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.

Young entrepreneurs naturally appreciate a good story.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:

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.

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?


(By the way, thanks to Pratham Books for publishing their storyteller image in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.)

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6 Responses to How to Use Personal Storytelling as a Powerful Business Development Tool

  1. Lilia Lee says:

    Love this post, Kathleen. Thanks for the actionable tips on story telling.

  2. I love this reminder, stories are such a big part of what makes us human!

    • Kathleen Mavity Kathleen says:

      Dorothy, when I read your comment, I had a mental flash of chimpanzees hanging out in the forest swapping stories. That’s either the sign of a really good imagination or a need for more sleep. 🙂

  3. Pat says:

    I see my life as a quest myth (yes, that’s a type of story). It’s an adventure, some days more epic than others. I get to choose who’s in my boat. If I choose the right people, the journey is more fun, more exciting, and a heck of a lot less scary. The right people in your boat increase your odds of getting to the destination.

    Kath, thanks for being in my boat!

    • Kathleen Mavity Kathleen says:

      Pat, I’m honored to be in your boat, grateful your in mine, and appreciative of all the resources we both have that serve as life preservers.

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