People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

storyWhen I was young I’d groan when an adult told me a long story. As they talked, my mind would wander through the details in their story, searching, scanning their words to find out that most important truth, “Why are you telling me this?”

Now that I’m older, I finally understand.

How do you get people to understand what you have to say? How do you even get them to listen in the first place? In “The Story Factor – Secrets of Influence from the Art of Storytelling,” Annette Simmons explains how.

The more I pay attention to the outcomes of my requests, the more I see that things I see as clear as day are not being heard or understood by the listener. This used to infuriate me because I’d get so frustrated at having to explain the same thing over and over again.

“People don’t want more information. They are up to their eyeballs in information. They want faith – faith in you, your goals, your success, in the story you tell.” – Simmons

I started taking it too far the other way and started to over-explain, repeat myself, and basically talk the point into the ground until I got some kind of signal that the other person understood what I said.

More often than not, I got the impression, after stating my point numerous times, that the other person resented being talked down to and treated as if they didn’t understand. This obviously wasn’t working.

So I started thinking about storytelling and the way adults were always telling me stories to illustrate a point when I was growing up.

“Narration simultaneously chooses and communicates a particular point of view.” Simmons

When I start to tell a story to someone I don’t know that well, I’m instantly concerned that they will lose interest in my story if I’m not making the best use of their time. So I inevitably speed up my story so they don’t get bored.

But, as the speed of the story goes faster and faster, the clarity of the point I’m trying to make gets lost because I’m speaking too fast. How do we know what kind of story to tell that will keep the listener tuned in?

Simmons shares six types of stories that will serve you well in your efforts to influence others:

  1. Who I am stories
  2. Why I am here stories
  3. The Vision story
  4. Teaching Stories
  5. Values in Action stories
  6. I know what you are thinking stories

Having tested out all of these stories types, the one that I’ve had the most success with has been the “who am I stories.”

“Personal stories let others see who we are better than any other form of communication. Ultimately, people trust your judgement and your words based on subjective evidence. Objective data doesn’t go deep enough to engender trust.” – Simmons

I’ll keep telling my personal stories as a way to get my point across. I’ll slow down and let my sincerity shine through.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Simmons

Did this post make you reconsider the power of storytelling? Contact me, I’d love the hear about it!

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Author: David Neely

Professional Software Developer. Technology and Web Coordinator at the University of Hawaii's Manoa Career Center.