How Storytelling Can Influence People In Business

Why are stories important for leadership and influence? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. 

Answer by Kindra Hall, keynote speaker & bestselling author of ‘Stories That Stick’, on Quora

One of the most important skills in leadership and influence is the ability to open a closed mind. This also happens to be one of the greatest strengths in storytelling.

To give you a better idea of this, let’s pretend you are on an episode of the TV show, Shark Tank.

In each episode an entrepreneur enters the tank with the opportunity of a lifetime — to pitch their business to Kevin O’Leary, Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, or whatever lineup of sharks are appearing that day. These are high-powered business investors whose job is basically to rip the entrepreneur’s idea to shreds or at least put them through the wringer in an entertaining way.

Now, you’ve probably not been ON Shark Tank, but you’ve probably been in your own version of Shark Tank at some point in your life. Especially, if you’ve ever tried raising capital for a business or funds for a cause, or even simply tried to impact someone’s thinking or influence their behavior either at work, at home or in your community.


And it’s possible you’ve had the experience of sitting down to meet with someone, and even before you start the conversation, you can tell by their body language that they aren’t open to your idea. So what do you do?

You do what most of the successful entrepreneurs on Shark Tank do. You tell a story.

There are so many examples on that show of entrepreneurs who were on the cusp of having the entire deal fall apart, but they told their story and got a deal.

I write about one of my favorite examples from the show in my book, Stories that Stick. The young woman who had created a line of handmade baby moccasins. She came in and talked about the moccasins, how she acquired customers, what the pricing structure was. And the sharks looked pretty bored. Closed minds for sure. This deal wasn’t happening.

But then she told the story about what she did to start the company. How she spent an entire summer breaking the glass out of old, aluminum window frames and made $200 and she then used that $200 to buy the fabric to make her first few moccasins. It was an amazing story that illustrated her grit, her essence, and demonstrated that she had what it took to be a huge success. Suddenly, the sharks were in a frenzy to invest in this entrepreneur who had the ingenuity to do basically anything it took to get her business off the ground.

Without telling the story that exemplified her strengths, the Sharks would not have known the true potential beneath the surface. So, if ever you find yourself in a situation where the person or persons you are trying to influence are closed off to your ideas, try one of these two tactics.

Let them know the real you. Tell a story that shows a different side of you than what they might think they know. A story from your childhood. A story from a lesson you learned while playing sports in high school. A story about a challenge you faced as an adult, a habit you tried to kick, or a hobby you decided to pick up. We often try to open people’s minds about us by telling them more about our qualifications or our experience as it directly relates to the thing we’re trying to persuade them to do. However, sometimes what they need to know is who we really are; the essence of our character.

Illustrate your true passion. Instead of relying on your credentials to seal the deal, share a story of the time you discovered the importance of the action you’re persuading them to take. Tell the story of the moment you became passionate about this topic. Don’t just say, “I’m passionate.” That won’t get you anywhere. Rather, like the woman I mentioned from the Shark Tank episode shared stories of her blood, sweat, and tears to get a deal from the sharks… you too can share a story that shows, even if you don’t technically have the experience, your passion is worth opening their minds.

When it comes to influence, the best leaders are able to break down the barriers that stand between them and the people they’re trying to influence. The best way to do that is to tell a story.

This question originally appeared on Quora – the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

The Tycoon Herald