What you tell and what they hear

What you tell and what they hear

communication
Rawpixel.com Most of our communication becomes a story. This may not be intentional at our end, but often the recipient creates a story out of what we’re telling her.  Imagine that someone in your team comes to you with an idea, and you say “Listen, this is a great idea, but I don’t think it’ll work right now because we don’t have the budget or the network to execute it, although I’m not saying I’m not open to hearing more if you can elaborate further.” This is a clear message: concise and polite.  However, somewhere in his mind your co-worker is thinking“Here we go again. He doesn’t like my idea. Every single time I come up with a suggestion I get the same kind of comment. He never takes my…
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The power of the ordinary

The power of the ordinary

stories
Picture Jan Valecka Michelle Obama is one of my favourite storytellers. She makes you feel as if you know her. You don’t need extravagant adventures to make a story interesting. When people connect with a story it’s because they see themselves in it.  What takes us into a story is not the extraordinary but the ordinary which, at its simplest, is humanity. And what makes Michelle Obama an amazing storyteller is how she can talk about some of the most important political moments in America in a very funny and down-to-earth way. The story is not in the facts but in the approach you choose. When Michelle Obama talks about their last day at the White House, you expect some sort of political statement, but she doesn’t go that route:…
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Ten unconventional benefits of telling business stories

Ten unconventional benefits of telling business stories

stories
Rawpixel.com 1. It prompts you to look at your business differently: to find your stories you need to ask your team and your customers different kinds of questions. 2. Asking different questions can reveal interesting and relevant information about your business that was hidden in plain sight. 3. Interesting and relevant information can lead to new projects and business decisions that can move your business forward by differentiating it from your competition. 4. Moving your business forward based on decisions and projects connected to your team and your customers’ stories creates a culture that people feel they belong to. 5. A culture where staff and customers feel they belong acts as a magnet for the right talent and loyal customers. 6. A business that people feel part of can create…
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Start with these ten questions

Start with these ten questions

questions, stories
Are you looking for your next stories? These ten questions can help your creative story skills. Why did you choose your job? Your most wired/difficult/challenging job interview  What was your first job, and how did it help you to become who you are right now? What did you want to do when you were a child, and how does that relate to what you’re doing now? What did you learn from your first boss or mentor? When was the last time you helped someone at work? When was the last time you decided not to pick a fight at work? How did you feel? Can you remember a time when you put in time, work or money without expecting any financial or personal return? What moved you to do this?…
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Strong vulnerability

Strong vulnerability

vulnerability
  Rawpixel Ltd A couple of weeks ago I was helping a group of successful, articulated and intelligent women to get started with stories at the workplace, and inevitably the conversation moved on to authenticity and vulnerability. The truth is that most of us are not trained to have honest conversations with our customers: we’re advised to keep a distance between ourselves and our co-workers, and told not to show emotion because it doesn’t look professional and to always keep an eye on our quota when in discussion with a customer. And on top of this narrative we’re also told to connect with our customers, create trust and make them feel that we don’t just see them as a number. It doesn’t add up. Connect without showing emotions Create trust…
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Emotional naming

Emotional naming

emotional, feeling
One of the most powerful things you can do in a conversation is to name the problem. And if you use sophisticated terms and catchy, imaginative sentences, even better.  At the beginning of the pandemic the UK government referred to behavioural fatigue to delay their approval of social distancing measures. The idea was that if social distancing was imposed too early, people would get fed up and not comply with it. Despite an open letter from a group of behavioural scientists complaining about the government’s misuse of the term, the idea got some traction.  In a complex world where everything changes on regular bases we crave information in encapsulated form that make sense to our brains. And the way it all makes sense is through the emotions.  The neurologist Antonio…
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Places of authenticity

Places of authenticity

authenticity, stories
A customer is telling you how he’s doing these days. Suddenly the tone of his voice changes, he takes a deep breath and looks down for a minute or so, and you know that he’s about to tell you something beyond the normal business conversation between a sales person and a customer. He mentions that his dad died last week. You can see the sadness in his eyes. He tells you how they started the business together and how much his dad helped him in the early years of the business when he was young and inexperienced.   “My father was the kind of person who’d never let a client down, even if that meant losing money” he says.  “I remember once he offered a deferred payment to one of…
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Tell them what to do, not how to feel

Tell them what to do, not how to feel

message
In one of my latest posts, I talked about the rule of three and how brands, governments, and organisations use it to convey their message clearly.   This week the British government changed the lockdown message from Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives to Stay alert. Control the virus. Save lives.  After the new broadcast was released Google searches for Can I visit my family? hit the roof.  Compare Stay at home with Stay alert.  I know what staying at home means, but I’m not really sure what staying alert implies. Stay alert is open to interpretation and is fear-based, as if something bad is going to happen. The natural reaction to Stay alert is to try to understand what I am and am not allowed to do.   Why did the government change the message? Probably because they wanted to…
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Why your message needs to move from R to E

communication
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to influence people using perfectly rational arguments? I bet you’ve tried time after time, and failed consistently. Perfectly rational arguments have never convinced anybody to do anything that they weren’t already convinced about for other reasons. Even in the most dramatic and difficult situations such as hostage negotiations, where you might think logic and rationality are top of the agenda, the FBI recommends that negotiators use active listening, empathy, and rapport. As you will notice, there is no trace of “use perfectly clear and logical argument” or “make sure that what you’re saying is correct” or “show a rigorous and analytic approach when you talk.”  We know that communication is more emotional than analytical, but we can’t resist the temptation to think otherwise.…
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The power of the Rule of Three

message
In times of uncertainty we find ourselves considering why we do what we do, as we need extra motivation and focus to keep us going. Agendas are shifted and priorities change. Most of all, we look for clarity. During this pandemic each country has created its own way of sending a clear message to the population. If during the Second War World the British made popular: Zip it! Careless talk costs lives and Keep calm and carry on, these days we’ve been hearing Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives and Catch it, bin it, kill it. These messages are clear and have been crafted to ask people to do something very specific that can have a major impact in exceptional times.  These urgent messages that are designed to catch…
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