According to Wikipedia, communication “is a process of transferring information from one entity to another.” Sounds pretty straightforward.
But there is a vast difference between communicating and being an effective communicator.
What do the best communicators do better than good ones?
10. They use stories.
Why is it that we can remember jokes or the details of Moses parting the Red Sea that we heard in Sunday School when we were 10-years old but struggle with recalling the content of a memo we just read? Much business communication is fact and figure based. Jokes, parables, and anecdotes are stories. Stories get stuck; facts get forgotten.
Jesus used parables to make his message memorable. The Parable of the Prodigal Son could be shortened to this: You don’t have to stay in a hopeless place; you can change. I like the brevity of the statement, but is it memorable? That statement wouldn’t be remembered 2000 years after it was told. But the parable Jesus told is remembered by nearly everyone who has ever heard it.
Aesop’s Fables are another example of using stories to reinforce a message. “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” could be shortened to: “If you are known for lying, people won’t believe you even if you are telling the truth.” The summary is the moral to the story. It’s easier to remember a moral if it’s attached to an actual story.
How about the much-repeated work phrase “burning platform”?. The story goes like this:
An oil rig on the North Sea explodes in the night. Awakening to smoke and fire, a man runs to the deck to assess the situation. Fire is everywhere. The platform is engulfed in flames and will not last much longer. He has two options: stay and burn to death, or jump into the frigid water below. He chooses to jump. He’s pulled from the water by a passing ship. Why did he jump? “Better probable death than certain death.”
Because this story is so well known, it doesn’t have to be retold or explained each time someone says “a burning platform.” It is now understood as a catalyst for change.
Want to help your listener or reader recall your main points?
Tell a relevant story that links to your message.