Telling your vision as a story

In a time of change, people are likely to feel uncertain, confused, or even afraid.

The best way to get them to support your project is by inspiring them. And the best way to inspire them is by telling a story.

Human beings are hard-wired for stories. We connect with them, engage with them, and remember them in ways that simply don’t happen when we receive the same information in other forms. Princeton neuroscientist Uri Hasson has found that, “Story is the only way to activate parts in the brain so that a listener turns the story into their own idea and experience.”

More than this, when facts and emotions are combined into a story they create meaning. This is why we love movies. As screenwriting guru Robert McKee explains,

“When an idea wraps itself around an emotional charge, it becomes all the more powerful, all the more profound, all the more memorable… In short, a story well told gives you the very thing you cannot get from life: meaningful emotional experience.”

Story is the best way to deliver a vision that your audience will not only understand, but will find so meaningful and inspiring that they adopt it as their own.

Inner Leadership describes the seven basic building blocks of any inspiring vision:

  • Speak with your own authentic voice
  • Make it relevant for your audience
  • Show there is a problem
  • Define the future state you want to create
  • Relate your message to higher principles, values, or ideals
  • Define the needed steps and show that they are achievable
  • Let people make up their own minds but make sure they choose

To illustrate the importance of story, notice see what happens if we improvise one deliberately bland sentence for each of these blocks and then join them to make a story:

“We are facing a difficult situation, unlike anything we have experienced before. But we come from a long line of people who have faced difficult situations and overcome them. We can’t stay as we are, or go back to where we were: we have to move forward. If we go in the direction I am suggesting then we have the opportunity to build something very special together. By following this path we will uphold the very principles we stand for. We already have all the tools and resources we need. The only question is, are you willing to step up and play your part for those who will come after?”

Each building block on its own is just a single boring ingredient. But combined in the right order and proportions — like your mother’s cooking, or the recipe for gunpowder — they become an output that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Telling your vision as a story is the best way to combine fact and emotion so that you and other people will want to make your chosen way forward happen.