According to Annette Simmons, author of Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins, there are six structures to tell business stories.
1. 'Who I am' stories
These types of stories explain who you are as a person. They tell others about your dreams, goals, accomplishments, failures, motivations, values or history. They are essential to build trust.
Tell these types of stories when you join a new team or when you need to establish a connection with a stranger.
2. 'Why I am here' stories
These types of stories communicate why you are here and their aim is to replace suspicion with trust. People want to know 'what's in it for me' but they also want to know what's in it for you.
These stories explain that you don't have a hidden agenda and that you'll both get something fair out of the situation.
You can use these types of stories in fundraising, sales and situations when you need to build trust quickly or where you want to reassure someone that you're on a level playing field.
3. 'Teaching' stories
These types of stories create an experience that transforms listeners. They show how a change in their behaviour, perspective or skills can lead to meaningful results.
You can also use these stories to illustrate a situation such as a best or worst-case scenario.
4. 'Vision' stories
These types of stories inspire people and encourage them to feel hope or happiness. This is where you link your audience's actions to a specific, valuable and worthy outcome.
These stories are used when you need to motivate people to change their behaviour.
5. 'Values in action' stories
These types of stories reinforce the values that you want your audience to demonstrate or think about. These stories can be positive or negative.
For example, you can tell stories that demonstrate integrity, compassion and commitment or ones that highlight attitudes that you don't want to see such as cynicism or a weak work ethic.
6. 'I know what you're thinking' stories
These types of stories allow you to address others' objections, suspicions, questions or concerns before they voice them.
With these stories you need to anticipate your audience's point of view so you choose a story that deals with their unspoken concerns. When you do this, you validate their perspective or worries. This allows them to feel that you're on their side and that you identify with their emotions.
These kinds of stories are valuable in sales, negotiations or pitches to key stakeholders.
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