How can I use storytelling to persuade my very “blinkered” and left-brain colleagues that there may be more than one way to resolve an issue?

I want to be able to tell stories in an informal context, just chatting. The “audience” would generally be work colleagues who are generally very concrete and left-brain thinkers.

I sometimes find that they are very “blinkered” and will hone in on something minor without seeing the bigger picture.

My intention in telling the story is for them to go away thinking that there may be more than one way to resolve an issue, to have fire in the belly to accomplish tasks and to understand that there will always be a human element in dealing with people (surprising that!) and that you cannot win arguments, or get messages across with legislation, rules, regulations alone – you need to understand people, invoke appropriate emotions and that there are different ways to get the message across.

Sounds like an interesting challenge you have set yourself. You can have some fun with this. You have identified several outcomes which I would group like this:

1) seeing the bigger picture, not getting caught in the details-
more than one way to resolve an issue

2) legislation and rules are not enough, you have to include the human element.

3) having fire in the belly to accomplish tasks.

Rather than approaching the whole challenge in one go, choose the one that you feel you can accomplish with the greatest ease first.

So where do you start?

For each of these outcomes start looking for stories that illustrate the message. In your own experience, when did you have fire in your belly to accomplish a task? What examples can you think of where NOT having fire in the belly negatively impacted on the outcome? Start scanning newspapers and magazines for situations where legislation and rules have not included the human element. I’m not going to do your home work for you :-) but I think you’ll find a rich source of stories there once you start to look.

Of course, because these stories are “news” they are easy to bring up in the course of a normal conversation. Although it’s possible that the right story told at the right time could make all the difference to someone what you want to go for in this case is lots of little pointers in the direction you want to go. No one will suspect that all the interesting news items you keep dropping into conversations have the same theme. You may also create a “wildfire” effect where other people start passing on these interesting stories.–

Ok one quick example- there was an article in the news the other day about a fireman who faced a disciplinary hearing because he had disobeyed a direct order from his line manager not to enter a burning building. He was given a formal written warning for his actions- though the disciplinary committee did note that his actions saved the life of a 5 year old child that he pulled from the fire. You can use that kind of story as a conversation starter. Should he have obeyed his line manager? What would have happened if he had? Was it more important to save the child than follow the rules?

I will give you some suggestions for tackling the first outcome- animal behaviour experiments! Develop an interest in the strange and intriging world of animal behaviour. Check out “Nature”, “New Scientist”. Get some books out of the library.

I was walking along the road with my friends dog “Indy” the other day. He was on a lead and we happened to walk on either side of a lamp-post. Of course all forward motion stopped. The only way I could get him to untangle the lead was actually to walk backwards!! There are lots of experiments with dogs, cats rats and mice that demonstrate both the flexibility of their learning and also their blind spots.

Hope that helps!!!


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