Build Trust With Stories
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Build Trust With Stories
Don’t tell them. Sell them.
Some 30 years ago I worked at an international engineering and architectural firm in New York. The editorial staff worked in one area. The job was deadline-driven, stressful, and didn’t always bring out the best in everyone.
During a particularly difficult week, Marge, who worked across from me and another co-worker, Alice, stomped over to our side of the room and said, “Someone stole my stapler, do you have it?” Clearly Marge was angry and suspected Alice and me of liberating her stapler from her desk.
Insulted by the accusation, I rose to give Marge a piece of my mind. Before I could speak Alice cheerfully said, “I don’t have your stapler, but here, use mine as long as you like,” and she held out her stapler to Marge, who smiled, took it, thanked Alice, and went back to work. The situation was defused without further drama.
Alice taught me the best way to confront workplace anger is to be kind, not respond in kind.
I tell that story when clients say they want to respond angrily to an infuriating situation. Why didn’t I just give them the advice? The story makes the advice more memorable and acceptable because:
- The listener becomes an observer at the scene of the story, creating a connection between storyteller and listener.
- The listener learns that my reaction was to do what he or she sometimes wants to do—react angrily. Knowing we are similar, strengthens connection with the listener and builds trust.
- The advice comes from Alice, so I’m not the all-knowing expert. This builds trust by putting the listener and the storyteller on the same level.
Stories connect us emotionally and build trust. Those who think storytelling is too "touchy feely" for business are missing out on one of the most powerful communication tools we have for building trust.
There is proof of storytelling in the remnants of prehistoric and later civilizations—Native American glyphs, African symbols, cave paintings in France, Egyptian pyramids, Mayan ruins, Greek and Roman myths, the Old and New Testaments—our brains are hardwired to communicate through stories.
Yet, in sales, we sometimes begin by peppering clients with questions to find out their needs, their wants, and their pain—we expect them to open up to us before we’ve established trust.
Do you want clients to open up to you? Go first. Open up to them with a story that illustrates a point you want to make.
Words tell, but stories sell.- Sales Axiom