Editor's Picks Education and Development

Use the Power of Storytelling to Get People to Do What You Want

We see all kinds of warnings about bad consequences unless we change behavior.

Here’s a sampling:

  • Wear your seatbelt
  • Don’t drink if you’re pregnant
  • Don’t drink and drive
  • Quit smoking

Why do these warnings so often go in one ear and out the other?  One suggestions: we don’t find the message compelling.  That’s the conclusion of executive coach and author Nicole Lipkin in her new book, What Keeps Leaders Up at Night.  If you want to convince people that they should do something, whether it’s your team at work, a client or family members, consider coupling your message with an unforgettable story.

“A story provides common ground where people can share an experience with others. Although each person may interpret the story differently, everyone gets the point.”

Humans have been creating narratives for thousands of years as a way to teach and connect with others, according to Lipkin.  The Bible, the oldest how-to book around, uses the power of storytelling, Lipkin notes.

Let’s take this a step further. If you want to persuade someone to change a behavior, instead of laying out the hard facts—smoking may cause lung cancer—consider telling a story.  “Hard cold facts don’t tap into emotions. Stories do.”  And the more you can personalize the story, according to Lipkin, the better chance you’ll have of people buying into your desired action.

In this review of Lipkin’s new book, What Keeps Leaders Up at Night, I’ve focused only on a sliver of the research and advice Lipkin gives. The book identifies eight common management issues leaders face and offers solutions to overcome those obstacles.  This book isn’t only for top managers.  Her insights on behavior can help all of us achieve our goals.

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