The 2 Key Ingredients for Stories That Don't Suck
Sorry (kind of) for the bold title but I'm about to drop a serious storytelling truth.
Before we get into that, you've probably heard that storytelling is one of the most important skills you can learn. As the old saying goes,
“Those who tell the stories rule the world.”
Psychology tells us that storytelling is one of the most effective forms of communication available. Why? We know that storytelling produces chemicals in the brain such as Cortisol, Dopamine, and Oxytocin - I'll write a separate blog post soon about why these are so important soon but for now, you're going to have to trust me that these chemicals are a powerful cocktail that produce emotion and action in your audience.
If you want to increase your personal and professional impact and take control of your "happily ever after" - storytelling is your answer.
Storytelling can be applied to almost every situation.
- The boardroom
- The courtroom
- A job interview
- Facebook lives
- On stage
- An investor coffee date
... to name a few.
Everywhere you go, people are exchanging stories. More importantly, any time you have a goal or are trying to persuade another to see things your way, you can use a story to demonstrate your point.
Storytelling does not only help you effectively get your message across to your listeners, but it also helps you see your own life more clearly, and gives you the power to take charge of it.
By telling our stories, we can actually re-write the scripts from our past. Recounting our stories requires a level of self-analysis and understanding that we may otherwise never pursue. Telling our stories and watching them make a difference in the lives of others is one of the most empowering feelings we can experience. By telling our stories, we also become the authors for our next chapters. You hold the pen in your own story.
You may be thinking, "Great! I'm sold. So what is the most important ingredient to a good story?"
Let's get to the reason you clicked on this post in the first place...
What sets an irresistible story apart from a story nobody will ever remember.
Two things: purpose and passion.
Nobody will ever care about a story delivered without a point and without enthusiasm. These qualities cannot be faked. You audience will not respond well if you don't add these ingredients to your message. Audiences are pretty good at sniffing out insincerity and if you don't care about what you are saying, why should they?
Before you can ever think about crafting a story that will change lives, you need to know why you want to do it.
I have great news! This blog post will help you FIND YOUR WHY.
When I talk to my children, I no longer ask them, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
There is nothing wrong with the question but I think it puts thinking into boxes.
Instead of using the cliche when I talk to my kids, I ask them, “What kind of difference do you want to make when you grow up?”
What kind of impact do they want to have? What do they want their life to mean or to stand for? These are pretty big questions for a five and a three year old but this approach helps them begin to think bigger than titles, roles, and responsibilities. It helps them visualize what they really want to do and then take the steps to get there.
The approach is the same with storytelling. Ask yourself, “What kind of impact do I want to have?” How can story help you get there? Studies show stories are effective because they evoke an emotional response in others. But first, we have to identify what kind of emotional response we want to trigger and filter our stories through that lens. The emotions we want to produce will come from the overall goal of you story. The goal, you guessed it, will come from your why.
Think about your passions.
What hobbies, causes, or messages get your blood pumping and wake you up in the morning? Why do you think this is? Most likely, you have developed them because of an experience you have had personally or a story you have heard.
Try to travel back to those experiences and dissect why those mean so much to you. Once you do that, you already have one of the most important ingredients to a good story - the purpose. Communicating to your audience why something is important to you, others, or your business is crucial to get them to see the gravity of your message. People need to grasp the point of your story before they can get behind it.
From a business standpoint, consider why you got into a business in the first place.
Does your business offer solutions to others? Does your business provide safety for the public? Will your business advance society economically? Why is your business important? Maybe you sell sweet treats or photograph memories and your business can turn an ordinary day into something extraordinary.
You need to really ask yourself, “Why did I get into my line of work?”
If you immediately think, "For the money, of course" you need to dig deeper. Why do you want that cash?
Is it the freedom and opportunity money provides?
Maybe you started your business because you wanted to break out of a 9-5 cycle that was keeping you from your kid's soccer games. The memories.
Maybe you took the job because you knew it would help you purchase your dream home. The security.
Maybe your dream house is just a few years of savings away and you are committed to earning what it takes to live by that lake. The experiences.
Is it the ability to contribute to the philanthropic missions that tug at your heart strings? What causes matter to you? The community impact.
Motive matters when it comes to money and money matters because it creates opportunity.
Why do you do what you do?
Uncovering or reminding yourself of the “whys” are the first step to effective storytelling because they will fuel your passion. Your passions will keep you going when you are feeling what I call “storytelling burnout.”
Remind yourself why you got started in the first place when you start to feel repetitive and dare we say, bored, with your story. Return to your why when you feel like a speech or a meeting has fallen flat. Holding tight to your why will help you when someone challenges your view, beliefs, and story in general. Success has setbacks and knowing your why will help you push through those.
Before you ever set your pen to paper or step on a stage, you have to believe in your message with all of your heart. This is how your story will stand out from a crowd. This is how your story will change the world.