How to tell your story

According to Merriam-Webster a story is and I quote 1 a) “an account of incidents or events”, b) a statement regarding the facts pertinent to a situation in question”, c) “Anecedote”, 2 a) “a fictional narrative shorter than a novel”, b) “the intrigue or plot of a narrative or dramatic work” 3 a) “a widely circulate rumor”, 4) “Lie, falsehood”, 5) “Legend, romance”, 6) “a new article or broadcast”, 7) “Matter, situation” Did you know that the first story was written around 3400 B.C. when markings were written on clay tablets in a type of script writing referred to as cuneiform. Two of the oldest known works are “Kesh Temple Hymn” and the “Instructions of Shuruppak” both of which were created around 2500 B.C. Furthermore the “Epic of Gilgamesh” a mystical poem and an old fictional story written. 

Today, stories are written about fiction derived from a fantasy-like world, and non-fiction is created about true life accounts. People from all walks of life write and tell stories to share their life, inspire, educate and inform others about situations or experiences they had an account of. 

Now that you understand what a story is and the difference between fiction and non-fiction, let’s talk about some of the different stories you may choose to tell. Perhaps you want to convey and make a point or ensure specific lessons are told. There once was a boy named Tommy, and although he appeared courteous to everyone, he had the compulsion to often talk about people behind their backs. Many people suspected he was doing this, but because of his demeanor, it was just disregarded as he would never do anything related to that. One day Tommy was invited to a party with all the popular kids, and he inevitably accepted the invitation. Later that evening, he was talking with many people at the party when something happened. He didn’t fall or get hurt, but he turned pale when Carla, a girl in his chemistry class, said hello. 

Stories should not just be a bunch of words thrown down on a piece of paper or recited orally but instead, ones that are carefully selected to arouse all the senses of the body: sight, hearing, touch, emotion, and sometimes smell. When one chooses to utilize all of these and pair them together, it will transport the reader or listener to the place you want them to be.

Carla was an A student at his school in all subjects, not just chemistry, and many completed her for always being available to help whenever they had questions. Tommy said yes, Carla is great. I would never have passed my Chemistry Midterm without her help. Megan said, “Tommy, that’s not what you told me,” and then Michelle said, “you said you hated Carla” Tommy’s drink went down the wrong pipe for a second and ended with a hard cough. Tommy replied, “I never said that,” as silence filled the room. Next, more people arrived and gathered around him, and Carla said did he tell all of you he hates me “yes, and that he was only using you till the semester was over.” Tommy was speechless as everyone in stereo said, “don’t talk about people behind their back, as our walls have ears, and you will never know when someone you least suspect will expose you for the true liar that you are”

Stories like this are meant as an intervention to someone, so they will wake them up and stop performing the behavior before they get exposed for who they are. They can be used in various situations, such as at school, work, or home, especially in difficult situations, to get someone to change their ways without directly telling them to. If you tell someone not to talk behind your back, they may ignore it or become hostile toward you. Remember, when you use a story in this context, it is never directly about the person. It is about the behavior he/she elicits toward you or others.

Whether you are in sales, client services, management, or any other environment where you want to educate others, whether at work, school, or home, one notable story type is the business owner, salesperson, or consultant that wants to get you to buy their product or service. When you want someone to buy your product service, it should never be about forcing your prospect into a corner to buy now. Why? You may be asking. First, it will be a sale of duress, and they will resent you for doing it forever. Second, no one wants to be sold, but they want to be educated and allowed to make decisions using their own free will.

Thus, a great way to get someone to buy your product or service is to share a story about a similar client who had the same challenge and how you resolved it. For example, let’s say that you sell payroll services. The old way would be to drop off a price sheet and tell them you need our assistance. Bob is the owner of a 50-person commercial construction company with 1099 and W2 Employees, and your task is to get him interested. Before you can tell any story, it will fall on deaf ears if it doesn’t solve a challenge they are currently having.

Bob, thanks for meeting with me today so I may learn more about your company and some of the challenges you are facing in your operations. Tim, it is my pleasure. We are in no rush to change anything, but there are several areas my management team has told me we need to improve and make more efficient. Now allow Bob to share his story about his pain, make eye contact, take notes, shut up and listen. Tim, we run hundreds of different jobs each year, and because of the type of work we do, many are employed as 1099’s for several months at a time and others even longer. We also bring on staff members that are paid via W2 but are often moved from the project, and both need to track by job location, so we know if that job is using our labor hours most effectively.

           Thanks for sharing all this information. I have carefully noted all of this detail, and it reminds me of a client we helped in engineering with the same challenges. Last year I was contacted by a gentleman that saw us at a tradeshow and told me that if we don’t find a way to resolve this problem by tracking employees’ time per job location in more granular detail, we may not have this conversation at the end of the year as we won’t be around. Tim, are numbers in billing are through the rough, and we have never been able to bill out the correct hours for the different types of resources we staff to complete projects. After having a similar conversation to the one you and I had, I asked if there were a way to solve this he would like to see it. He said of course. Next, I devised a quote to ascertain the cost of our payroll for 30 days and was willing to implement a full-scale multi-job site payroll for the entire company. I told him I would be happy to do this for 30 days; I asked if it saved him money and facilitated more efficient billing would switch over to us. He said yes, I did the 30-day demo, and on the 21st day, he called me and said we wanted to switch over to you.

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