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Once upon a time

By Stephan Moons

I am very fond of storytelling.
When I was a little child my mother sometimes took me to one of her friends, Jane, who ran a shoe-shop. 
When I close my eyes today I can still picture the little shop and smell the scent of leather shoes and polishing products.
I can hear the faint sound of the General Motors plant's industrial humming noise nearby.
The tiny place was packed with a million shoe-boxes, creating the perfect cocoon for a good story. 
And Shoe-Shop Jane was a breathtaking master storyteller...
Her stories did not treat great philosophical matters. Most of them were about plain human affairs such as love, hate, disappointment, cheating, hope... 
In NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) I am what they call the auditory type: I prefer words and sounds to capture and assimilate information. 
Whenever I hear a story that I enjoy, a fairly accurate copy/paste is done to my own memory.
When mum and I returned home from Jane's magical shoe-shop my two brothers always expected me to do a rendition of Shoe-Shop Jane's latest tale.
"Come on, tell us what she told!"
I would then imagine myself in the shoe-shop again, and It was as if Jane took possession of my mind, voice and limbs. Jane had been so inspiring that it wasn't difficult for me to pass on her story. 
During my childhood I learned that stories were very powerful. I was well aware of the mesmerizing effect they had on me, and on the ones who I was sharing my stories with.
Good stories have great connecting and inspiring power. Storylisteners seem to disconnect from the here and now and trustfully offer their imagination to be stirred by the storyteller's words. 
Nowadays storytelling has become a hype in sales and marketing, but talented salespeople, marketeers, trainers and presenters have always understood and used storytelling has an effective tool to inspire their audiences.
In transformational communication (sales, marketing, training, coaching, presenting) I like to call stories imagination capturing examples that people can relate to.
Building your audience's story forces you to empathize with their situation, concerns and needs.
In fact, the power of a story is that you aren't just telling something to somebody, you are conveying an entire experience so that all senses of your audience become engaged:
seeing, hearing, feeling, sensing... smelling.
An effective storyteller is more of a facilitator: by painting the picture he invites others to use their own imagination and create their very own insights.
Effective storytelling is not imposing, it's inviting.
An effective story needs to be an authentic offer, not just a strategy.
That's why it's always a good idea to prime a story:
  • Can I share a story with you? 
  • I understand... This is exactly what I thought myself not so long ago, until something happened to me. Would you like to know what that was...
(Are you ready to share an experience that might increase your autonomy?)
Shoe-Shop Jane is no longer amongst us, but her stories live on.
In the meantime neuroscience has revealed why storytelling has such a strong transformational power: an aspect that I enjoy elaborating on during trainings.
However, the most important aspect of storytelling is that you should feel passionate about it and enjoy it yourself.
It is only then that the magic of true stories will really happen...
Merry X-mas to all of you!
May all your stories come true!