tell it, you can’t sell it.