If you’re frustrated because your employees, don’t do what you ask even though you think you have communicated clearly and have repeated it many times…
If you really want your message to be memorable and effective…
Then, instead of just giving details or instructions, tell a story that people can connect to emotionally. Your story will be remembered and the point you want to get across will make an impact that gets results.
It doesn’t even have to be a workplace story. A personal story that gets across the point you want to make can be very motivating. The following true story is an example of how a story can communicate a message that inspires others.
The Little Black Puppy that Stole Our Hearts…
The press release from the SPCA came early last December as an ice storm was barreling toward Tyler, Texas. It said something about how desperate the agency was for “immediate temporary foster parents” because people dropped litters of puppies off when bad weather was on its way.
Then the press release went on to say that there were 5-month-old black puppies that needed to be socialized so they could be adopted.
I forwarded the release to my husband, Mark, who quickly replied by email, “Do whatever you want to do.” I like that about him.
The next night, Mark didn’t like anything about me because‚ due to the difference in our work schedules, he was the one who drove through the sleet to the shelter. He was the one who got the puppy and had to suffer the smell, when out of fright, she had an accident all over the crate.
This puppy was thin, stinky and ugly. She had scars or bite marks on her face where fur was missing and what looked like dandruff through her coat.
After a couple of baths and a change in food, the puppy began to smell better. She followed our other dog’s example and became potty-trained in a few days. She was smart and eager to please. But we had only agreed to be temporary foster parents.
At church one Sunday, the preacher talked about love and how much we all needed to have more of it. I’m sure he was talking about people, but I kept thinking about the black puppy.
“There’s something important I need to tell you,” I told Mark over lunch. He got that scared look men get when they think women are going to share bad news. “After that sermon, if we don’t have enough love to keep the puppy, we are pitiful. Can we keep her permanently?”
He made a sound that was something between a chuckle and a sigh of relief.
“Oh, I already knew we were keeping her. I thought you had something more serious to talk about.”
We first named her “Bandit” after the dog in the Johnny Quest cartoon. But we realized it was more fitting because she stole our hearts.
The pockmarks on her face from the ticks are gone. She has filled out and has a white patch with gray freckles on her chest. She has symmetrical white marks on the back of each paw that make her seem to dance when she’s running. She’s a happy, sweet dog who has taught me that love is neither temporary nor conditional, and we are always capable of growing more of it.
How can you use a story like this in the workplace?
Suppose you are a supervisor whose employees deal with difficult customers. You can use a story such as this to communicate to your staff the importance of being patient, friendly, and compassionate. The importance of a story in workplace communication is that your employees will have a visual and emotional memory of your story to connect to your message.
You can relate the rescued puppy to people who may be difficult because they have scars (maybe visible or invisible) and therefore they act ugly. These may be co-workers, customers, or anyone that you come in contact with during your workday.
The point you want to get across is that when you nurture difficult people and show them that you care, they can become, happy, sweet, and even lovable – just like the puppy. Then discuss appropriate ways to do this.
Just make sure that your story is appropriate for the point you are trying to get across.
How long should your story be?
It can be as short as 1 minute or as long as 5 minutes. Probably 2-3 minutes is a good length for most stories. Since the emotional impact of a story helps people remember and relate to a message, make your story as long as it needs to be to make an emotional connection, and as short as you can make it to get across the point of your message.
Try your story out on your family or a trusted friend before using it in the workplace. Make sure your story is appropriate and not offensive to anyone.
Stories should be your own, and true
The best stories are true stories from your experience. Why? Because you won’t be stepping on others’ toes or infringing on copy written material. If you decide use another person’s story, be sure to get permission first.
But, more important, the emotion you feel from your own experiences will come through in your story and have more impact.
If you look through your life, you will discover many stories that will help you motivate and inspire your staff to make changes that produce positive results. In a nutshell, use stories to communicate more effectively.
Lorri Allen gave us permission to use the story of the Black Puppy. Lorri Allan helps people learn how to speak to the media so they get positive publicity. You can contact her at: http://www.soundbitecoach.com