What stories can do that facts can’t

A client asked me to replace the “feel-good element” of a script I had written with facts.

The video’s intention was to get colleagues to participate in the business’s CSI initiative to empower educators and learners in Africa with skills, tech, and development support.

His reasoning was that the people at his company have A-type personalities and are influenced by facts, not emotions. Facts like ‘Africa’s population will have doubled by 2050, making it harder for governments to provide access to basic education.’

This, he believed, was reason enough for his colleagues to WANT to volunteer their time, skill, and energy to reduce poverty and inequality in Africa.

But here’s the thing. People with A-type personalities are still human. And humans — no matter how rational they claim to be — make decisions based on how the facts make them FEEL, and how the facts fit into their personal narratives.

If you “let the facts speak for themselves”, your audience’s interpretation of those facts may not fit the intention or influence you were hoping to achieve.

That’s because people will discount facts that don’t fit into their personal narratives, or they’ll interpret facts to fit into their story — even if they don’t (rationally) fit.

Facts need context (like who, when, and where) to become truths. Stories provide that context, allowing you to influence how people interpret facts.

People don’t need new facts. People need new stories. When you change a person’s story, you’re more likely to change their behaviour.

So, don’t start with the facts. Start with a story and then add the facts. Tell a story that will influence how people feel BEFORE giving the data.

Bottom line? Stories create power. They prompt less resistance to your message. They’re a dynamic tool of influence because they’re the least invasive way to get your message across.

And that is a fact.

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