Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Telling the Story

A while ago, I want to say it may have even been months, someone asked me to write about how to use storytelling to convince people to change things within a certain part of the library. I've tried to write that post about a half dozen times, and each iteration left me feeling even less convinced that I knew what I was doing. I have used storytelling to make my case. Many times, actually. Recently, even. But putting it in a specific context, especially one with which I'm not as familiar, felt awkward.

Add to that awkwardness the fact that storytelling might not always be the best tool. Sure, it's one I use most often. Then again, I'm a good writer and I can be very convincing with other communication as well. I'm quick with jokes. I'm fantastic at finding analogies to explain myself. All my rumination helped me come to a conclusion, a way to write this post.

I tell stories to convince people of my perspective because you need to work to your strengths. I've talked a lot, maybe on this blog and definitely when talking in person, about figuring out the best methods to convince your audience of your way of thinking. I've talked about how if your boss, or your prospective collaboration partner, or whomever, is more of a numbers person then you should use numbers. The same goes with stories. That's important, yes, but I think it's more important to work to your strengths. And storytelling is definitely my strength.

Having said that, some key points of my storytelling techniques could help you:
  • Don't abandon numbers completely. Talking about how "1 in 5 of our patrons will run into this problem" after you've painted a compelling picture of wireless connectivity in a specific location will add weight to your claims.
  • Avoid talking about how this proposal will help you. Sure, the new software will make life easier for you, but who else will it help? Instead of "this will make my life so much easier because I won't have to do needless busy work," try: "If you give us this support, it will minimize our turnaround time for students who use this service."
  • Make it personal. "Jane Patron told me, just the other day, about how hard it is for her to [do this thing]. You know Jane, right? She's in here all the time. Well, this program would be perfect for Jane Patron and others."
  • If you know the person you are trying to convince is more easily swayed by numbers, get help. The best proposals really do combine both, so if you're doing something formal, try to use a mix. 
How about you? What storytelling techniques do you recommend? Or, if you're more of a numbers person, how do you envision persuasion getting easier or harder if you tried to incorporate storytelling?

1 comment:

  1. Very well done. Thank you for the key points--they are helpful.