Technique 1.48 Story‐telling (Discourse Theory)


. Some of the most influential books use stories to get their message across, such as the Bible, Koran, etc.

Over the years, religious stories, like the Good Samaritan, have been used by all sides of politics, religion, society, etc.

It is a symbolic language that is used in a secular culture to get a message across, ie you should be kind to everyone, irrespective of their status.

However we can justify, rationalise, etc and can think of any number of perfectly good reasons we should or should not do something.
This raises 2 challenges

 i) good citizenship depends on the fact that people
"...are not just rational civic intellects, but live out of a moral hinterland that is shaped by very diverse imprints and affiliations..."
Rowan Williams, 2017/18

 ii) casting our most passionately held moral commitments in religious terms

More recently people are using the Internet and social media networks (like Facebook, LinkedIn, Blogs, Twitter, Elsy, etc) to tell stories

. · Furthermore, over tens of thousands of years, Indigenous Australians have used stories, re‐enforced with paintings, ceremonies, dance, etc, to convey knowledge from one generation to the next about the environment, law and relationships. Their stories have multi‐layered meanings that are an important part of the learning process in their culture (see later on in this section).

. Stories make the emotional connections

"...You can preach logic and numbers all day long, and while people might understand it, they don't get excited and don't necessarily understand the message behind it..."

Jack Percy as quoted by Jeff Walters, 2014

. Linked with storytelling is the term "homo narrans". Homo narrans means storytelling ape. In some circles this is the preferred alternative to the term homo sapiens.

. Story‐telling is about getting attention, legitimising the ideas presented plus establishing an appropriate connection and creating trust

. "...Our species existed for more than 100,000 years before the earliest signs of literacy, and another 5000 years would pass before the majority of humans would know how to read and write. Stories were the primary way an ancestor transmitted knowledge and values. Today we seek movies, novels and news stories that put the events of the day in a form that our brains evolved to find compelling and memorable. Children crave bedtime stories; the holy books of the three great monotheistic religions are written in parables; and, as research in cognitive science has shown, lawyers whose closing arguments tell a story win jury trials against their legal adversaries who just lay out "the facts of the case:..."

. Drew Westen, 2011

"...the elementary role of story‐telling is motivating, persuading, and gaining eager cooperation......subsequent appreciation for the mental and emotional processes it unleashes..."

Doug Lipman as quoted by Annette Simons, 2002

"...telling a good story is like giving a mini‐documentary of what you have seen so others can see it, too. It is a way to mine deep down and touch the tender heart of the most the offensive and adversary or power hungry scoundrel obstructing your path or withholding the resources you need to achieve what you want to achieve......if you tell them a story that makes better sense to them, you can reframe the way they organize their thoughts, the meanings they draw, and thus the actions they take......they can begin to see obstacles as challenges, and choose behaviours more befitting......change their story and you change their behaviour..."

If you frame the story right, make it compelling, it will enable the listener to connect to whatever issue you are trying to drive. It is a different and engaging way to rally people to action. You need more than just data for people to step up and take action. You need to engage both the head and heart.


"...Clothing truth in story is a powerful way to get people to open the doors of their minds to you and the truth you carry.....story doesn't grab power. Story creates power...... As a story‐teller you borrow a story's power to connect people to what is important and to help them make sense of the world......Stories are "more true" than facts because stories are multidimensional......facts need the context of when, who, and where to become Truths......the stories that are told and retold will define behaviour better than any policy manual ‐ for better or for worse..."

Annette Simmons, 2002

Steve Jobs recognised the importance of storytelling as a way to connect with other people. It was a skill he used in his presentations at Apple

"... When he got up in front of an audience to introduce a new product, he understood that he would communicate more effectively if he put forward a narrative; he gave extraordinary performances..."

Ed Catmull, 2014

. In other words, stories are "sense‐makers" as they represent organisational understanding and can unify groups; they have a source of power, ie stories can be used to silence others who may disagree

. Organisational stories provide members with models that guide their behaviour and sense of belonging as they reflect the norms, values and culture of the organisation. Some typical plots of organisational stories include

"...‐ the rule breaking story

‐ when a little person rose to the top

‐ how the boss reacts to mistakes

‐ how the organisation deals with obstacles

‐ the change incident

‐ the story of restructure......

Stories serve to create

‐ a vision of the future

‐ a coherent sense of the past

‐ a journey for the listener......

There are a number of ways in which stories have their effect upon listeners. Stories

‐ stimulate the visual images in the listener

‐ create a detailed picture of the situation

‐ provide vicarious experience for the listener

‐ reconcile past events and future plans

‐ allow people to project their actions into the story

‐ generate meaning about a phenomenon..."

Ken Parry, 2005

Furthermore, organisations' stories can change but honesty is paramount, ie

"...rather than stressing lifelong service, for which retirement benefits and a gold watch are the reward, companies now stress the development of skills that, if necessary, travel with the individual to the next job. When downsizing or re‐engineering are more likely than lifetime employment, and when executives regularly (if irresponsibly) jump ship in the search for a more attractive financial package, the message must also be delicately phrased. If the story is too facile, it will not be believed......and properly the end, while stories need to be dramatic, motivating, memorable, picturesque, even garlanded with appropriate music and graphics, they also need to be honest. That is where integrity comes in. Stories that do not resonate with reality ultimately prove frustrating and ineffective.....When all is said and done, then, the most important ingredient for a story is to embody the truth..."

Howard Gardner, 2006

. In fact, organisational stories capture organisational life in a way that no compilation of facts can ever do. This is because the stories are carriers of life itself, not just reports on it. Stories can be used to help people recall events and to remember information.

. The more memorable the story, the greater is the impact upon the audience. In other words,

"...anecdotes, examples and stories add liveliness and reality to the discussion. They maybe stories from your own experience or ones you have heard and believed to be relevant. Stories do not prove anything except perhaps to challenge a generalisation (by showing exceptions). Stories illustrate principles, processes and possibilities..."

Edward deBono, 2005


"...we may think of the mind as a vast area of combat. In its competitive environment, various stories compete, wrestle, vie with one another for survival, the long‐term entrenchment in the mind/brain, for the opportunity to stimulate consequential is not easy for a story to gain a hearing......most stories and most jokes are not remembered for long, because they are too similar to what we have already heard and thus lack distinctiveness. Instead they are assimilated to already‐accepted or known stories......on the other hand, stories that are too bizarre or exotic also elude memory. Either they are repressed because they are too alien or too threatening......they are distorted so that they fit comfortably with stories that are already known......optimally, your story has to have enough familiar elements so that it is not instantly rejected yet be distinctive enough that it compels attention and engages the mind. The audience has to be prepared, in one sense, and yet surprised, in another..."

Howard Gardner, 2006

. One of the characteristics of powerful stories is that they appeal more to emotion rather than reason

. A story has the elements of time, space, character, action and consequences. They can explain the way people see their reality. For example, different levels of the organisation can see change differently; there are competing and multiple stories, ie

‐ management

"...we're very much a work together team......We're heading towards being a world‐class operation and our people will be world‐class too..."

Patrick Dawson, 2005

‐ supervisor

"...they should tell workers what is going on in the company and keep them informed about decisions. Information should go to all employees and not just supervisors and leading hands..."

Patrick Dawson, 2005

‐ worker

"...It's not like what you read in the papers. The managers get the limelight at the expense of the workers and they don't give them sufficient recognition..."

Patrick Dawson, 2005

. Furthermore, is there an authentic change story? The answer is no. There are multiple stories that change over time and influence the process of change. Other stories may exist but often remain silent. Usually after the change process, a single story will emerge as the story of the change. Thus dominant or official accounts maybe inappropriately used as a knowledge base for identifying key ingredients with which to manage change. Furthermore, after the event, stories can be used to sanitise the change process. These sanitised stories can change over time to suit the particular agenda of some stakeholders, ie Board and senior management.

. Generally a framework is developed based on these "structured" stories that can leave out activities that are not favourable to some stakeholders. In traditional stories there is a linear temporal structure, ie this happened, then this happened, etc causing this to occur. The narrator provides the orientation to key events; uses humour to engage audience attention; uses characterisations, such as heroes, villains, fools, victims, etc; a message or moral/lesson is attached to the story. Problems associated with this are at that

‐ the episodes show the company in a positive light

‐ the process is sanitised for a neat linear prescription

. Stories can be used to both understand and manage the change process. In the story, the interpretation is important. It helps to make sense of the experience

. Remember that an example, metaphor, analogy, proverb and story are all linked; do not get side‐tracked into the debate about academic distinctions between them.

. Some of the best stories are rhythmical and rhyming

. Stories are powerful as they can

promise to give answers

represent the perception of facts and/or truth

do our thinking for us

be used to interpret reality

illustrate a principle

undermine formal authority

"...awakening the good in people is better done with stories, music and freshly baked cookies than flowcharts and PowerPoint shows..."

Annette Simmons, 2002

"...stories are far more potent (alas) than ideas; they are also easier to remember and more fun to read......ideas come and go, stories stay..."

Nassim Taleb, 2007

. In story‐telling, the context and words used can manipulate the audience owing to the connotations (positive and negative) of the words chosen to deliver the narrative. Adjectives, like selfish, pompous, dismissive, crafty, greedy, boastful, etc are very subjective and thus manipulative of the reader/audience)

. There are links between leadership and storytelling, ie

"...first, stories become leaders in that they exhibit the functions of leadership. Second, we are supporting a considerable extant literature which says that story‐telling is a leadership skill, which can be taught and learnt. Third, management should build stories as much as they should build 'leaders'..."

Ken Parry, 2005


" way to catch the attention of a disparate population: by creating a compelling story, embodying that story in one's own life, and presenting the story in many different formats so that it can eventually topple the counter stories in one's culture. Yet, any old story will not do; it must exhibit certain characteristics. As a general rule, when one is addressing a diverse or heterogeneous audience, the story must be simple, easy to identify with, and emotionally resonant, and evocative of positive experiences......if they story is to complex, it will likely be above the heads of some audience members. When contrasted with simpler stories, therefore, complex stories almost always have trouble getting a hearing, let alone carrying the day..."

Howard Gardner, 2006

It is of interest to note

"...On rare occasions, individuals with neither vast armies or last congregations have succeeded in exerting influence well beyond national boundaries.......They have done so because of the persuasiveness of their stories and the steadfastness with which they have reinforced their stories through their manner of living. In the 20th century, 3 men stand out as exemplars in this category: Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Jean Monnet..."

Howard Gardner, 2006

. Stories can be very short but have a powerful message, as the 8 perspectives below demonstrate

i) if a manager is over‐criticising his/her staff, the situation can be best handled by a one line story, ie

"...the person who beats his horse will soon be walking..."

as quoted by Annette Simmons, 2002

Rather than a directive to stop criticising his/her staff. This type of directive will mostly be met with a statement, such as "How else do I let them know that they are making mistakes!!!!"

ii) an old German proverb, ie

"...You sweep the steps from the top down..."

Wendelin Wiedeking (Porsche) as quoted by Emily Ross et al, 2004

This suggests that effective change permeates the entire organisation, but must start with senior management.

iii) an old proverb

" can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink..."

This means that you can give someone the opportunity but it is then up to them how they handle the opportunity.

iv) another proverb

"...walk the talk..."


"...actions speak louder than words..."

Are your actions supporting what you are saying? eg

‐ if you are saying times are tough, are you cutting your own expenses in addition to other staffs' expenses?

‐ if you are encouraging innovation, how do you handle a failure?

‐ if you are encouraging customer focus, how are you handling customer complaints?

‐ if you are encouraging teamwork, how do you reward people, ie on individual or team performance?

v) if your boss is listening more to somebody's else view rather than yours, ie

" have 2 ears, yet you are listening with just 1 of them..."

In other words, listen to all views rather than accept one as the basis for decision‐making

vi) a Native American Indian proverb

" order to understand a man, one must walk a mile in his moccasins..."

as quoted by Robert Winston, 2003

In other words, to understand somebody else, you need to put yourself in their position for a while

vii) consider the old saying

"...give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for life until someone comes along with a better fishing technique or until war over takes him and he becomes a refugee or until somebody builds a factory and pollutes all his fish. But, if you teach a man to think, then you feed him for life..."

Edward deBono as quoted by Piers Dudgeon, 2001

Stresses the importance of teaching a person to think.

viii) a longer story

"...There are 2 types of birds with different eye sight, ie one has good and the other bad. The ones with the good eye sight are able to see, select and eat the favoured nut; it is their only food. More often than not, the ones with the poor eyesight mistakenly select similar nuts but not necessarily the favoured nut; they have learnt to live on a variety of food. A disaster occurs and the tree producing the favoured nut disappears. The bird with the poor eye survives as they do not exclusively desire the favoured nuts, while the one with the good eye sight disappears as they are unable to adjust to the new environment..."

Edward deBono, 1992

In other words, if you specialise and rely solely on one area of expertise, and if this specialised activity is no longer required, the specialist will go out of business. On the other hand, a generalist will survive this situation as he/she has other skills available.

NB A simple story will always trump a complex one. On the other hand, more complex stories have a better chance of success when the organisation is of limited size and composed of staff with similar backgrounds and common expertise.

. Furthermore, each of these examples emphasises that stories can be an indirect approach, especially when directness will not work.

. Compared with stories, other forms of influence, such as reward, bargaining, bribery, rhetoric, coercion and trickery are too tightly focused on the desired outcome. These tactics can foster resistance as the strategies limits manoeuvrability, ie take it or leave it. However, a story can increase manoeuvrability, ie give you space to think. Furthermore, it allows curiosity to develop, helps make sense out of confusion and gives the audience a better understanding

. Stories induce an altered state of awareness

" expanded awareness of the imagined world......stories also move people to a very young state of awareness that is less analytical, more receptive, and better connected to their unconscious and imagination.....Preliminary research has documented that listening to an engaging story lowers blood pressure and slows heartbeat.....story tunnels underneath these conscious walls of logic to touch the subconscious......left brain has built walls of logic around this to protect it..."

Annette Simmons, 2002

. Remember: the best story wins. This may not necessarily be the right story or the most frequently told story. It is

"...the story that means the most to the greatest number of people ‐ the one that is remembered......if the story becomes real enough for them, they will find the facts to fit the story their subconscious mind believes..."

Annette Simmons, 2002

. Before a story can have any influence, the story‐teller has to create trust by answering 2 major questions

i) Who are you?

ii) Why are you here?

. A story lets the audience decide for themselves whether they can trust you. Story‐telling is a pull strategy, ie if your story is good enough, people ‐ of their own free will ‐ come to the conclusion that they can trust you and the message you bring. This is different from other methods of influence that are push strategies, such as persuasion, bribery or charismatic appeals

. A story‐teller needs to hold the audience attention and build affiliation. Furthermore, stories are used to legitimise the ideas presented

. There are 3 main reasons people can feel uncomfortable telling a story. They are afraid

i) that they will look stupid, corny, manipulative or unprofessional. Unfortunately "professional" usually means being tidy, logical and rational; being proven empirically and leading to a logical conclusion

ii) to show their emotions and be personal. On the other hand, in order to communicate emotion, you have to feel it first. Emotions of hope, love, compassion, courage, empathy, joy and inspiration are the drivers of desirable behaviours, while emotions like anger, fear or sadness are negative ones that are counter‐productive. In fact,

" influence you need to be emotional ‐ which goes against everything you were ever told about how we should act in front of the people we want to influence......whether we admit it or not, emotions are the driving force behind any major decision we make. Lots of people who claim to be unemotional are either in denial or driven by emotions...... such as greed or fear..."

Annette Simmons, 2002

iii) to lose control, as most of us like to be in control; some of us are "control freaks"

"...losing yourself in the telling of your story means you are not in control as when you are reading bullet points off slides or reading from notes......The to influence, not control..."

Annette Simmons, 2002

. They are 6 types of stories that will help establish a connection with, and influence, others

i) "what I am" stories

ii) "why I am here" stories

iii) "the vision" stories

iv) "teaching" stories

v) "values‐in‐action" stories

vi) "I know what you are thinking" stories

1 "What I am" stories

. To help make the connection and to create trust, it is important for the audience to know what kind of person the story‐teller is and what the story‐teller stands to gain from the listeners' cooperation. Furthermore, judgments about the story‐teller's believability are heavily influenced by how much the audience can trust the story‐teller's assurances about potential gains and/or losses. Remember: most people subconsciously assume your gain will mean their loss. We instinctively erect barriers to protect ourselves

"...let people see who you are, help them to feel like they know you personally, and your trust ratio automatically triples..."

Annette Simmons, 2002

. Generally, it is a waste of time extolling the benefits or the logic of a process until the appropriate connection with the audience is first established, ie we need to know the story‐teller before we can trust him or her and be influenced by him or her. For example, if a group believes that most consultants are more interested in billable work than the clients' success, they don't hear the message until they decide for themselves that this story‐teller is different.

. Thus the story‐teller needs to engage the emotional brain as well as the rational brain

. This involves the story‐teller demonstrating who they are rather than telling who they are. A story lets the story‐teller demonstrate who they are, ie demonstrate his/her authenticity

. Personal stories are one of the best ways to demonstrate who you are.

"...Ultimately people trust your judgment and your words based on subjective evidence. Objective data doesn't go deep enough to engender trust......personal stories allow you to reveal an aspect of yourself that is otherwise invisible..."

Annette Simmons, 2002

. Alternatives to a personal story include fables, historical stories, stories retold by a friend, current event stories and parables. Any of these can become a "who I am" story if you tell it in a way that genuinely reveals a part of who you are on a personal level

. Using a story of a personal flaw is very powerful. This is called self‐disclosure and involves the experience of vulnerability‐without‐exploitation, ie

"...if I trust you enough to show you my flaws, you can trust me enough to show me yours......true strength is found not in perfection, but in understanding..."

Annette Simmons, 2002

2 "Why I am here" stories

. Even if your listeners decide you are a trustworthy human being, they still wonder what is in it for you to get their cooperation. Unless you have a good answer, your audience will assume that you have more to gain than they do ‐ otherwise, why are you trying to influence?

"...People do not mind selfish goals as long as they aren't exploitative........"Why I am here" story usually reveals enough for people to make a distinction between healthy ambition and dishonest exploitation......If your goals are selfish, people don't mind as long as you are up‐front about them, there is something in it for them, and you frame your goals in a way that makes sense to them"

Annette Simmons, 2002


people will not "think kindly" of someone who treats them as stupid

‐ never tell a story to someone you do not respect

3 "The vision" stories (see "visioning" in Volume 2)

. Once you have made your audience comfortable about "who you are" and "why you are here", then they are ready to listen to what you think is in it for them

"...You have to take time to find a story of your vision in a way that connects ‐ a story that people can see......a vision story weaves all the pieces together ‐ particularly the struggle and the frustrations ‐ so that it all makes sense..."

Annette Simmons, 2002

eg Martin Luther King ("I have a dream")

eg 3 brick layers are building a cathedral

. Furthermore, listening to the stories of those you wish to influence is the best way to co‐create a new future story that will pull people in the direction you desire

" tell an effective story you need to understand their world..."

Annette Simmons, 2002

4 "Teaching" stories (How I'd like you to think stories)

"...often the message you want to send is less about what you want them to do and more about how you want it done. Story‐telling is perfectly suited to combine both what and how......teaching stories help us make sense of new skills in meaningful ways. You never teach a skill that doesn't have a reason why......When skills become a part of a story, everything is linked and our memory works better..."

Annette Simmons, 2002

eg Plato used stories to teach people to think

. Be careful of oversimplification and too much clarity ‐ complexity is OK in story‐telling

5 "Values‐in‐action" stories (what I'd like you to think about)

. Stories that demonstrate values

. After teaching values by example, story‐telling is the next best strategy,

"...Stories let you instil values in a way that keeps people thinking for themselves ......Values are meaningless without stories to bring them to life and engage us on a personal level and personal stories are the best way to engage people at a personal level..."

Annette Simmons, 2002

6 "I know what you are thinking" stories

"...When you are telling a story that makes people wonder if you are reading their minds, they love it..."

Annette Simmons, 2002

The 7 techniques for finding stories

1 Look for patterns, such as

‐ the recurring themes

‐ sequences that show you are on the right track

‐ repeated instances of frustrations

‐ moments of glory (how they tied together and what they mean to you)

2 Look for consequences, such as

‐ recall the good and bad results of your past efforts and see how they contribute to the methods you can choose to get things done

‐ consider the good or bad results that influence the way you develop relationships

‐ read stories with morals like Aesop's fables to activate memories of similar events in your life

3 Look for lessons, such as

‐ remember a crisis in your life and articulate the lessons learned

‐ recall the biggest mistakes you ever made

‐ a time when you were glad you listened to your parents

‐ a turning point in your career and the lessons you learned

‐ look back and consider things you might have done differently

4 Local utility, such as

‐ remember a story that changed you and weave your new story with the old one

‐ remember the stories you have heard that seem to work

‐ ask others for a story that influenced them and ask permission to use it

5 Look for vulnerability, such as

‐ talk about your sore spots

‐ the last time you cried

‐ the last time you were so happy

‐ an embarrassing moment

‐ a time you wanted to crawl under the table and hide

‐ touching family stories about those you love deeply

6 Look for future experience, such as

‐ develop your daydreaming of "how it could be" into a full story with real live characters (people love it when you put them in the story)

‐ develop your worries into a full‐blown story with potential negative consequences ‐ how they will play out and who will be affected

7 Look for story recollections, such as

‐ recount the story that stuck with you

‐ your favorite movie or book and the reasons

The 6 most common reactions of resistors to a story

(based on an adversarial view of the world and lack of co‐operation)

1. Cynicism ‐ this occurs when people you are trying to influence doubt your sincerity, your confidence, or your ability to deliver. These cynical people want evidence and first‐hand experience. One of the most cynical groups is comprised of technology experts and scientists

2. Resentment ‐ usually involves people who want somebody else to change first before they will co‐operate

3. Jealous ‐ can be linked with egos, internal turf wars, etc and/or nepotism, racism, etc. Need to shift focus from past injustices to build for future collaboration. When dealing with jealousy, deal with your own resentments first so that your tone is genuine, respectful and compassionate

4. Hopelessness ‐ is linked with the feeling of having no power (see defensive routines, etc under Ingredient 1)

5. Apathy ‐ this can be expressed as "not my problem" that can be linked with lack of concern and/or over‐concern, and selfish me‐first orientation towards others

6. Greed ‐ if you have something they want, it is easy

Some "Dos" and "Don'ts"

1. Do intrigue and captivate

"...your story is interesting if it talks about that which interests your in specifics about something you know personally. Generalisations are boring. Everyone is interested if you peel away generalisations, fade, and politically correct mumbo‐jumbo. Playing it safe isn't interesting. Being superficial isn't interesting. Authenticity isn't interesting. Passion is interesting. Authentic human tragedy and comedy are interesting......a healthy sense of curiosity is the best long‐term strategy to ensure your stories are interesting......there is a world of difference between being curious about someone and trying to understand someone. Curiosity is more egalitarian, full of wonder, ready for surprises and seeks permission. Trying to understand implies superiority, a finite framework of logic......carries connotations of resentment about having to make the effort..."

Annette Simmons, 2002

. For example, a story of about bathroom sabotage: after a meeting, 2 people go to the bathroom. After checking under each lavatory door for feet, they then say what they really think, ie the meeting was a waste of time!!!!!!! This short story is more interesting than saying people don't tell the truth in meetings but are more honest in private. It connects and grabs attention with what they know from personal experience.


"...bizarre tales from strange places or new fields of thought attract people's attention..."

Annette Simmons, 2002

For example,

" in both heaven and hell people sit around a big table loaded with a feast, each person holding a fork 6 ft. long. In hell they starve to death because they cannot get the forks to their mouths and in heaven they use the long forks to feed each other. This is a good story about co‐operation..."

Annette Simmons, 2002

. A story can be made more inviting by adding images, smells and sounds. Furthermore, a story can be made more interesting by adding sensory and emotional stimulation that better glues the story to our memory

2. Do connect at the level of humanity

. Humour is a way to connect with our common humanity

. Laughter is a good way to capture attention as an audience has to listen to know when to laugh. Be aware that laughter does not signal agreement or disagreement; it is ambiguous. Laughter can be cohesive, ie through laughter, the group dynamics start to work.

. Remember:

"...laughter is infectious......Laughter functions primarily as a social lubricant ‐ and many scientists believe the smile, its extension into a full‐blown guffaw, is essentially a means of showing others that we are not a threat to them, and a means of promoting group bonding. Other primates exhibit forms of behaviour physiologically similar to the human laughter maybe a form of social activity in both animals and humans......laughter is up to 30 times more likely to occur in a group than when we are alone......laughter gets us on the 'same wavelength' and thereby promotes bonding......perhaps the logic is laughter can defuse violence, promoting group bonding and therefore assist in the business of survival......the areas of the brain involved in laughter are at least three‐fold: the frontal lobes assess the situation and detect 'what's funny', the supplementary motor area produces necessary facial and vocal movements and the nucleus accumbens gives rise to the attendant feeling of pleasure..."

Robert Winston, 2003


"...Most of the time, you can't start with everybody on the same wavelength in terms of what you want them to do or believe, but you can get them on the same wavelength in terms of that common experience as human already understand what most humans love, hate, fear, long for and what we mourn. Your best stories connect your listeners to you and to each other at these points of common experience......Stories are a representation of non‐rational relationships. Relationships between people, between people and ideas, people and problems....."

Annette Simmons, 2002

3 Do leave them feeling hopeful

. To influence your audience, you must provide them with hope for a future that is reachable and/or worthy of their effort

"...the most common reason people fail to influence is that they have secretly lost hope, feel powerless, or have become lost in contempt for the very ones they wish to influence...... powerful stories need heart. Hope is the intangible life force for truly influential stories...... your ability to influence comes and goes along with your belief in your success......At times, the goal you desire and promise feels almost a question of not clarity nor strategic planning, not action items, and definitely not willpower......Tell a story that brings faith and hope and you can achieve success without perfect clarity, without accurate strategic planning, without unanimity in decision‐making, and best of all, without title dependence on willpower ..."

Annette Simmons, 2002

. Cynicism and apathy are simple defences against hope

4 Don't act superior

"...any assumption of superiority is an overt act of disrespect. We must keep a delicate balance between influencing others to some "better way" and respecting the choices they have made up to now......approaching those who wish to influence from a position of pious superiority creates either resentment or dependency. Those are troublesome......dependency actually looks like successful influence..... At first, a large part of the population prefers not to think of themselves. Any person who tells a moving "I have the answer" story can usually build up a decent contingent of followers..."

Annette Simmons, 2002

. Furthermore, there are other forms of superiority to be careful of including

"guruitus" (the expert who cultivates followers but risks excluding the "thinking" public)

"...gurus seek to establish the authority of their knowledge and claims by telling at least one story in each performance that is designed to establish the veracity and legitimacy of the ideas they are communicating......they position themselves as disinterested researchers learning directly from managers and organisations....gurus also use stories to drop names of senior managers and big organisations with which they had contact. They also tell stories that suggest they are in high demand, and that they have a high market value..."

Helen Trinca, 2005b

‐ "self‐righteousness" (story‐teller implies that he/she is superior to the audience/listeners)

‐ "story‐telling voice" (an artifice such as sing‐song exaggerated tone and often accompanied by over‐acted facial expressions)

. Remember: respect is communicated at such micro‐levels by elements such as tone of voice and by body language

5 Don't bore your listeners

. Examples of potentially boring strategies includes

. ‐ telling a story that is too long, ie rambling on

. ‐ becoming nervous and talking too quickly

. ‐ telling a story that goes nowhere

. ‐ forgetting your listeners

. ‐ telling your story for your own therapy

. ‐ venting your frustrations on a story soapbox

. ‐ letting fear dominate your imagination

. A story‐teller needs to be interesting to others in order to stay connected to both what is interesting to them and what is interesting about the narrator and the story

. Ways for story‐tellers to reduce the risk of being boring includes

get specific, ie keep away from hypotheticals and theories as they do not focus enough on senses or emotions. Specific stories engage the whole brain and enchant the audience

stop talking, ie need to realize that the story‐teller is talking to the audience, not himself/herself. If losing your audience, being silent may help the listeners return. Furthermore, if you are boring people, finish your story early.

engage your audience, ie ask your audience for help, such as "is this story boring?" The signal will determine how you re‐direct your story to connect with their interest or yours and, if required, use another story to get them connected. Furthermore, if you become nervous and/or lose your place, the best strategy is to admit it to your audience.

limit your interactions with the audience, ie do not overexposure yourself to your audience

6 Don't scare people and don't make them feel guilty

"...overdoses of fear and guilt eventually immobilize people. These emotions are "move away from" emotions, not "move towards" emotions......humour and story can influence better than humiliation and shame..."

Annette Simmons, 2002

7 Don't ridicule anybody in the audience

. Any jokes, etc should not be personally directed at the anyone in the audience. It is OK to make a joke or tell a funny story involving yourself. Sometimes this is a good way to endear and connect yourself to the audience, ie shows that you are humane and have a sense of humour!!!!!!

eg when Abraham Lincoln was attacked for leniency on his enemies. One person told him that he should destroy his enemies. He replied, "Isn't that what I do when I make them my friends?"

8 Don't be a lousy listener

Some people think that asking lots of questions is good listening. Sometimes people use questions to try to destroy a story. Instead be a supportive listener.

The Indigenous framework for storytelling

. Stories are used as a framework in traditional education for generating and maintaining the knowledge base of the people. Most stories can interchange animals and people (this is different from non‐indigenous stories in which the animals are not people, but only act as people)

. The stories are linked with the land, environment (plants, animals, etc) and the people, ie

"...Animals, plants and earth contribute considerable knowledge to the stories (they populate the stories, they function as mnemonics), the law (the totem system was inspired by animals) and the tools (in the form of tangible materials)..."

Karl‐Erik Sveiby et al, 2006

. Each story has 4 levels of insight

i) the first level is the text itself that explains natural features and animal behaviours. This level answers some of the fundamental questions that a child would ask about the natural environment, ie why do crows have black feathers and white eyes? The events described have a basis in the real world, ie the story can come alive. Thus the natural environment reinforces the learning on a daily basis

ii) the second level concerns the relationships between people within the community. The story does not explicitly explain this. The insight has to be extracted as part of your education. To do this, some "pre‐knowledge" is required (including understanding the insight at the first level); an uninitiated person would lack the pre‐knowledge. Some examples of second level insights are

do not impose your views on others

share knowledge

with knowledge comes responsibility

split the roles

if you break the law, you carry the shame, etc

(NB Most non‐indigenous stories or fables do not get past this level)

iii) the third level focuses on the relationships between your own community and the larger environment (the earth and other Indigenous communities). Similarly to the second level, the story does not explicitly explain this. Again, some "pre‐knowledge" is required (including understanding the insight at the second level) to help you discover the insight yourself. This level teaches a holistic perspective. Some examples of the third level insight are

do not stay in one place

do not deplete the breeding stock

behave responsibly towards other communities

punish only your own, etc

iv) not all stories have the fourth level; it involves spiritual action and psychic skills

"...including practice, ceremonies and experiences which gain access to the special esoteric knowledge in the story......sacred laws..."

Karl‐Erik Sveiby et al, 2006

Some examples of the fourth insight are

‐ travel in spirit

‐ watch out for spirits in your sleep

‐ changing your appearance, etc

The story learning processthe stories, (except the most sacred ones) are repeated many times but the insights are never told explicitly; people can gain access to the insights through hard intellectual work. Learning the stories by deduction of the insights is a key to the Indigenous education system. The youth extract the insights with some help from the Elders. In other words,

"...The value creation loop is closely linked with the knowledge building loop.....contained in the landscape and the animals and the plants that populate it. For observations......learn how to best sustain the landscape and animals and plants. This knowledge accumulated in the stories, songs and ceremonies. The stories in their turn become material for intellectual query and individual self reflection, which reinforced the connection between nature and individuals..."

Karl‐Erik Sveiby et al, 2006

‐ The stories are very culturally specific; consequently, people from other cultures and/or with little understanding of Indigenous culture struggle to understand the different levels of insights.

"...The ability to pull out meanings depends on the context and it is also accumulative; the more background knowledge you have and the more of the law you have already learned, the more you can pull out. Story learning was therefore both a socialisation process and coming‐of‐age process, with built‐in examinations, that continued from initiation through your whole life. When you have exhausted the meanings of one story you have cleared that level and you may use that story as background knowledge for the next story. The process therefore also confirmed and strengthened your identification with your culture.

The 4‐level model also meant that all stories could be told freely to the whole community: the 4 levels and education process ensured that each person understood the story on the level that fitted their individual level of development. Children could understand the first level and have a curiosity satisfied, while the old people could reflect on the higher levels of meaning. And everybody, young and old, would enjoy the drama and the excitement of the performance..."

Karl‐Erik Sveiby et al, 2006

. Each story has 4 custodians. They are responsible for maintaining at least one specific part of the story and teaching everybody in the community the first level of meaning of a story. Furthermore, they ensure the traditions of the story are kept alive. All the custodians understand the 3 levels of meaning and are a check on each other version of the story. Thus

"...the custodian has a role to both protect the integrity of the story and to allow access to it..."

Karl‐Erik Sveiby et al, 2006

(sources: Annette Simmons, 2002; Patrick Dawson, 2005; Helen Trinca, 2005b; Ken Parry, 2005; Robert Winston, 2003; Edward deBono, 1992 & 2004; Piers Dudgeon, 2001; Emily Ross et al, 2004; Howard Gardner, 2006; Karl‐Erik Sveiby et al, 2006; John Niles, 2002; Peter Liesch & Jorgen Sandberg, 2012)


Search For Answers

designed by: bluetinweb

We use cookies to provide you with a better service.
By continuing to use our site, you are agreeing to the use of cookies as set in our policy. I understand