The Story Factor by Annette Simmons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Anyone who has an interest in how storytelling can be used for more effective communication (in business as well as personal situations) should read this book. It makes an incredibly compelling and clear case for the use of story and highlights a range of potential applications and benefits from using a story-based approach.
As I made my way through the book I was hoping for some more ‘how to’ information. The new chapter in the paperback edition, ‘Story Thinking as a Skill’, was certainly the chapter I found most useful. While this chapter stops short of providing a step-by-step guide on how to elicit, structure and present stories, I realised, after making my way through the book, that this would be impossible. There is no one-size-fits-all formula or approach to storytelling, and as the author writes in the last paragraph of the book – ‘Agility improves with practice and coaching. This new chapter is my best shot at the coaching part. Now it’s time for you to go practice’.
My notes from The Story Factor
[Disclaimer: I’m trialling out a new way of capturing the scribbles that I make when reading a book in the hope that it’ll aid the retention of and my ability to recall/retrieve the key learnings/information. The notes below are rough, and may be a mixture of direct quotes, paraphrasing, and my own thoughts/ideas/reminders. They’re written here primarily for me (so they may not make much sense out of context, especially for those who haven’t read the book)].
(3) People don’t want information, they want faith.
(4) Six types of stories:
- who I am
- why I am here
- the vision
- I know what you are thinking.
Two major questions – ‘Who are you?’ and ‘why are you here?’. Until answered they don’t trust what you say. How can we expect people to trust us when we don’t let them know who we are?
People want to decide for themselves. Story is a pull strategy.
Difference between giving an example and telling a story is the addition of emotional context and the added sensory details in the telling.
All good stories describe something that we recognise as True.
(37) Using story to replace the old strategic plan’s goals/objectives/strategy format.
(54) Give story first and then facts. Better change of influencing others to share your interpretation.
(80) Categorisation of stories – as much an illusion as categorisation of people. Categories and definition only helpful at superficial level. Will it help you become a better storyteller? Probably not.
(83-84) Story about the archer. Draw your target after it lands. ‘Easier to let your story land first, and then draw a circle of meaning/connection around it using what you see and hear in the responses of your listeners’.
(86) Aspects of story telling: gestures; facial expression; body language; sounds, smell and tastes; irrelevant detail (people who are impatient with irrelevant detail aren’t very good storytellers); virtual reality; timing and pause; tone (don’t try to work on tone – work on feelings and tone will follow).
If you can’t persuade yourself, you can’t persuade others – sometimes you need to develop a story for yourself first.
Facial expressions – study George Carlin.
Video tape yourself telling a story – watch it with the sound turned down.
(111) ‘Culture Jam’ by Kalle Lasn. ‘Most powerful narcotic in the world is the promise of belonging’. And the promise of being known.
(118) When you fail to influence, it is often because people filter your words through negative suspicions about your intentions.
(119) Changing minds. Story must first connect you both to a place where you can agree and can feel the same things.
(145) The best time to develop connections with the people you need to influence is before you need them.
(152) To influence you need to be ’emotional’ – which goes against everything we were ever told about how we should act in front of the people we want to influence.
Split attention diminishes the power of story. You have to ‘let go’ to tell a compelling story.
(162) Negative v positive emotion ‘Shame doesn’t move mountains. Hope moves mountains’.
(183) ‘Listening is just like sex. If the desire is there, the skills will follow’.
Importance of listening to someone’s story before trying to introduce a new one.
Influencing without listening is like painting a house without preparing the surface. It might look good for a few months, but eventually will crack and peel.
(188) When coaching a person to tell you their story – Use question like ‘when did this last happen?’, ‘where?’, ‘who was there?’, ‘what happened next?’. Goal is to get them to mentally go back to the place and time and tell it without the ensuing conclusions. Gives freedom to draw new conclusions.
(206) Strategies for not being boring.
- Get specific. Hypotheticals don’t provide enough sensory or emotional data.
- Stop talking.
- Ask for help. Connect.
(221-222) Stories you tell yourself. ‘Stewart women’.
(233) Daily practice of story telling. Go on a daily scavenger hunt for stories. Any event that creates emotion or happens because of emotion can become a story.
(234-235) Seven techniques for finding stories: Patterns, Consequences, Lessons, Utility, Vulnerability, Future Experience, Story Recollections.
(236) Storytelling is a creative process best nurtured by strategic appreciation to help you focus on what you’re doing right.
(238-239) Knowing your own story. ‘Okay, what can I do to pursue that goal here and now?’
(242) Critical thinking. In our pursuit of rational thinking, critical thinking skills remove emotions and anecdotal evidence from decision-making. Need for ‘story thinking’.
(245) Two habits – outcomes focus and pursuit of clarity – seem to kill good stories when applied too soon. Art of storytelling thrives with a loose structure and faith in the process.
(246) Storytelling demands that you abandon safety of being ‘on the outside looking in’ and step inside an experience.
You find powerful stories when you discover roaring rivers of emotion that already exist, not be digging a canal from scratch.
(246-247) Trusting the dots will connect in the end – retrospective coherence. Follow strong intuitions and emotions.
(248) Storytelling is a creative process. Happens only when people have permission to wander in and out of ambiguity, follow emotions and forget rules.
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