“I don’t want stories.” I know you don’t, but your readers, customers, clients and investors want them. Why? Because we are in the age of storytelling for business, branding, transparency, accountability and corporate social responsibility. These are emerging managerial trends in a marketplace that has become saturated with deceit, fraud and poor business ethics.
So how do you remain above board and stand out from the crowd? You tell stories, value stories about who you are? What your business is all about, how it benefits your customers, how you relate with, and care for your stakeholders. In essence, your unique selling proposition. And the only way to do this effectively is via storytelling.
So why do you say you don’t want stories. Every professional who is visionary about his/her business now should tell stories. If you don’t tell your value stories, and don’t want others to tell you theirs, then you cannot grow your business. The marketplace cannot know you and what you are offering. This is what storytelling can do for you with ease and maximum impact.
Your stakeholders want stories from you to know your breakthroughs, pains and problems and how you adding value to their lives and business. And you have to keep them well informed else you are courting trouble.
Soon and very soon, a crisis, market tempest, or gale of opposition will erupt and come charging at you, to destroy you and your business. You will shout, but nobody will listen to your story because you are shouting. You are telling your story too late. Even if they listen to you, they won’t believe you because you never told them your value stories.
“I don’t want stories.” You have heard that several times, especially from seniors, your boss, creditor, uncles/aunties, even your parents. They hardly want stories but they forget that their juniors, children, students and subordinates want stories. Why is it that bosses, professionals, managers and seniors never want stories, especially from juniors and subordinates? It is like the higher you go in life, in the corporate world, the fewer stories you want. Yet, storytelling remains the best communication tool we all need to grow our businesses, develop ourselves, and maintain stable and rewarding relationships.
For us to understand why seniors say so, we should first attempt to get a fair understanding of what they mean by that expression: “I don’t want stories,” (IDWS). This phrase is a common expression we hear everyday in business, family and corporate life. It belongs to the class of verbal expressions some call clichés. I call them oralnomics, (more on this later) which means, the economics of the words we speak. These are expressions we use to complement, praise, rebuke, motivate, build confidence and teamwork, show appreciation, dismiss someone or show anger. We hear them always and probably take action, or we not do anything, based purely on their surface meaning, how we feel, or the circumstances without bothering to dig deep for more understanding.
IDWS is one of them. Anytime you say it, what are you communicating? Apparently you mean, you do not want excuses; no mistakes please; I want you to perform and deliver results; execute my instructions to the letter; and do not add or remove anything. Just do what I have told you to do. I don’t want stories. Good talk, but how clear is this instruction? Why should storytelling be equated to giving excuses for non-performance?
That is the mistake many professionals make. Instead of seeing storytelling as an effective communications tool and use its power to get results, they see as a tool for giving excuses. Too bad. Little wonder many of them fail to tap the power of storytelling.
I don’t want stories. Trust professionals when they say this. It is never a pleasant remark. And in most cases, it is used as a kind of caution or mild rebuke. It should not. The power of storytelling goes far beyond this negative attitude to communication. And IDWS is never said with a smile, rather it is done with a scowl on the face. When professionals say they want stories in the workplace, the non-verbal communications that go with it makes more impact than the verbal message: the hand movement, intonation, pitch of voice, right hand pulling the right ear, head swayed to the right, a questioning look on the face, and bulging eyes. That is when your boss blurts out: “I don’t want stories oh!” sometimes with a threatening accent.
This approach completely puts the message receiver on the defensive, on the edge and in the bad frame of mind that cannot even decode the message. The result is that both sender and receiver of the message are not in one accord to reflect on the real meaning of the message.
How can they when the expression has stirred up negative emotions and the right word, “excuses,” has been substituted with “stories.” Their meanings are clearly different, and so the real message, “please I don’t want excuses is never sent across.
So who is to blame? No need apportioning blames. It is just that we must be careful how we use words, so that we can maximize the impact of our communications, by putting the real message across and getting the desired results.
Eric Okeke is a storyteller, editor, business writer, motivational speaker and author of the best selling book: I Want a Husband. He is one of Nigeria’s most experienced financial journalists. He has published several articles in local and foreign publications and in websites such as http://www.ezinearticles.com, www.ezinearticles.com and www.writingcareer.com. He is currently running Infomedia Company, a media consulting and information marketing company. Visit his blog at http://sallywantsahusband.blogspot.com