Tibetan Buddhist monks excel at concentration. They tell a traditional tale about focus called “The Lion’s Gaze”:
When you throw a ball to a dog, it chases the ball. But when you throw a ball to a lion, it keeps its gaze on you.
When we tell a story, our Lion’s Gaze is on one thing: connecting with our audience. In this book, my gaze is to connect with you, the reader, about how to use storytelling effectively in business communication. If I were at a sales meeting, my gaze would be to connect with the other sales reps about the sale that changed my life. A leader’s gaze is to connect with his or her management team through a story about why the business exists. Connection is where the transformation of business communication happens. In other words, the effectiveness of your communication is commensurate with the depth of your connection. And nothing makes that connection better than the story you tell.
In the Narativ method, we create stories in three phases:
1. Excavating: Generating your story ideas
2. Crafting: Shaping your story elements into a classic story structure
3. Presenting: Performing your story for an audience
Stories don’t live in a vacuum, however, and while you’re learning about storytelling, you’ll also be introduced to a larger framework of communication analysis into which stories are set. This heuristic relies on (1) science and (2) empirical evidence gathered over 25 years of research and practice in listening and storytelling.
EXCAVATING, CRAFTING, AND PRESENTING A STORY
Excavation begins with the identification of your story. In which past event or series of events is your story located? Mine those events for the story itself. When excavating, we are like archeologists: we’ve found shards or half-buried jewels, but we need to dig the earth around those artifacts to see what else there is. Often, we’ll find that our story is made up of more than the initial event that comes to mind—or even an entirely different memory or moment. To explore like this takes a certain mindset.
Storytelling involves both a critical mind and a creative mind. The critical mind analyzes, compares, and chooses, while the creative mind visualizes, foresees, and generates ideas. Since the critical mind tends to obstruct the creative mind, the first principle of excavation is the deferment of judgment. You must be allowed to express ideas without any concern for their value, feasibility, or significance. As you explore what material to use for your story, you allow yourself to become completely uncritical, making way for all sorts of ideas to come to mind. Only then do you bring back the power of critical thinking to become more rational and controlled as you craft and tell your story.
When you’re crafting your story, you’ll begin to hone the ideas generated during the excavation phase, shaping them into a classic story structure of beginning, ending, and an emotional turning point in between. This phase is where the creativity of storytelling comes alive as you use the “What happened?” method to tell the story. You’ll be surprised that in simply telling what happened, you’ll discover so much choice. Each choice affects other choices, compelling and cajoling you to master the plot of your story.
While you’re crafting, continue to keep an open mind to new ideas that may bubble up to the surface of your consciousness. It’s natural to move back and forth a bit between excavation and crafting. A storyteller operates with some flexibility along with precision, and some patience along with enjoyment.
Once you’ve excavated and crafted your story, you’re ready to present. You’ll speak without the need to refer to notes or PowerPoint slides. You’ll know your ending, and you’ll therefore have great confidence in where your story is going. No more guesswork and plenty of time to take your listeners on a journey. A key note here: When we talk about a business story told in a personal way, we’re saying that your whole being is engaged in telling your story. You’re bringing the vividness of the personal to the goals and aims of a business. When a story is told from that place of embodiment, it never fails to connect you with your audience. And that’s your Lion’s Gaze.
Excerpted from Powered by Storytelling: Excavate, Craft, and Present Stories to Transform Business Communication by Murray Nossel (McGraw-Hill Education 2018). Copyright 2018 by Murray Nossel.