Business storytelling, part #2: Tell a story, but tell the truth

Crossed fingers

It was bound to happen: a professional whose practices I thought were on the suss side has been found out. Someone shared her experience with him on social media – very diplomatically, not mentioning names – and within minutes (a long time in social media) scores of others had shared their own. No names were called, no insults flung: just a bunch of disappointed people issuing warnings to anyone who might be considering his services. Not enough to wreck his business – for now – but affect it? Definitely.

All these people had something in common: they felt silly. Why? Because he had a compelling story that influenced them to make a decision about his service, and when the reality didn’t match his story, their reaction was far bigger than if they’d made their decision on facts alone.

As a writer, I have been in love with stories – hearing them, reading them, and writing them – all my life. One of the many reasons why I love stories in a business setting is that they are a shortcut to trust. Stories humanise us – we know this. But a person telling a story is also a vulnerable person, and vulnerability implies entering an implicit agreement to trust. It’s reciprocity: “I’m vulnerable with you, so you can now be vulnerable with me”.

When both parties are vulnerable, and treat each other’s vulnerability with honour, trust goes through the roof. That client or customer is then with and for you until the end of days (as you would be for them).

But what happens when the client or customer finds out that your story wasn’t a show of vulnerability at all, but some sort of ploy to create that semblance of trust? Pretty much what happens in other non-business relationships, I’m afraid: the vulnerable party feels betrayed, and oh… hell hath no fury.

Trust is based on truth. When your stories have truth at their core, they will be compelling to people who seek it. And those people will then tell others their story: of you, and how great you are.

I’ll talk more about truth next week. In the meantime, if you’d like to talk to me about my workshop, Stories for Trust and Leadershipget in touch.


Photo credit: © minervastock via DepositPhotos