Stories and Storytelling
This video introduces the power of storytelling in NLP.
When I was younger, I didn’t appreciate the value of telling stories. I thought that the speaker would have to stop the flow of their speech to insert a story. But, at that point, I hadn’t come across really good story-tellers.
Then, I met one. He was a successful business consultant, and I would have loved to have dismissed his presentation outright – only, I found myself listening, and then laughing along with the rest of the audience to a story he told about a troubling client. I was hooked by a simple story told with skill.
The power of storytelling.
We all love a great story. For thousands of years people have been moved by stories. We use them to entertain, teach, comfort and inspire. They help us connect to our imagination and explore different solutions.
We can learn the structure of really influenctial stories, and we can learn to craft stories with a particular end in mind to support both our own and our listeners’ goals.
There are at least seven basic storytelling approaches that are worth exploring. Good stories are likely to be a combination of more than one, however, using even one can greatly improve the impact of our communication.
All these approaches have the potential to be exceptionally effective in the right context. However, they often need practice so that we don’t make the story sound contrived. With practise, we will come over naturally and pay attention to how our audience is reacting.
Seven storytelling approaches.
1. Simple State Change
Tell a story where the starting state of the characters matches that of your audience. Then describe an event or interaction that results in your characters moving to a more positive state. If your audience has built rapport with your characters, they too will move into that more positive state.
Provided you keep it plausible, you do not need to explain much reason for state change; it’s much more effective to simply describe the states in sensory, emotive terms and let the audience make their own changes.
2. Teaching Tale
Use a story to explain the details of a successful and/or unsuccessful strategy. It’s sometimes much easier to tell a story about someone exhibiting a series of useful/destructive behaviours than demanding actions from people.
Sometimes you can get much nearer-the-bone by explaining the situation as a metaphor. For example, if you are talking to a group of directors who aren’t being helpful to each other, you tell a story about a band of outlaws who lost everything because they didn’t agree to take the right difficult decisions.
4. State Strategy
Sometimes moving someone from, for example, a depressed state to a contented state, is too much of a jump to make in one go.
Therefore, break the interaction into a number of smaller changes. You could go from depressed to frustrated to determined to excited to action to feeling good to contented state.
If the listener is in rapport with you and resonates with the characters in the story, they will experience the states in the right sequence and develop an unconscious strategy for moving from depression to contentment.
5. Classic Case Study (SOARA)
This is a simple sequence for presenting a case study :
- Situation: the situation and problem (and possibly the implication of the problem).
- Objective: What you wanted to achieve.
- Action: What you actually did.
- Result: What happened (intentional or not).
- Aftermath: The implication of the result over time.
There are a number of versions of this approach. The interesting point using this format can make a person who has limited experience to come over as exceptionally experienced and competent.
6. Marketing Story
This is based on an idea from Seth Godin, and is useful in sales and marketing as well coaching and change work
What I used to believe. What I now believe and what this has meant.
I used to believe that NLP was a bit mad and didn’t take it seriously. I met some practitioners who were getting some great results and they convinced me it was worth a serious investment in time and money. This meant that I was able to set up my business, genuinely help clients develop quicker than they thought possible and I could led the life I wanted to.
7. Nested Loops
Stories within stories are particularly effective for therapeutic change, and especially for delivering embedded commands – although any character in a story can deliver embedded commands.
- Open story one
- Open story two
- Open story three
- Add commands
- Close story three
- Close story two
- Close story one
The idea is that when a story is opened and left open without closure and another story is started, a part of our consciousness is waiting for the first story to be closed. If our conscious mind is holding three open stories, we have very little consciousness free to evaluate any statements made.
When the stories are closed we’re likely to remember the stories consciously, but the commands will be in our unconscious waiting, like seeds, to grow.
8. The Hero’s Journey
This is another classical story structure. There a number of versions – this one is loosely based on Joseph Campbell’s.
The Hero’s Journey is more than a metaphor, it may be the strategy of how we grow and develop. It has always been an effective structure for stories.
Just because it uses the word Hero don’t assume that it has to be chained to a mythical, fantasy setting with a warrior fighting dragons. It could just as easily apply to a day in the life of a taxi driver.
The journey involves three stages :
Stage One : Departure
- A call to adventure (e.g. responding to a crisis).
- Refusing the call, but then accepting.
- Once accepting the call, the hero finds previously undiscovered internal or external resources to help.
- Crossing the threshold. The hero enters unknown territory leading to 5.
- The hero has to let go of previous approaches.
Stage Two : Initiation
- The road of trials, a number of tests that the hero may (and probably will) fail.
- Meeting with the Goddess: meeting someone who cares about you.
- Meeting the Temptress: the hero faces temptation of a physical or sensual nature.
- Atonement with the Father. The hero must confront and be initiated by whatever holds the ultimate power in his or her life. This might be the ultimate challenge.
- Recovery. Rest, peace and reflection.
- Achievement of challenge.
Stage Three : Return
- Refusal to return. The hero may not want to return.
- Escape. The hero may find escaping as much of a challenge as leaving his or home in the first place.
- Master of two worlds. When home the hero now has two world-views.
- Freedom to live. Having survived the ordeal and return the hero gains significant freedom to live how he or she chooses.
Consider your next three client meetings. What states and information would your clients benefit from? Plan a story that attempts to address each. Use the stories, if appropriate, during your next meeting with them.
The next section turns to NLP Strategies, one of the core skills of NLP. What’s the sensory route map we go through to either achieve what we want, or what we don’t want.
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Full NLP Techniques List
Key NLP Techniques Section Index
3: Amplify feelings
4: Bad memories (Dissolving)
5: Bad memories (Exploding)
6: Beliefs and belief change
7: Perceptual positions
8: Fast phobia cure
9: Hypnosis and meditation
11: Metaprogrammes, Profiles and Preferences
13. Progressive dissociation
14: Self Compassion
15: Senses and Sub-modalities
16. Six step re-framing
17: Storytelling (This page)
20: Time and timeline
21. Visual Squash
22: Values and value rules