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Storytelling: Pure Emotional Persuasion

Dec 13, 2007
I'll admit it. I cry at movies sometimes. I'm comfortable with it and not ashamed in the least. Movies are stories and stories have been used to elicit emotions (either by design or accident) since the beginning of man. Some of the most fantastic stories are tremendously moving. This emotion can be manifested as a 'feel good' or a 'tear jerker', it can be uplifting or depressing, revolutionary, or merely entertaining. The most important thing to keep upper most in your mind as you think about stories, is that they are an opening, a hole, so to speak, that you can fill with a message, your message.

Stories tailored for business and sales need to consider the emotional state of mind that they will put your prospect our client in. In persuasion, we're really simply using stories to control these emotional states. The value of stories is in the state in which it puts our audience.

When I tell stories I want to both make a point and put my prospect into a profound emotional state, carry them away, so to speak and open to accepting my message.

Ideally, we should have an arsenal of compelling, persuasive, powerful stories at our ready for any given situation. Think about 'respect', for example. For our affluent and perhaps elderly clientèle, the idea of respect is sometimes an incredibly important and motivating factor as to whether or not they want to do business with you.

With my son, I do my level best to instill a sense of respect as he deals with his elders. I reinforce this point with him when I watch him interact. I was with him the other day at his marshal arts lesson. And in front of my son, I addressed his Sensei. I said, 'Sensei, I wanted to tell you that at the last belt advancement that I was just at with my son, I was really impressed. There was a man there that must have been in his seventies.' And Sensei smiled broadly and he said, 'Yes. He's about 73.'

And I said, 'He was up for the test to advance his rank. When it came time for his sparring, his Sensei jumped up to spar with him. I noticed that the older man was having think before reacting, he would see something coming, he would stand there for a brief second and then he would react. It was clear that his faculties weren't as sharp and his body wasn't as quick, but yet, it almost brought tears to my eyes to see this man walking into the ring, walking onto the matt and doing his level best. Moreover, it impressed me that his Sensei made him look so good. He respected him enough to make him look good. I realized this wasn't about outperforming the man, it was about respecting the human spirit.' My son's Sensei just beamed and he responded, 'That's absolutely correct. You've got it right on all fronts.'

What preceded this, is a two paragraph story on respect that most likely elicited an emotional response. I wanted to illustrate to my son the importance of showing respect for our elders just in the same way the Sensei showed respect to his elder.

The story worked and my son understood profoundly. The story also touches me profoundly as I have a great affection for both the Sensei and the older man in the ring.

With emotional storytelling I look to constantly and consistently maneuver the emotions of the listener, and once I've opened them up emotionally, I can implant anything I want. What is a story like this, about respect, going to show you? Well, it's going to show that I have respect for my elders, that I find value in the concept of respect itself. What might you believe as a result of hearing this story? That I am highly respectful.

This sets the frame. Within the frame, we can leverage knowledge so that somebody like our listener, has an undiscovered hero.

What are some of your stories that might elicit deep emotional responses and how can you incorporate them into your persuasion repertoire?
About the Author
Kenrick Cleveland teaches techniques to earn the business of affluent clients using persuasion. He runs public and private seminars and offers home study courses and coaching programs in persuasion techniques.
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