How to Use Personal Storytelling as a Powerful Business Development Tool
Storytelling has probably been around since cave dwellers first grunted at each other. Some stories are pure fiction, some deal with real-life events, but all are powerful. A story can teach or inspire, chastise or frighten.
While you’re presumably past the days of having a story read or told to you, you’re not missing out on anything. That’s because you’ve taken over the role of chief storyteller in your own life. Virtually anything you experience can–and usually does–come with a background story to explain what happened.
Far too often, otherwise smart and talented people fall into the trap of creating a story that’s full of gloom, doom, and catastrophe. This is a practice that puts your business at risk.
First: When it comes to dealing with clients, vendors, and other stakeholders in your business, any assumptions you make about their behaviors are just a story (assuming you are not a mind-reader). Unless you ask them directly what prompted their decision and subsequent action, you’re just guessing. This is not a useful type of market research when it comes to business development.
Second: A story in which you catastrophize a disappointing event (or downplay a success you created) robs you of personal power by trashing your self-confidence and creativity and putting circumstances (or another person) in charge of your reactions. This, in turn, makes you increasingly weak, reactive (instead of responsive), and afraid to take action. How can you possibly move up the ranks of successful entrepreneurs with that sort of mind set?
The very first step to changing this counterproductive behavior is catching yourself in the act of creating some type of horror story in which you have the starring role. Here are some good clues to be on the lookout for:
- The words they, them, and s/he outnumber the words I and me.
- You frequently generalize, using words like always, never, everybody, and nobody.
- Your default explanation of a disappointing occurrence assigns blame to someone (sometimes the other person, but frequently yourself).
How to change your storytelling so it boosts your self-confidence and personal power
Fortunately, there are some specific steps you can take to start shifting the focus−and the impact–of your stories.
- Take responsibility for your results. A great way to do this is to use I and me and my in your explanations of what went wrong or right.
- Practice positive paranoia: Assume that everything which can go right will go right.
- Look for proof of the old cliché that “Every cloud has a silver lining.” In other words, look for some good that came out of the disappointment. (If you look diligently, you will find something.)
- Choose to assign a positive–or at least emotionally neutral–meaning to the other person’s behavior. Again, you’re making up a story, so why not create one in which the other person is NOT the bad guy and you are NOT hopelessly inept?
So what’s been your experience as a storyteller? How have you changed stories from tragedies to triumphs, and how has that made an impact on your business?
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