Infrequently Answered Questions
QUESTION: I’ve been reading your book, Story Factor, and it’s really opened my eyes to the power of story and how far it can take someone (like a Jesus or a Hitler).
I was wondering, though, what your thoughts were on using it to influence yourself. I know you say that you have to believe a story before you can tell it convincingly. But is there a way to use story to, say, overcome shyness or eliminate fears and bring out the best in yourself?
ANSWER: I use story all the time to manage my internal state and manage my behavior.
I need an internal story to keep me from acting superior when I think people are being unkind or acting unethically. I have no idea what the whole story is and I have ample truth that I my snap judgments can be oh-so-wrong.
Intellectually, I know this so I’ve tried to be open and compassionate towards everyone but when I’m running a story inside my head that is negative, my “warm and compassionate” comments are delivered in a fake, snarky tone of voice that doesn’t kid anyone. People know when you judge them as “insufficient” in some way.
I tell myself my own “who I am and why I’m here” story:
Humans need to increase cooperative behaviors or we will destroy our species (war or environmental disaster) and that there is every reason to believe we can do this: if our species can evolve an opposing thumb to survive, how hard can it be to evolve more cooperative behaviors? Even if I don’t see the progress by the time I die, every morning I wake up knowing what team I want to be on.
Living this story is enough to check my snap judgments at the door when I work with a group, apologize when I need to, and find unexpected ways to be kind.
So that’s one example from my life…are you going to come up with one for yourself?
QUESTION: I like the idea of bringing in the idea of storytelling into how I coach, facilitate, motivate and inspire others.
I am kind of wondering, what would be the first step to do in making this happen?
ANSWER: Well, the first step is to find and tell your “Who I Am” story. I am a sincere believer in using yourself as your first student, and as a continuing student.
Pardon me for saying so, but people are very quick to jump on a “tool” and immediately examine the tool for its revenue potential. How can I use this to get more clients? to improve my customer service? to enhance my service?
YES, these are vital aspects of our businesses but these goals are too far down the pipeline to learn what you need to know about storytelling.
I’ve worked with social media innovators on the edge of my wildest imaginations to real estate sales people whose goals and sales cycles are within my grasp. After learning to tell stories about themselves FIRST, almost all agree that personal storytelling enables one to learn aspects of storytelling about product and companies impossible to encounter, absorb or notice when trying to apply storytelling to someone or something else from the beginning.
Was that judgmental? Yeah? Well it ticks me off when people say storytelling is just another fad when they didn’t take the time to learn how.
So…your question was? oh yeah, right, how to get started:
1. Find and tell your own “Who,” “Why” and at least a “Value-in-Action,” or “Teaching story.
2. Use them with friendly clients, after testing them with a peer.
3. Ask an individual (coaching client) to tell you a story after you model one. Give them the four buckets to help them find one.
4. Find a story that inspires you. Remove any desire to be regarded as an inspiring person. Tell the story in a friendly situation with one primary goal: to be of service.
5. Repeat, adding “Vision” and “I-know-what-you-are-thinking” stories.
QUESTION: I’ve just finished your book ‘A Safe Place for Dangerous Truths’ and have learnt so much about both myself and dialogue – it has crystallized for me that I want to facilitate dialogue. With a wealth of facilitation experience in marketing, I have encountered so many situations where people can’t/won’t speak their dangerous truths. I want to be able to facilitate the processes that enable these difficult conversations and the benefits they can yield. As well as have the confidence in my facilitation to use the dialogue process.
ANSWER: Letting the genie about of the bottle is always scary – even for me and I’ve been doing this for over a decade. It works only when you set up internal self management routines before the truths get dangerous. Self control puts each individual in a place where they are unnaturally open to new ideas, and unnaturally patient in explaining how they came to their conclusions. I use the term “unnaturally” to emphasize that these are extremes of self control inducted on a temporary basis. No one can be that open and affirming all the time. Anyone who tries is going to end up passive aggressive…or a Saint. And Saints aren’t very good business people, as a rule.
As a facilitator I present a model of a comfort zone that includes “what you already know.” Then I ask everyone to list their three most common defensive behaviors that erupt when “you hear something you think is untrue or don’t want to know.” THEN, I ask everyone to share those three defensive behaviors with the group and agree not to do them for the two hours of dialogue. I use other set ups as well: naming the four group escape behaviors (with stories) and demonstrating positive intent model. All of that’s in the book. If I can get a full day, I will use the first half of the day training and the second half in dialogue. One big insight from dialogue can propel a group to another level of communication impossible with years of one hour meetings.