How does one construct and structure a sequence of stories on the fly in the course of an ordinary conversation to achieve a specific outcome?

I love this question because it gets to the heart of what is possible when you master the art and science of hypnotic storytelling. It reminds me of a story John Grinder told me. When Richard Bandler and he were modelling Virginia Satir she would often make what seemed unusual and counter intuitive interventions based on her intuitions. When John asked her “How did you know to do that?” she would reply “I just had a gut feeling” As John pointed out, that’s all very well … as long as you have Virginia Satir’s guts.

The truth is, I have virtually no conscious input into the choices that I make when I construct a sequence of stories on the fly in the course of an ordinary conversation. I open my mouth and the words come out. As I am talking I will see pictures that act as visual cues for relevant stories and I am sometimes aware of making a choice between two or three pictures depending on my intuitions in the moment.

Intuitions and improvisations like this are based on massive amounts of practise and rehearsal and the direct experience and feedback that I have received through more than 20 years of playing around with this stuff.

On the other hand, you already have a great deal of experience in this area whether or not you realise it. Many conversations between people are built on the exchange of stories. Someone tells you something which reminds you of something that happened to you, you tell that story, that reminds them of something … and on it goes.

If I break the problem down into simpler parts it should give you some clues as to what you need to focus on next.

1) Setting an outcome.
How do you choose your outcome?
What story do you know that is analogous to the current situation and moves in the direction of your outcome?
What embedded commands, reframes and other verbal patterns are necessary to acheive your outcome?

2) What are the key stages you need to move through before you deliver 1) See there are always certain steps you need to go through on the way to your outcome depending on the context.
Rapport building is always going to be the first one, Getting attention is another. Trance elicitation may be a third. If your desired outcome is learning something new then you may need to go through a belief change or elicit learning states (early learning sets for example) If your intention is persuasion then you might want to elicit wanton desire, powerful away from or towards motivation, good decision making…

For each of these stages it is possible for you to create a library of stories that you have already rehearsed to unconscious competence. Then it’s just a question of choosing the stages and picking the appropriate story for the context.

3) Don’t do all the work yourself! In a formal presentation situation you can just deliver story after story. If you have excellent calibration skills then you can generally tell when your audience are getting it .. they give you subtle clues like nodding their head, leaning forward or rocking backwards! In a conversational situation then it is much easier to ask questions and to let them do the talking. Not only does that give you time to think of what to say next (while listening intently of course) it also means you get to collect the key words and phrase that are powerful drivers for your audience.

Hope that makes some sense.



{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Jeff Sauber February 13, 2010, 3:53 pm

    Stories on the fly

    First off, let me tell you how excited I am about this blog. This is a very difficulty skill to get a handle on! A person can get a lot of mileage out of this posting alone.

    It’s funny that you mention “gut feelings.” Many sources on this kind of story telling delineate precise, conscious steps and techniques, but this is very much a subconscious process, for the teller as much as the listener, and I don’t think I’ve seen that mentioned elsewhere.

    Here are a couple of observations I’ve had regarding this skill:
    For people who don’t usually tell a lot of stories, they should start just telling short, fun stories to get the feel of calibrating and connecting to the audience.
    Hold the feeling of the outcome as a goal, not necessarily a particular phrase. That way, one doesn’t get hung up in the words.
    Also be aware of the feeling of the words & images you chose along the way. All that stuff goes right to the subconscious.

    What do you think, Robin?

    • Robin February 13, 2010, 4:04 pm

      Relying on Gut Feelings

      Thanks Jeff, some good advice there. I agree that starting off with short fun stories is the way to go while learning to calibrate and connect to the audience. Holding the feeling of an outcome as a goal is also key to being able to lead your audience where you want them to go. Your whole bodymind state is itself an anchor and a driver for their experience. As skilled hypnotists will recognise, one way of inducing trance is simply to pace your subject and once you have unconscious rapport, simply take yourself into a deep trance!! Of course for this to work you have to be able to maintain your hypnotic skills while in deep trance!!!

      Off the top of my head I can think of one source that mentions the importance of gut feelings in choosing which story to tell next- Sidney Rosen in his notes to “My Voice Will Go With You- The Teaching Tales of Milton H. Erickson”