As brain science now proves, emotions play a critical role in decision making. Human beings make rapid, subconscious, emotional decisions in one part of the brain, and then justify (or possibly adjust) those decisions more rationally in another area. Research also shows that we recall information more clearly and easily when it’s attached to emotion.
“If you want to influence buyers’ decisions, you need to influence them emotionally, not just rationally and logically,” affirms bestselling author Paul Smith. “And it’s difficult to influence people emotionally with only facts and logic and data. Fortunately, we have a tool to tap into people’s emotions quite effectively—a story.” In his new book, SELL WITH A STORY: How to Capture Attention, Build Trust, and Close the Sale (AMACOM; September 8, 2016), Smith offers the following techniques to enhance the emotional impact of the stories you tell buyers:
- Make me feel. Telling buyers how your main character feels (“He was outraged.” “She was distraught.”) is a good start. Showing them how the character feels by describing his or her behavior (“He stormed in and kicked over a chair.” “She ducked behind her minivan and started crying.”) is better. Best is to actually make buyers feel those very emotions. To pull this off, put your listeners in an equal position with the main character. Gradually draw them into the story and let them know as much, but no more and no less, than him or her. This position allows listeners to experience the same emotion as the main character by finding out the same emotion-causing information in the same way he or she does in the story.
- Make me care. If your listeners don’t know anything about the characters in your story, it’s difficult for them to care about what happens to those characters. If your story starts with, “There was this guy I used to work with who got fired…,” why should they care? But if you start with, “There was this guy named Matt I used to work with in California who was my favorite coworker. He got to work every morning before everyone and turned on the coffeepot. He’d always cover for me when I needed to take a day off. He knew the job and answered my questions without making me feel stupid for asking…,” and then go on to tell about how he got fired, then your listeners will care. Because they know Matt and like him.
- Use dialogue. Instead of telling the audience what the characters feel, let them hear it. Use words that capture your character’s unspoken emotions, as well as what he or she says out loud. For example, instead of telling listeners that your character felt nervous and unprepared for her new job, you could share her inner thoughts this way: “She shook the interviewer’s hand and said, ‘Thank you so much for the job offer. I won’t let you down.’ But inside, she was thinking, ‘Oh my God, I have no idea how to do this. I’m going to get fired on my first day!’”
Adapted from Sell with a Story: How to Capture Attention, Build Trust, and Close the Sale by Paul Smith (AMACOM September 2016).
PAUL SMITH is a popular speaker and expert trainer on business storytelling techniques. A former Procter & Gamble executive, his clients include Hewlett Packard, Bayer Medical, Progressive Insurance, Walmart, and other distinguished companies. As the author of Lead with a Story, his work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Inc., Time, Forbes, The Washington Post, Success, and Investor’s Business Daily.