Let Me Tell You a Little Story

Once upon a time there was a businessperson who had the task of convincing an audience of the need for the business to plan better for the future. Instead of starting out with a spreadsheet and a long list of numbers he started with a story we all know, "The Three Little Pigs." He engaged his audience with the brilliance of the little pig who built his house out of brick then used that metaphor to segue into his discussion of long-term planning.

There are many ways to communicate depending on the message you need to deliver, who the targeted recipient is, and the urgency of the message.

The military officer orders.
The advertiser entices.
The leader inspires.
The trainer, supervisor, or coach motivates.

Since few of us are in a position to communicate by barking orders, we have to learn to become more effective in enticing, inspiring, and motivating. Perhaps the most effective method is to think back to the days when you were a child and your parents told you a bedtime story. Many of these stories are parables ? a short tale that illustrates a lesson or moral attitude in an entertaining manner. Compare the well-known childhood favorite, "The Little Engine That Could" with a lecture on the values of "persistence." The story is really a romantic rendition that captures the imagination of a youngster so much better than a discussion of sticking to a task. But stories are not just for little kids, we all listen more intently when we are entertained.

Listeners become engaged when being told a story. Our comprehension and empathy increases as we identify with the circumstances, the people, and events that we imagine when an entertaining story is told with skill and emotion. A story is so much better than a dry, factual laundry list of "do's" and "do nots."

When you have to convince, motivate, inspire, sell, or entertain, think of preparing your communication in a form your audience will react to with enthusiasm and wonder. It will help them better prepare for the day that big bad wolf comes to huff and puff and blow the house down.

Larry Galler coaches and consults with high-performance executives, professionals, and small businesses since 1993. He is the writer of the long-running (every Sunday since November 2001) business column, "Front Lines with Larry Galler" Sign up for his free newsletter at http://www.larrygaller.com

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