As communicators we have our biases. If you are a bottom-line person, you love communicating your point. This feels both right and satisfying to you, but the problem is you risk losing half your audience: the flowery people. If you are a flowery person, you paint pictures every time you speak and while you appeal to the other flowery people in the room, you probably drive bottom-line people insane!
To be master communicators, we have to make sure our communication appeals to both types of people: it needs a clear point and it must paint a picture. Not easy to do! This might sound counterintuitive, but the quickest and easiest way to win over your entire audience is through a short story.
Imagine you’re a leader. You’re talking to your team (made up of both bottom-line and flowery people) about seeing opportunities where others might see none. You could share this story.
Many years ago two salesmen were sent by a British shoe manufacturer to Africa to investigate and report back on market opportunities. The first salesman reported back, “There is no opportunity here – nobody wears shoes.” The second salesman reported back, “There is massive opportunity here – nobody wears shoes!” If we see opportunities where our competitors don’t, imagine the difference we could make.
A short, purposeful story paints a picture and, if done well, it also makes a point. It’s a slam-dunk for both flowery and bottom-line people.
What are your thoughts? Please comment, I love hearing from you.
* Thanks to my mentor Robi Mack for her use of these terms.
This was a story shared by the late, great David Foster Wallace, a brilliant American writer. Wallace said the point of the fish story is that the most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about.
That is why the new kid on the block, has the bright ideas, or new recruits see so much opportunity for change or innovation. So how do we in our daily environments make the invisible (water) visible?
- Get a mentor or a coach who can see what you can’t see
- Run your business issue past a friend or trusted advisor from a completely different industry. If you are a scientist, ask an artist’s opinion. If you are an economist, work with a poet. Get someone who has a completely different perspective and discipline to you
- Cultivate the mavericks in your organisations, the rebels and the people who always play devil’s advocate – remember they can see the water, where most people can’t. So no matter how irritating they might be, they have a valuable view point to contribute.
What are your strategies for seeing the water? Please comment I love hearing from you.