Thursday, 31 May 2012

Stories, Relationships and Business

This blog’s about stories – simple, plain and unadorned stories. I read a lot about back-stories on the web these days – I’m not quite sure what they are but anyway the ones I’m going to talk about are just stories of the kind that most of us have listened to in childhood, told to friends and our own children in our younger years and now relate to others thus bringing the whole thing full circle.

Stories have existed since long before formal literature came on the scene. People have always wanted to hear and tell stories and of course the oral tradition of storytelling around the hearth in the home was able to flourish without the tiresome problem of having to read and write. But the real beauty of stories is that they are open to all – you don’t need a degree to tell a good story and in fact it’s probably better if you haven’t because that might just get in the way of forming that vital bond with the people who are listening.

All well and good, but can storytelling serve a greater purpose than just entertainment or a pleasurable diversion? In my opinion yes! Stories can and often do make an appearance in the world of business and ignoring their power is to miss a very considerable trick! There’s a very trite dictum in business that goes something along the lines of “make friends first and plans second” and to my mind making friends (business contacts), storytelling and relationships are and should be inextricably linked. I know this because the use of storytelling has been one of the main building blocks of my business practice for years and I'm glad to say that the concept hasn’t let me down yet.

Finally, I’ll let you into a secret – I’m not a very good storyteller because I tend to forget the detail and sometimes even lose the thread or forget the “punch line”. Luckily for us all, telling the story proficiently is not the main thing – the main thing is sharing the story. You can do this without being word perfect, clued-up or as witty as a top comedian. In fact, making mistakes and losing the plot occasionally simply makes your story more endearing, engaging and therefore memorable. The mistakes reveal that you are human and perhaps in need of some empathy like most other people in the world. If your listener shows empathy, shares your discomfort and supports your stumbling efforts you can both enjoy the ending of the story together in a shared experience. Without any real pain and often with the pleasure of a shared moment, a relationship has been built and its chances of survival from this very early beginning are good because the storyteller and the listener have both revealed something of themselves, found common ground and put in the first of what hopefully will be a very strong foundation for a lasting and mutually beneficial business relationship.
I’ve just realised I haven’t talked about the possibilities here for getting the ratio of listening to speaking in the right proportion with all the implications that offers in terms of learning vital facts about your future customer and friend – next blog I think…