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Stories can also be used to add context or background information, "I know you'd like to launch new product line, but when I was at industry conference a couple of weeks ago, I heard banks want to get into our business, which means...." Very often, information by itself has little meaning or impact without context. Stories buttress our arguments by explaining rationale we used, and not just conclusions we reached.
You can use stories as a type of proof. My life insurance experience is a pointed example. The most effective stories, of course, talk about good and bad things that happen to survivors after an unexpected death.
Sometimes, a story can be used for self-deprecation. By making fun of myself, I can further illustrate point I'm trying to make. For example "Did I ever tell you about time I spilled coffee on a client while he was sitting at our boardroom table? As it turned out, it broke ice between us and we ended up talking serious business. Now, I'm not suggesting you spill coffee on clients, too, but I would suggest that you look for ways to connect with them on a personal level."
Where can we find stories? The best ones come from our own experience, from things that happened to us and things we've done. But, don't overlook magazines, television, and other mass media. For example, you might warn against doing something by explaining what happened to characters in TV sitcoms when they did something similar. Remember, most sitcoms are morality plays in modern garb.
Which reminds me of time when....
In summary, strategically-used stories can help us communicate more effectively by adding emotion or context, providing proof, or giving us a chance to poke fun at ourselves.
Robert F. Abbott writes and publishes Abbott's Communication Letter. Learn how you can use communication to help achieve your goals, by reading articles or subscribing to this ad-supported newsletter. An excellent resource for leaders and managers, at: http://www.communication-newsletter.com