Monday, 14 September 2009

Stories and Examples are different

We know that stories engage hearts and minds more than bullet points on a PowerPoint or a three page proposal. I believe there is a very important difference between stories and examples.

Stories are personal. I know a story when the person telling it comes alive with the emotions attached to the story. I can feel their passion, enthusiasm, sadness, delight - whatever. I am drawn into their personal experience. It is stories like this that engage me.

When someone stands on a stage and tells someone else's story - then for me that is an example. No matter how much we resonate with the other person's story their passion, enthusiasm, sadness, delight - whatever - is unlikely to be captured by the example-teller. Examples are helpful, though I suggest they are no different from the paragraphs in papers. They are second-hand and no longer associated with the context and emotions that go with them.

I am sometimes asked if a story I have used can be used by someone else. I usually recommend they find a way of developing their own reservoir of stories. This is sometimes difficult. Those who develop and advance theories may find their work disconnected from the reality of practice. The best way to both test the theories and develop your own stories is to test them out on a small scale. Not only will this provide self-confidence, it will also demonstrate the practicalities of your theory or suggestion and increase your personal credibility as you have a personal story to tell.

In the event you are unable to experience your own story, then I suggest capturing someone else's using a short video. Then allow their story to be told as they wish.

In the next week, try to focus on gathering, maintaining, treasuring your own stories. If you find yourself giving an example - telling someone else's story - then take a breather and see how you might do something differently to get the outcomes you desire from your listeners.

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