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Narratives move people

Updated: Sep 30, 2023


Last week, I wrote about the power of narratives to drive understanding. But there’s more to the story: Narratives take your stakeholders beyond understanding. They drive buy-in, adoption, consensus and, importantly, permission to proceed at pace.


When I think of the purpose my narratives serve, I nearly always use my body to convey motion, whether moving my hands in parallel to one side or leaning my entire torso forward. That’s how I experience narratives. I think of them as movement because here’s the truth:


Narratives move.


A narrative propels your message from today’s reality toward tomorrow’s potential – the future end state you hope to achieve. Used well, narratives are the conduit through which stakeholders give leaders permission to move them toward the envisioned future.


The magic of a narrative when preparing to speak


Think of the last really compelling book you read or show you watched – something you just had to tell people about. As you shared it, did you recite the story verbatim? Or did you summarize and pair it with your own unique insights and examples while still arriving at the same “moral of the story?"


If you have any friends left, you chose the latter. You didn’t have to stiffen up to make sure you got it all right because you didn't memorize it. Instead, you spoke from a place of internalized understanding. This made people want to listen to you because they not only gleaned the story’s takeaway; they learned a little bit about you along the way.


That’s the power of a narrative.


When you sit down with a narrative, you won’t memorize it. It’s written in paragraphs, not bullet points, and it is at least four paragraphs long, sometimes more than a page, depending on the circumstances.


Instead of memorizing it, you’ll read it several times. You’ll connect it with other things you know and understand, and you’ll internalize it as your own story.


Then, when you’re in a media interview, on a speaking panel or answering informal questions, instead of feeling nervous about “getting everything right,” as you would with bulleted talking points, you feel free to speak from your own experience and understanding because you already know the “moral of the story.”


The result is an interview that is far more authentic, relatable and natural than a bulleted list of information could ever yield. And after you’ve told the story once, it sticks with you, giving you space to memorize short lists of bullet points when needed because you’re operating from a framework of understanding, not from a memorized dataset.


How narratives build trust


It’s easy to tell when someone switches into “talking point mode” – as easy as figuring out whether a speaker is reading from a teleprompter or speaking from the heart. It’s just as easy to tune out and distrust those talking points. That’s because they can feel inauthentic.


When a narrative is internalized and you’re able to speak from a place of personal understanding, “talking point mode” doesn’t exist. Instead, authenticity flourishes, and better still, you become more relatable. Relatability is a cornerstone of trust, and narratives excel not just because they avoid eroding trust but because they actively build it.


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Ready to turn your story into a trust-building opportunity? Let us craft a narrative for you to consistently and authentically articulate your vision. Reach out to us at the form below, and we’ll be in touch.

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