When you were a child, you probably grew up listening to stories passed from generation to generation by your parents or grandparents. But did you know that even in the world of business, stories have a unique power to move people’s hearts, minds, feet, and wallets in the storyteller’s intended direction? Perhaps you’re like me and you’re more inclined to purchase an item if you know its history or the story behind it.
In business and in life, one of the most effective ways of making a connection with someone is by telling your story or by trying to get others to reveal their stories (and everyone has a story to tell). Stories are the most basic tool for connecting us with other human beings. Research shows that storytelling not only engages all the senses; it also triggers activity on both the left and the right sides of the brain. People attend, remember, and are transformed by stories.
One way to discover a person’s story is by asking the right questions. Some of my favorite questions include: “If you weren’t in this line of work, what would you like to do?” and “Whom do you most admire?” Most people enjoy talking about themselves, and these kinds of questions make people open up. You’ll be surprised that in no time at all, people often reveal their background, motivations, philosophy, and challenges. In the process, you can learn a lot if you allow it.
The best part about listening to someone’s story is that you gain respect by simply sharing your time, listening and responding with warm intent, and making a genuine effort to understand his or her world. You don’t have to agree with everything the person says; all you have to do is be fully present and engaging.