In an age of information overload where we are constantly having to compete for attention, the ability to tell stories that have an emotional and intellectual impact is a critical skill.
Think about the last meeting or presentation you attended or Ted talk you watched, what did you remember, what did you repeat?
The story! Especially if the story related to you or triggered you to reflect on your own similar experience. In fact, stories well told have a thousand times more impact than a fact or statistic.
I recently spoke to MBA students at Emory’s Guizeta Business school on Storytelling Mastery and I wanted to share some of the tips and techniques of using stories to persuade, influence and inspire.
Begin by looking back at your own experiences and start to build inventory of situations where you were triumphant and successful or conversely when you felt you could have done better. Both successes and failures are great material for storytelling as long as you can share what you learned from the experience and how what you learned can benefit your audience.
While personal stories are often the most compelling because they evoke emotion in both the story teller and the audience, telling other people’s and organizations stories of success or failure can be equally effective.
The key to effective Storytelling is to focus on your P.A.L:
The POINT you are trying to make;
The very best ANECDOTE/STORY you can tell to illustrate the point; and
What you intend the audience to LEARN.
As with all presentation and communication skills it is also critical to focus on delivery. This includes effective use of inflection, eye contact, facial expression, gestures and pausing.
Please let us know if you are interested in a keynote or workshop on Storytelling Mastery to Persuade, Influence & Inspire.
Understanding your unique personality style is critical to mastering your communication skills. Equally important is your ability to assess others.
With this in mind, here are some key observational tools you can use in making your assessments.
Are you fundamentally fast-paced and outspoken, or do you tend towards being more thoughtful and observant? If you are confused by this question, then think about the last meeting you sat in. Did you immediately contribute your ideas, thoughts or opinions or did you wait patiently until others had spoken? Alternatively, did you not speak up at all because you weren’t sure your opinion mattered, or you were concerned that it may not be well received?
It’s important to understand that neither behavior is good nor bad; it’s simply a primary style of operating. The key here is to determine if your style is assisting you or sabotaging you in some way.
The second question concerns your priorities, and in that case, it is helpful to make use of the analytical tools of DISC, a widely used behavioral and personality assessment model based on the work of Dr. William Mouton Marston .
Do you prioritize relationships over transaction or task, or do you tend towards being more analytical and skeptical? Once again, neither is positive or negative, but simply an additional tool to understand yourself and the individuals you interact with.
According to the DISC personality assessment, people fall into four basic categories, with different levels of each category depending on their priorities, life experience, and job title amongst numerous other factors.
People who are both fast-paced and outspoken and who prioritize tasks over relationships are described as having the traits of a D or Dominant personality.
Those who prioritize relationships over task, and who also exhibit outgoing traits fall into the I or Influencer category. I also like to describe this category as Socializers, because they tend to be very friendly and find conversation with a stranger effortless.
The C or Conscientious personality assessment describes individuals who are more thoughtful and observant with a focus on accuracy and detailed execution of tasks. Another word I use for individuals who prioritize accuracy and details in their day to day work is that of a Thinker. If you fall in to this category you tend towards being hyper focused and get frustrated if there is a lack of detail or if you are rushed at the expense of getting things right.
The fourth category is that of the S or Steady. These individuals display a combination of concern for others with a generally more thoughtful demeanor. Again please note the word “generally” as these four personality styles (Dominant, Influencer, Steady & Conscientious) exist in as many combinations as there are people.
Please note I say tend towards, because each person is nuanced and while you may recognize yourself in some of these descriptions, we are seldom only one or another, but a blend. What’s essential in exploring and understanding your personality style is that you understand what motivates you, but equally what derails you.
For example, if you tend toward the Dominant style, you may come across as aggressive, autocratic and demanding when under pressure.
While Influencers have a great deal of initiative and are often extremely creative, without self-awareness they may come across as over enthusiastic or lacking focus.
The Steady style is an integral part of any team, but may be too conciliatory and feel taken advantage of rather than confront a situation.
The High C or Conscientious individual may be superb at ensuring accuracy, but again could derail if there is too great attention to detail and not enough to the bigger picture.
Whatever your innate style or combination of styles, the question remains, how good are you at managing both your strengths and detractors? In many cases, your response depends upon the circumstances, and the way you function in the workplace does not lend itself to simple answers.
Indeed, at the end of it all, the greatest tool we have in navigating our careers is to continue developing our knowledge of self. So congratulations for reading this because you are already well on your way.
“If you don’t ask, you don’t get. If you ask, you may not always get what you want, but if you don’t ask, you won’t get”
You’ve probably heard it said that you won’t get what you truly desire if you’re not prepared to ask for it. But for many of us, knowing how to ask for what we want in a way that makes a positive impression – and ultimately gets us the response we’re hoping for – can be challenging.
My friend and founder of Global EXEC Women, Virginia Bradley, cheekily poses the question, “How big is your ask?” Her point is that you can’t be afraid to ask for what you want and feel you deserve, no matter how big or far-fetched it may seem. Don’t shortchange yourself by asking for something that’s too small. Reach for the real prize.
That said, it’s important to understand how to present your “ask” in a manner that’s likely to encourage others to feel inclined to say “yes.” Here are a few tips:
Start with authentic praise
Say you need help with public speaking. Think of a colleague who is particularly skilled in that area, then approach him or her and begin by saying something along the lines of, “You seem so gifted at making powerful presentations, I was wondering if you might have any tips for me. I’d be grateful for your advice.” Acknowledging their talents – rather than simply demanding their help – will make them feel seen and appreciated. And that means they’ll be more likely put in the time and effort to support you.
Don’t come off as entitled
People receive requests for help and support differently. Sometimes, it can feel like a boundary has been crossed if what you’re asking for seems like too much. While you don’t want to hold yourself back from asking for what you really want, be sure to give others a chance to offer just as much as they feel comfortable with. In all likelihood, they’ll offer you more if you do them that courtesy. For example, when someone says to me, “Nadia, you work at CNN, and I really want a job there. Can you do something to help me get an interview?” I usually just refer them to the online job board. But if someone says instead, “I’d love the chance to work at CNN, any advice or suggestions you may have would be much appreciated,” I actually feel much more inclined to go out of my way to help, because I feel like my boundaries have been respected. The second approach comes across as far less demanding.
Positivity is key
You’re more likely to get a positive response to your request if you project confidence. If you doubt yourself, others will pick up on that, and they’ll begin to have doubts, as well. Visualize yourself asking for what you desire, and receiving a “yes.” Imagine how it will feel. Olympic athletes often use this technique – they visualize themselves winning important competitions. It will help to put you in the right mindset, so you can approach the conversation with a sense of self-assuredness.
Take a moment and think about what has changed in your work life, your community, your family – things that have affected your attitude and mindset over the last 18 months.
Anything from company mergers to management changes to kids going off to college. The reality is the world as we know it changes all the time, whether we want it to or not.
We know that a resilient mindset is essential for coping with change successfully and that lack of resilience is a barrier to ultimate performance. Resilience is defined as the capacity to positively manage change, adversity and stressful situations.
The question is how well do we cope with these inevitable changes? What more can we do to take care of ourselves, to survive and thrive both personally and professionally when things around us are in flux?
In other words, can we do more to control how we react to change and disruption?
Yes! In fact, a mindset for dealing with change can be taught. We can do more to control our reactions to change. To do this, the first thing we need to understand is our cognitive biases. What I mean by cognitive biases is the brain’s negative association with change. Our brains are wired for survival and to look out for threats. Change is often associated with danger at a very primitive level. The brain often has a negative bias towards change.
The good news is that your reaction to change is not fixed. It is changeable. So, we can change our instinctive reaction to change as stress by doing the following: STOP. CHALLENGE. CHOOSE.
Stop: Take a moment to reflect.
Challenge: What is really going on, am I reacting instinctively or logically?
Choose: What is the most evolved, mature, logical response?
The key here is to engage our logical brain. Train ourselves to be calm and rational while avoiding the tendency to react in autopilot mode.
So whatever change you are faced with right now, ask yourself if you are thriving or if you are allowing fear of the unknown to sabotage you.
The acronym for FEAR is False Events Appearing Real and, more often than not, your anxiety is not based on logic but rather discomfort of uncertainty. What if you could re-frame your conditioning and embrace the opportunity to face change with a different mindset? The possibilities are endless.