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.
This video introduces the power of storytelling in NLP.
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 influential 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 ten basic storytelling approaches that are worth exploring. Good stories are likely to be a combination of more than one; however, using even one can significantly improve the impact of our communication.
All these approaches have the potential to be exceptionally effective in the proper context. However, they often need practice so that we don’t make the story sound contrived. With practice, we will come over naturally and pay attention to how our audience reacts.
Ten 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 problematic right 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 more minor changes. You could go from depression to frustration to determination, excitement to action, and feeling good to the 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 correct 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 exciting point is that using this format can make a person who has limited experience come over as exceptionally experienced and competent.
6. Brief introduction/toast
- So what?
- Now what?
7. Brief pitch
- Problem (or opportunity)
8. Marketing Story
This is based on an idea from Seth Godin and is helpful in sales and marketing as well as 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 could set up my business, help clients develop quicker than they thought possible, and lead the life I wanted.
9. Nested Loops
Stories within stories are particularly compelling 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 holds three open stories, we have very little consciousness 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.
10. The Hero’s Journey
This is another classical story structure. There are a number of versions – this one is loosely based on Joseph Campbell’s. from his book: The Hero of a Thousand Faces.
The Hero’s Journey is more than a metaphor; it may be the strategy for 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 fictional 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 has several 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 the 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 her 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 returned, 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 following section turns to NLP Strategies, one of the core skills of NLP. What sensory route map do we go through to achieve what we want or don’t want?
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Key NLP Techniques Section Index
1: NLP Techniques
3: Amplify feelings
4: Bad memories (Dissolving)
5: Bad memories (Exploding)
6: Belief change
7: NLP Coaching
8: Perceptual positions
9: Fast phobia cure
10: Hypnosis and meditation and separately Free Hypnosis MP3s
12: Mental Rehearsal
13: Metaprogrammes, Profiles and Preferences
15: Progressive dissociation
17: Self Compassion
19. Six step re-framing
21: States and anchors
24: Timeline therapy
25: Visual Squash