Every Change-Agent Must Have a Story

By Dalit Kaplan – Lawyer, broadcaster and storytelling trainer

Nothing conveys a message like a story!
Whether you have a social enterprise, a not-for-profit, or a start-up, it’s important to know your organization’s story, and how to share it.

Stories engage us on an emotional level.  While data and facts appeal to the logical parts of our brains, stories engage our emotions, leaving a lasting impact on listeners.  We are more likely to engage or change our actions when we can connect with an idea on an emotional level.When stakeholders are emotionally engaged, they are more likely to come on board – whether it be by buying your product, engaging your services, investing in your company, or supporting your cause.

You can’t argue with a story.  A powerful story will always contain a universal message.  Think about the story of King Midas:  everything he touched turned to gold.  But then he accidentally turned his daughter, the most precious thing in his life, into gold.  Obviously, the events in the story aren’t true.  But the message – if you’re too greedy, you lose sight of what’s most important until you lose it – is a universal truth.  If your own story carries some message that has universal resonance, your stakeholders will be much more open to your ideas!

Knowing your story keeps you focused, inspired and authentic… There is always a story behind a business or not-for-profit idea.  You may not even remember it, or know it, but I can guarantee that there were a series of events that lead you to an ‘aha-moment,’ which prompted you to do what you are doing now. As you get bogged down in the day-to-day business of your work, it’s hard to remember why you do what you do.  Clearly articulating the story behind the organization helps you stay more focused on “the why”.  Think about Eva Bilick, from the matchmaking service, Dating Ring. Her worst first date was with a political consultant who ordered a bottle of wine for himself, and texted with his ex-girlfriend for over an hour.  Now she tries to prevent dates like these from happening to her clients.  Surely, Eva’s work involves a lot of administration and other mundane tasks, but having a clear sense of the story behind what she does would keep her focused on why she does it!  This will only improve the quality of her work.

Storytelling provides an opportunity for connection.  As we spend more time staring at our screens, there is a greater need to create lived experiences of human connection.  Storytelling serves as a vehicle for such connections.  Live storytelling involves verbal as well as non-verbal cues such as long breaths, a long pause or eye contact – none of which could be appreciated outside of a live interaction.  It is these elements that create the most moving experiences.  When we are moved, we drop our emotional guards and become more open to others.  And isn’t that what we’re all looking for?

So, what’s your story?