03 Sep Storytelling: What it is, Why it Matters, What You Can Do
Storytelling is a core career and life skill. It’s the art and science of communicating in a manner that influences others to empathize with the storyteller and respond to a specific call to action.
Stories are part of what makes us human, and we’ve been telling and re-telling stories as long as we’ve had language. They have the ability to hook us in, connect with us emotionally, and inspire us. Furthermore, stories are “sticky,” remaining in our minds and easy to share socially.
And the best stories create links with our lives; pictures, emotions and voices in our heads. We feel the storyteller is speaking to us in particular.
However, I’m broadening the tool of storytelling beyond the mechanics of “telling” in its various formats (oral, visual, written, TED Talk, etc.), to include the reality of each of us being stories…being, even more specifically, brands that tell a story.
“Brand” is a long-established marketing term referring to what a company, product, or service is “known for.” This knowing can be cognitive, emotional, and even subconscious, as this article implies. Since each of us are known for something, whether we like it or not, we are storytelling brands.
Here below, I’ve curated a long list of storytelling habits that reflect my more expansive definition. These are things we can do to show up well, to effect change, to influence actions.
Don’t try to master all of these habits at once. Do pick a couple to focus on for a while and get better at.
Advocate and be an ally to those with less privilege than you have
Apologize when you’ve screwed up
Create and design things
Do what you said you’d do
Don’t attack others on social media
Don’t be passive-aggressive
Don’t be the first to laugh at your own jokes
Don’t make excuses
Don’t wear socks with sandals
Don’t yell at people or animals
Fight for freedom
Geek out on stuff that interests and excites you
Give the benefit of the doubt
Have a filter and use it
Have a good “hook’
Keep showing up and giving it your best effort
Know your audience
Maintain good hygiene
Make eye contact
Network with purpose
Realize that marketing is part of your job
Study the habits of TED Talks speakers
Take public speaking and presentation classes
Tell good stories that stick with people
Tell the truth
Treat service workers with kindness and respect
Use archetypes, metaphors, motifs, and symbols
Use good manners
Use humor wisely and sensitively
Vote! (talk about a chance to “change the story”)
In my work, I write, strategize, and coach about how to develop three core skills in particular–mindfulness, learning agility, and storytelling, and their corresponding habits. These are the skills that will help us thrive amid disruptive possibilities such as AI, Big Data Algorithms, and Biotechnology, and make wise, courageous choices in the face of Climate Change, Industrial Complexes, and the National Debt.
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