Yesterday I wrote about the need of having a winning story to present yourself. Unfortunately many don’t have a story like that,
just like me, which makes you fall into a big, black hole of anxiety together with your listeners. An anxiety that is born out of a
problematic tension between that which we fear, and that we must do. Because we need to sell ourselves to make our business happen,
since we can’t afford a PR bureau or hiring a sales manager. We fear the situation when the dreadful question: “So, what do you do?”
comes up. Sometimes to a point where we give up our business since the fear of promoting ourselves is too much for us to handle.
There are mainly two reasons for that fear. Both are intertwined with us humans being dependant of living in social groups, or networks,
and the fact that we strive to be accepted by our group, be seen as normal.
First of all: our lives are in detail affected by what we think our group, tribe, or social network expect from us.
Cultural values is what we breathe from the moment we are born until the day we die. It tells us how to look upon the world and how
to fit into our group. How to behave.
As a matter of fact it exist a culturally formed pattern for how to talk to strangers. Yes there is such a pattern! And at least in
the European countries it’s really not expected from you to talk about yourself, or express personal opinions about anything. Our pattern
steers us to NOT do this at all. This is how we are expected to handle a conversation, for instance at a mingle party: When you arrive
and meet a new face you say “Hi, I’m X” and then something totally meaningless, a platitude like “How are you?” or “Nice to meet you”.
These are phrases that you use without meaning anything at all. As a matter of fact, if the other part would start explaining their
health status or expressing overwhelming joy over the fact that you find it nice, you would instantly start looking for a way to escape.
The only reason for using these sentences is to have something at all to say while checking if the other part seem normal, speak
your language and is sober enough to do so.
If your new friend seems to relatively normal, it’s safe to proceed to the next step. You are now allowed to talk about objective
things easy to see. Say “This is a great place” or “did you see the program”. Again you are careful to avoid expressing any personal
opinions at all. When everything you can see has been successfully noticed and agreed upon that they exist, it’s time to step into step
three. Step three allows you to have an opinion. About someone or something else. Don’t get personal or private while talking weather,
the features of Thailand or how terrible the new prime minister looks in his moustache. It’s a great joy to talk about and scrutinize
someone else, it creates lots of chances to get a laugh or two. Nothing wrong with that except for one thing. What you should be doing
is marketing yourself.
The second reason is also based on the fact that we belong to different social groups. Not only a certain country or
city, but also a certain profession. Many of us share the experience that it’s often hard to explain to others what your occupation
is about. The main reason is that what you do, as a day to day activity, is quite mysterious for others.
Since you are the expert, a big nerd actually, you love talking about the most introspective details of your profession. Do I need to
point out for you that in most cases your initiated and passionate descriptions of what you do is like ancient Greek to most of your
listeners? The words you use are totally meaningless to others than you and your colleagues. Everyone else are having a black hole moment.
So there’s two complications we have to balance with the fact that we really need to talk about ourselves and our
business. Market ourselves! Sell! Earn money!
That’s a problematic tension for anyone to handle.
What do you do when someone asks you about what you do? How do you communicate your crucial message to your target group? And what do
you do when traditional marketing is too expensive?
You need to talk about yourself. It’s a do or die moment. Unfortunately far too many solve this tension by “dying”. They simply
quit their business. So unnecessary when there is a simple solution to this problem.
And this solution is of cause strategic storytelling.
This text is part of chapter 2: Storytelling in business from a coming book about storytelling within business.
To read previous writing, go to the blog page or choose the tag storytelling
(Do you have opinions about my english? You are probably quite right, since I’m not native a native english speaker. Which means that, as long as you’re not swedish, I probably write better english then you write swedish.)