I was having lunch with a friend in a lovely vegetarian café in Soho this week and we were talking about work. He and I work in different companies, different jobs, but we share an interest in how the world works and a desire to learn.
He said, 'The bit I don’t get, is how to get my point across to the decision makers. I can blind them with logic, I can build a great presentation….'
He was struggling with what so many of us struggle with, influencing others. A few moments later we went back to the topic and I said, 'So, what other ways are there do you think to get a point across?' He started thinking out loud and after a few sentences he started getting warmer when he said, 'metaphor'.
I find that most people use a, rational approach, a deductive logical approach to solving problems and indentifying opportunities. Think it through, understand cause and effect, then put a solution together. The trouble is if you want others to adopt your solution, telling them so in a rational way doesn’t have the impact and influence.
How to get your point across?
I said to my friend, 'You could tell a story. Stories capture attention because we’ve been wired for tens of thousands of years to communicate using stories'. (For example, Jesus told parables, he didn’t state a moral code as such – he explained what people living that code did). I went on, 'it may be that you had a vivid conversation with a customer about your product and this validates the conclusion you came to using data and logic. If you tell the story first, then provide supporting data, you’ll have way more impact'.
(Of course – be sure to tell stories that support your rational conclusions, not the other way around. Anecdote is not data. Fool others, but don’t fool yourself – be sure the data supports the anecdote).
We continued our conversation and discussed the presentation methods and sales techniques that really work. Logic featured as back up, not a leading strategy. Other than stories, we identified using imagery, analogies and experiences.
It’s no co-incidence that I started writing this blog post as a story. I was hoping it would capture your attention better than it would if I just started out with explaining how to get a point across. Well did it?
Remember – we have two brains. A logical one and an emotional one. The emotional one always wins the battle for influence and the triggers you can use (stories, images, experience, patterns) are very different to the way in which you came up with the solution (logic, analysis, reasoning).
So, by all means solve a problem. To get others to act on your solution figure out how you can tell a story.
My friend and I will be meeting up in another month. Maybe I’ll bring you back another story.