To ignore your story is to disregard your past and jeopardise your future. A bold statement, but one that can only be refuted / ignored at your own personal risk.
Stories have defined both our thoughts and us as individuals, since the beginning of humankind, as we know it. It is part of our make-up, a solid structure in our DNA, or if you prefer, is at the very fibre of our being (soul), tying together our very essence.
From the earliest days of humankind, pre-dating any form of writing, stories have been a way to pass on knowledge; of things to do or not to do, of ways of behaviour, of practices and rules, of history, of religious beliefs, of ethics, values, and so on. It was also a way to bond with those around you, of sharing a common background or point of comparison (a shared interest).
To demonstrate just how important stories are, let me highlight to you the oldest story known to mankind – The Epic of Gilgamesh. It is estimated that this story goes back thousands of years before writing was developed and is first seen in clay tablets written in cuneiform.
So having established the age of this particular story, would it surprise you to know that some of mankind’s beliefs and practices today are mentioned in this story? Well, I’m here to tell you that this is absolutely true, e.g. wedding veils, heaven and hell, vampires, the great flood, the search for immortality and the list goes on and on – far too many for this blog. Even though this story is ancient, we are today still able to have a personal connection with it.
When I read this ancient tale, I was transfixed with discoveries, able to reconcile parts of my life to the story. I saw the aspirations of which humankind desire, the efforts involved to obtain these, the making and losing of friendships, generating protection from reality and the eventual readjustment of individual values. (If interested, my copy of the book has an ISBN 0-393-97516-9)
If you have never had the opportunity to read the Epic of Gilgamesh, then I would highly recommend it to you, as it will change many of your perspectives on life, as well as things you thought were comparatively modern, but are in fact ancient.
Of course there are stories, which pre-date Gilgamesh, as we have evidence within caves and other dwelling, as depicted in various arts forms, however, there meanings have unfortunately been lost with the passage of time. With that said, this still confirms the importance of stories within human society.
Can you remember as a child listening to stories told by your parents, relatives or even close friends? Can you remember how engaged you were with those stories? Or perhaps you can see that engagement in your own children’s eyes as you recount stories to them.
Today we long for stories. Hollywood has made vast fortunes in telling stories, whereby we flock to see them in our billions. We also buy countless numbers of books, magazines, and other publications, some to educated or inform, others to entertain, but all to somehow connect with.
Stories are universal in that they can bridge the chasm of cultural, linguistic, and age-related divides. Overall, stories bring a connection and meaning to our existence.
So why is this important?
Because, if you want to truly connect with someone, either in business or on a personal level, then stories are the most effective way to achieve this.
Stories are proven effective tools, as the listener becomes involved and therefore remembers, as they are connected with it.
Stories can function as a teaching tool, creating a foundation for learning. The engagement of the listener, through observing, listening or participating, can generate the ability to imagine new perspectives, inviting a transformative or vicarious experience.
According to Stephen Denning (The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations), through listening to a story, the individual can create lasting personal connections, promote innovative problem solving, and foster a shared understanding regarding future ambitions.
Connections are built on trust. On method of gaining trust is to have your audience relate to you. This can be achieved through the telling of your story, providing that you have a shared interest, past experience or situation.
Through developing a connection through a mutual appreciation of an event in your story or another element, which they can relate to and empathise with, will in turn begin to build a relationship, which can be strengthened upon over time.
Your story can be about you, your family history or even your company.
One thing, above all, your story must be true. Don’t fall into the trap of making up some story line in order build a relationship or win business. When you are found out, and it will happen, you will destroy everything you’ve created, as well as damaging any reputation you might have had.
Let’s have a look at business and why stories are important.
In Rachel Gillett’s article (http://www.fastcompany.com/3031419/hit-the-ground-running/why-our-brains-crave-storytelling-in-marketing), she highlights that a Nielsen study shows consumers want a more personal connection in the way they gather information. Their brains are wired to be far more engaged by storytelling than by cold, hard facts.
When reading straight data, only the language parts of our brains work to decode the meaning. But when we read a story, not only do the language parts of our brains light up, but any other part of the brain that we would use if we were actually experiencing what we’re reading about, becomes activated as well. This means it’s far easier for us to remember stories than hard facts.
A further statement is that 92% of consumers want brands to make ads that feel like a story.
In order to create a story, which will hit home, you first need to understand who you are looking to connect with. Understand what issues they are facing, what concerns they have, what have they experienced, etc., etc.
You can then draw off your own experiences to build a comparison, e.g., how you went through a certain problem and what you did to overcome that circumstance, demonstrating the outcome.
The bottom line is that story’s (your story) are critical to our engagement with those we want to have a relationship with. It will create a bond of shared experience and enable a learning environment and trust to be built.
So I ask you: What is your story?
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