Stories are valuable tools in the art of communication and persuasion and a leader’s power of a good story can influence others. One of the important parts of Simmons book for a course on Stories and Creative Leadership is in discussing the effective communication channels. Communication is not only words but, tone, facial expressions, body language, gestures, listening, and timing. It is both verbal and nonverbal as Simmons noted, “When you tell a story, your body and your voice become the stage, actors, costumes, music and props” (85). A good storyteller speaks from their heart. It is not only why a story is told but how. It is up to a leader to connect with others through story which incorporates sensory perception and personal experiences whether their own or someone else’s. Storytelling opens the door to expressing similar experiences that others can relate. In chapter 10, “The life of a storyteller” the description of techniques such as, patterns, consequences, lessons, utility, vulnerability, future experiences, and story recollections are the bridges to story sharing (para 235).
A second important part is in the exploring the psychology aspect of a story’s influence. The connection begins sharing knowledge with a human touch to the heart resulting in the freedom of expression for all. According to Simmons in chapter 5, “The Psychology of Story’s influence,” “When you tell a story that touches me, you give me the gift of human attention – the kind that connects me to you, that touches m heart and makes me feel more alive” (111). It isn’t facts and charts that keep a listeners attention, but the emotional foundation that is laid. A story can evoke many emotions happiness, sadness, or a feeling of empowerment. A creative leader has the potential to tell stories that affect our behavior, thoughts and feelings. What are our dreams and hopes, our beliefs and values, our outlook, and fears influenced by? The story.
Types of Stories
The third important part is reviewing the types of stories and knowing which kind of story to tell. Each story will have a different impact on the listener just as creative leadership has various disciplines to choose from. What does it depend on? The situation. For example, in dealing with jealousy over injustice Simmons commented, “If you are dealing with a genuine injustice such as nepotism or racism, acknowledging and setting the inequity right is your best strategy for influence (172).
Additional light is shed through Kantor’s essay on the importance of narrative in relation to leadership. A leader must have knowledge of the deeper meaning of narratives, the different elements it consists of and choosing which patterns connect to a specific situation. Clinton was able to talk to the audience, not at them. They understood him, his words and therefore, created trust. He took a story and made it a new story as Jodi Kantor described, Mr. Clinton decided to write the book, an aide said, after he campaigned in the midterm elections and met voters who thanked him for explaining the administration’s policies in a way they had never understood before. He was able to take facts and figures and used communication in which others could appreciate and recognize. Having watched Clinton speak, have you recognized other communication tools that were used? I noticed repetition and confidence.
Simmons helped me shape my short story by looking for patterns in my life. I have always been a questioner regardless of the topic of conversation. My audience is narrow as I speak to parents (even though I have no children), I speak to teachers and those who want to learn.
As a parent, it is important to instill independence and simple problem solving values. I can remember as a child lying on the living room floor working on homework while the air filled with that night’s dinner surprise. I would be writing and then suddenly stop. “How do you spell public?” I shouted out to my mother who was in the kitchen. “I don’t know, maybe you should look it up in the dictionary” she said. I knew she knew and she knew she knew how to spell the word. At first I was frustrated and angry and had a hissy fit right there on the floor. “How can I look up a word I don’t know how to spell? I cried. Her response to me was, “Sound it out.” First the tears, then raising of the voice and then stomping off to my room. When it happened again, I needed to spell camera and my mother led me to the dictionary. Again I responded as I child who did not get what they wanted and off I went teary eyed to my room. The third time was different, something happened as I was reading I came across a word I didn’t know. I immediately pulled out the dictionary. I slowly became confident in resolving my own problems. The lessons she taught me to think for myself, become independent in my thinking and to take action when needed would be crucial as I reached adulthood.
What I found most interesting was Simmons take on exaggerated tones and gestures while speaking. It is childlike and it wants to make her “crawl under a chair and hide in embarrassment for the one using it” (204). Does it make leader sound like they are talking to children or is it a way of communicating to a person and connecting to an earlier experience they might have had? Once again, I believe that the situation helps to make a leaders decision on how to make their approach. A few pages later Simmons describes a story teller that utilizes the same features that were negative, but put a positive spin on it, “His adolescent glee in grossing everyone out made the story more interesting and added sensory and emotional stimulation that better glued the story to our memory” (212).
Kantor, Jodi. 2011 “With a Book, the Last Democrat in the White House Tries to Help the Current One.” New York Times 4 Nov 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/05/us/politics/with-book-bill-clinton-makes-new-bid-to-bolster-obama.html?_r=1>
Simmons, Annette. The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence, and Persuasion Through the Art of Storytelling. Cambridge: Basic Books, 2006.