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Wanna influence someone? Start telling stories!

I have a two year old son. Well, actually he is almost 3 but I’m going to stay in denial as long as possible. Right around his second birthday, without any warning, my sweet little baby turned into an opinionated and persistent little DUDE.  The “terrible twos” have been in full effect in our house.

It took a few months for me to figure it out but I realized that telling him stories helps convince him to get in the bath, finish his “yucky” soup or stop running full speed into the insanely busy NYC intersection (my heart is racing just typing that one).

Now, instead of saying “don’t do this” or “don’t touch that” I replace my commands with stories. “Let me tell you a story about a little boy that ran away from his mommy…’’

As soon as he hears the word “story” his tiny little brownish-green eyes widen and with his mouth wide open he freezes in anticipation, waiting to be entertained.  A good story is entertaining, powerful, and influential and storytelling shouldn’t just be reserved for our children.

Think about it. You grew up loving stories. So did your boss, a future employer, a recruiter and your client.  So why have we reduced our professional conversations to boring facts and figures without the juicy and entertaining stories?

In my career coaching work, I often help my clients prepare for high stakes meetings and interviews – self promotion is a popular topic for my work (raising capital, asking for a promotion/raise and of course landing a job). I noticed that the higher the stakes of the meeting the more boring, robotic and unenthusiastic some of my clients sound.

So what do we do? We work on developing their stories. My clients become authentic entertainers and performers. Only then does self-promoting work and only then do they become influencers.

How do we do it?

First we get inside their head, guts and heart! What does your audience really want to hear? What is interesting to them and how do we connect that to your agenda for this conversation?

Then we search for the juice. One of my clients was sharing a story about a project with me. The project was tedious, insanely detail oriented and sounded pretty boring. So we started to search for the juice. Turns out he was dealing with a trader that had a reputation of being a jerk. Bam! there’s your juicy story!

Then we dig for the numbers.  What I mean is this. Instead of saying “I am a very strong sales person and have a unique approach at work.” Show me! Show me with facts and examples.

“In the past 3 years, while my colleagues barely met their sales budgets,  I beat my sales goals by 200%. Also my clients see me more as a consultant then their sales guy. This is a unique approach in my strategy.”

There! Much better.

And lastly, we practice a lot!!!! The voice memo app on my iphone gets a lot of action these days. When I whip out the phone and say “Let’s record this” my clients recoil as if the phone is a poisonous snake. But only at first. Once they see how much better theirs stories get and how much more influence they have over others they never look back.

Remember that for most of us a love of stories goes back to our childhood. You have the power to entertain, engage and influence others when you tell stories instead of boring them with a list of your accomplishments. Go forth and happy storytelling!


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