I’ve been invited a few times to talk to companies about the effectiveness of story telling in business. The corporate world is often characterised by straight-talking no-nonsense types. It is logical and rationale. You might think that story telling is the opposite of what a business is all about. On the surface this is how things might appear. But one of the beautiful things about stories, is that they work not only on the surface but also underneath it. The content of the story entertains and occupies the conscious mind, whereas it is the relationship between the characters and events in the story that speaks to the unconscious mind. It is this structure of the human mind that makes stories work so well in communicating messages, evoking states, and adding depth and colour to a presentation.

Not all stories have to start with “Once upon a time”, they could be metaphors, analogies, or anecdotes. Technically a metaphor is the assertion that A is B, such as; a skyscraper is a boast. An analogy is claiming that something is like something else, such as; insanity is to art what garlic is to salad. An anecdote is a short, perhaps a personal story that can illustrate a point. I was doing a seminar in Belfast several years ago. I had just told one story and was about to start another one, when a guy sitting in the front row said, “I know a story.” And he proceeded to tell his story. I said, “Do you want to come to the front and do the whole seminar.” I didn’t actually say that, but I was thinking it loudly. In fact, that reminds me of a time when WG Grace, an English cricketer from the 19th century, was given out, first ball, leg before wicket. He looked at the umpire and said, “These people have come here to see me bat, not you umpire.” And he refused to leave the crease.

If you want to use stories in business, you need to pay attention to things that happen in your life. Even when things do not work out for you, because you might be able to use what happened as a story in some way. Look at the message that the story could convey and consider where that could be useful. One thing about coming up with stories is that you do have to use your imagination. Stories work with the listeners unconscious mind, so use your own unconscious to help you to create them. Once you have an idea for a story sleep on it, let your unconscious mind work on it overnight. The next day you might be able to see how to develop your idea. You can of course use stories about existing or previous customers with new prospective customers. These could work as testimonials, and at the same time give the prospect a chance to look at how what you are offering can help them, without it being directly about them. Thereby giving them an indirect suggestion.

If you buy a new piece of equipment, a gadget, or such like for your home, it comes with an instruction manual about how to use it. My guess is that when it comes to your mind you haven’t been given the instructions about how to use it. What we get taught in school and in society is what to think, not how to think. If you learn NLP, then you will be given the instruction manual for your mind. So that you can discover how to think and how to get the most out of your life too.

Life isn’t as linear as it might appear at first glance. There are more symbols, and more connections under the surface, if you take the time to look for them. Remember that all a business is, is people working together towards a common objective. And people like stories, it is in our DNA. Given that, learn how to utilise the way people think to become more impactful in your communication.

“I want to put a ding in the universe.” Steve Jobs