Further to my previous article on hypnotic story telling, we continue…
First of all then let’s answer that question;
when exactly should you use stories in your communication?
– Whenever you want to fully engage someone when communicating, not just their conscious mind.
– Whenever you want to help get the best resources a person has to offer working on a solution.
– When there is conscious resistance of some kind, a belief or attitude that’s preventing progress within your communication.
– Use stories when you are selling anything; including yourself.
– If you’re a therapist, use them for the benefit of your clients.
– As a parent, of course use them to get valuable moral messages and lessons to your children.
– Stories can be used to intensify positive feelings – toward you, toward a positive new behaviour (such as a diet change or exercise) or even toward a product.
Come to think of it, I can’t think of a communication environment or circumstance that would not be enhanced greatly by the elegant use of stories. Due to this, I believe it is a good idea, as you learn how to use stories effectively and for maximum impact, to begin to fully imagine and consider all the ways you will be using them to improve your communication, your life and the lives of those around you.
How can anyone easily use stories with skill in their communication?
The first way to think of this is to think in terms of delivering solutions to a cited problem: How can you help deliver a solution to someone’s problem? You can think of metaphor as one way to deliver solutions.
Metaphors are particularly elegant ways to help people find a solution because they deliver process instructions – not content instructions. Process means how to do something as opposed to what specifically to do. Process instructions allow for the individual to craft their own solutions, unique to their situation.
I can remember watching the President of the NLP Society, John LaValle came on stage at a training that I attended with him some years ago and he told us about his journey from his hotel to the training venue. He spoke of how in awe of London Taxi drivers he was. On his journey a large section of road had been closed and so they were unable to take the usual route to the hotel and the driver used his “knowledge” to find an alternative way to reach the venue in good time. As it happened, the new journey offered up some treats and different sights and was very beneficial.
You can see how that would be a useful way to start a training seminar, can’t you? To illustrate that there are many benefits to taking new routes, to show that you have knowledge and need to dip into it sometimes to get new results, to show how to easily overcome obstacles when they present themselves. When subtly and cleverly done, this is powerful stuff.
Let me move on more specifically to metaphor. People often express their problems in terms of metaphor – we can provide solutions in the same format. Have you ever heard someone say “life is a bitch?” Or “he just can’t keep his head above water,” or “I have been burning the candle at both ends?”
This is speaking in metaphor and you can honour that communication by responding with a metaphor of your own! It will show that you understand and appreciate how they are communicating with you.
A metaphor speaks the language of the unconscious mind. One of my favourite TV shows as a teenager was the comedy sci-fi series Red Dwarf. I can remember a brilliant episode, where the main characters all went to a parallel universe. When they were there they discovered that one decision in their lives had radically changed how they were. They saw how they were getting on as a result of that very minor changes that had happened with themselves in this parallel universe. It is a very interesting idea because you can offer the same kind of insight in communication with metaphor.
Building Parallel Realities: Keeping the Structure of the Situation:
In order for a metaphor to be effective in solving a particular problem, it must engage the unconscious mind in relation to that problem. In other words, the story must be similar to the problem situation or the unconscious mind won’t get the idea.
One way to create that similarity is to maintain the structure of the problem situation. This is building parallel realities.
Let’s consider some examples…
1) A client comes to see me as a therapist and wants to reduce weight. They say that they have tried everything and they don’t have the willpower to stick to anything. This involves a person trying to accomplish something, so your metaphor should involve someone (or some thing) trying to accomplish a goal.
2) You’re a salesperson. A customer thinks the thing you’re trying to sell them is too expensive. We would need a metaphor where a person gets a change in perspective about the value of something. The metaphor would preserve the structure of the current situation (perceived lack of value of an item).
3) A husband and wife are fighting. We would tell a story about two people or two animals or two plants or two aliens (anything) that weren’t getting along.
Next Step? – Providing a Solution:
Telling a story that preserves the structure of a problem situation will help the unconscious get the idea that what you’re saying applies directly to their situation. It won’t help them solve the problem though. Your story should help find a solution too!
The client who wants willpower should hear a story that ends in accomplishing a goal. The customer who thinks an item is too expensive should get an ending that ends in a shift of perspective about value. The husband and wife certainly could use a story that ends up in a harmonious relationship.
But how do you know what story to tell or what solution to offer?
When I mentioned the husband and wife who are fighting. Maybe they were fighting because they were not appreciative of each other anymore or had lost some of their “spark.” Here are some brief examples of how you might construct a metaphor for them…
A cat and a dog that fought like, well, cats and dogs. Then on a cold winter night they had to huddle together to keep warm. That gave them an increased appreciation for one another.
How about two trees that were always complaining that the other one was stealing all the sunlight? It wasn’t until they realised that they were protecting each other from the wind that they began to appreciate each other.
What about two neighbours who were always fighting until they discovered that they were both stamp collectors?
Do you remember that pop song by Rupert Holmes; The Pina Colada song, from way back then…. Went a bit like this;
I was tired of my lady, we’d been together too long.
Like a worn-out recording, of a favourite song.
So while she lay there sleeping, I read the paper in bed.
And in the personals column, there was this letter I read:
“If you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain.
If you’re not into yoga, if you have half-a-brain.
If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape.
I’m the lady you’ve looked for, write to me, and escape.”
I didn’t think about my lady, I know that sounds kind of mean.B
Put me and my old lady, had fallen into the same old dull routine.
So I wrote to the paper, took out a personal ad.
And though I’m nobody’s poet, I thought it wasn’t half-bad.
“Yes, I like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain.
I’m not much into health food, I am into champagne.
I’ve got to meet you by tomorrow noon, and cut through all this red tape.
At a bar called O’Malley’s, where we’ll plan our escape.”
So I waited with high hopes, then she walked in the place.
I knew her smile in an instant, I knew the curve of her face.
It was my own lovely lady, and she said, “Oh, it’s you.”
And we laughed for a moment, and I said, “I never knew”..
“That you liked Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain.
And the feel of the ocean, and the taste of champagne.
If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape.
You’re the love that I’ve looked for, come with me, and escape.”
Now that is a seriously wonderfully hypnotic song isn’t it? Tells a great story doesn’t it?
I got a bit carried away by putting all the lyrics here and they are not really that important, but you know where I am coming from here. Ok, let me get back on track…
Get the idea though? All the examples I have given (before the song lyrics) maintain the structure of the problem situation (two characters that aren’t getting along).
They metaphors are parallel to the problem in that they contain a lack of appreciation (the type of problem). In all cases, the metaphor provides increased appreciation through a shift in perspective (the solution).
A good metaphor will often include a shift in perception, skill building (or transporting a skill from another area) and resource states. A resource state is simply an emotional or physiological state that helps someone accomplish a goal.
The couple who had been arguing surely needed a shift in perspective. They could use some skills in recognizing each other’s valuable qualities. They might benefit from the resource states of calmness or a sense of appreciation (or someone playing them the Rupert Holmes song!).
Your metaphor could include all this…
“…and the trees began to see, hear and feel all the ways they made each other’s lives richer and more rewarding. A sense of calmness and appreciation flowed deep into their beings like drawing water up through their roots…”
Of course, I would recommend that you did NOT use a metaphor along the lines of “A Daddy alligator and a Mummy alligator were arguing one day and….” It needs to be pertinent and suitable and I recommend that if you use metaphor, you wind it into a really good story.
So when you are out there communicating with friends, family, children, colleagues and anyone else, think about how you can use stories and metaphors to get your messages delivered to your audiences unconscious mind and have them resonate deeply with you.