Heather Hansen

Storytelling and Story Believing

Stories are having a moment, especially in business. Go to any business conference, and you’ll likely hear someone talk about ways to tell a brand’s story. Companies and businesses are actively deciding what stories they want to tell. And so are you. Every day, every one of us tells stories to our bosses, our friends, our families and ourselves. Whether you’re telling the story of your business or your life, the story you tell matters. But what matters even more than storytelling,  is story believing. 

I know this better than anyone. Because as a trial lawyer, it’s my job to tell the jury my client’s story. I do it with questions, exhibits and witnesses. I do it with emotion and I do it with evidence. However, I have to do more than tell the story. I need to make them believe it. Because every time I tell my client’s story, there is someone on the other side telling a competing story. So I have to go beyond storytelling, and step into advocating. I need to do all I can to be sure that the story I tell is the story that the jury believes.  

You need people to believe your stories as well. If you want to succeed, your clients need to believe your story. Your employees, your family, your friends–they all need to believe the stories you tell. In order for that to happen, you need to believe the stories you tell. Because the only way you can advocate for your story is if you believe it first. Otherwise, it’s nothing more than a fairy tale.

Once you believe your story, you can tell the listener “this is the story you should choose to believe, and here’s why”.  You can share the evidence, the emotion, the exhibits and the proof. And you must. Because story believing is much more important than story telling. If the person hearing your story doesn’t believe it, you lose. You lose credibility, you lose trust, and you lose the listener.  You have to give the listener reasons to believe. This is easier if you have the right tools  And you can use the same tools a lawyer uses to advocate for her client in the courtroom to advocate for your story in the boardroom, the sales floor, the living room, and beyond. 

Next week I’m going to share some of the tools you can use to advocate for your story. But first, I’d urge you to consider the story you’re telling and whether you believe it.  If you don’t believe it, no one will.  It’s not enough to tell me your stories. You have to make me believe. 

Heather Hansen

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