Reveal meaning without defining it

“Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.” – Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt died almost 40 years ago but her quote still holds true up until today. But what did she really mean by that?

Stories are unobtrusive

The point is that a good story is an extremely good influential tool because it so unobtrusive. Stories create a pull. They let people decide for themselves – one of the great secrets of true influence. Other methods of influence – persuasion, bribery or charismatic appeal are push strategies – stories are pull strategies.

So rather that trying to push people in the direction we want (and people do not like to be pushed..), tell them a good story. Pushing hard against a persons’ beliefs are more likely to further cement their point of view. The beauty of a good story on the other hand is that people will make up their own conclusion. You do not have to impose it on them.

Story lets egos sleep

Think about it: Influence is classically described as a power struggle with two points of view in opposition.  Getting someone to admit they are wrong creates conflict. Logical arguments draw a line in the sand. One wins, one loses. A story is way more subtle and nobody loses. Story lets egos sleep. We influence with a story by deliberately trying not to influence.

Also if we want to influence decision-makers, we can’t just show them the numbers – we have to engage their emotions. Most decision making processes are largely based on emotions.  And storytelling is one of the best ways to evoke emotions. People most often do not need more facts – they need meaning.  The challenge is of course figuring out which stories to tell, how to tell them, and when. The story need to convey the message you try to bring across.

Story creates a pull not a push

If your story is good enough, people – of their own free will – come to the conclusion they can trust you and the message you bring….and you will not sound arrogant as if you tried to tell the listeners what to think. Stories give your audience the freedom to come to their own conclusions.

Try it.



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