I Have an Idea, Tell Me a Story #65 #cong18


Don’t get into a Twitter argument, instead, tell a story.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Storytelling helps us to capture attention

  2. It also helps us to give context

  3. Twitter is a tough place for nuance

  4. Storytelling is a skill to be developed

About Rose Barrett:

Rose here, I like to paddle boats and peddle digital consultancy to small businesses. I also end up volunteering for all sorts, particularly when it’s related to improving rural communities or using digital resources to help spread ideas.

Contacting Rose Barrett:

You can follow Rose on Twitter or send her an email.

By Rose Barrett

“Neither revolution nor reformation can ultimately change a society, rather you must tell a new powerful tale, one so persuasive that it sweeps away the old myths and becomes the preferred story” – Ivan Illich

We all know that it can be hard to communicate an idea.  For me I see this regularly in my life as an internet person and it’s obvious on a platform like Twitter.  And I’ve been there myself. Tried to communicate an idea only to fall flat on my face. I swear Twitter was designed with this in mind.

So I took a step back to see how those who are successful in getting an idea across do what they do.  And I noticed a pattern, many of them are great storytellers. I love storytelling. It brings back memories of my family pub when the electricity would go out, candles were lit and stories were told.  It’s no small thing that storytelling is so powerful a communication tool and in the communication of ideas, it is a resource ready to serve.

A struggle of communicating ideas we often encounter are patterns of thinking.  Many of us presume “You say → They think” but it’s rarely this straightforward.  When we communicate we’re often forgetting about the level of difference in perception, or thought patterns,of our intended audience compared to ourselves.  We might get that there are differences but we could miss the mark on how big those differences really are and fail to actually frame the idea as we would like to.  And these differences can make connection difficult.

Culture always complicates the task of communicating ideas and the greater the difference in culture, the greater the task.  But storytelling gives us a method of overcoming some of this difficulty through the use of framing. The words we use or how they use them can greatly impact “how” an idea is heard or understood.

Storytelling makes us more deliberate, which means we are paying more attention to which pronoun we use or the tone of a piece.  As a marketer, I’ve learned to test messages and see what works. I started to wonder about doing the same in my community work and behavioural research backs this up.  Communities that are more deliberate in their message, in the story they tell, have higher levels of confidence in their community.

Storytelling also allows an easier emotional connection.  Our barriers go down when we listen to a story and we’re more likely to connect with the teller of the story.  So if the idea they are trying to communicate is challenging for the listener, in the telling of the story there is a greater chance for the message to get through.  Basically, keep me entertained and I’m less likely to react to that uncomfortable feeling straightaway. If you’ve caused me to smile I want to keep liking you, so when your idea challenges some of my thought patterns, well you made me smile, so I’ll give you more of a chance.

I know I had a habit of storytelling in person from growing up in an Irish bar but I hadn’t brought it through to my online life, I hope to change that in the future.  So many of the best talks or presentations I’ve encountered have been well-crafted stories and those of us trying to spread ideas, particularly ideas that might be challenging, either in how radical they are or in their complexity, storytelling allows for better framing and to create a connection that keeps the listener on our side just long enough for the idea to be heard.

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