My aunt M is a source of many wonderful books. She comes down to visit with a stack she thinks I’ll like, and though I’m not a huge fan of non-fiction (I usually find them heavy on sound and fury, but very little substance) I’m generally deeply engrossed.
Most recently, a book called Influencer: The Power to Change Anything. It’s by a whole whack of people that I never heard of before who apparently have had a great deal of success in the corporate consulting sphere and furthermore, have studied people who by dint of their personal influence have implemented far-reaching changes within their fields.
Examples include a doctor in Thailand who virtually halted the spread of AIDS in that country by persuading sex workers to use condoms, a group of concerned persons in Africa who wiped out the Guinea worm (a three-foot long parasite) by persuading every contaminated village in Africa to filter all their water for one whole year, and a woman in Seattle who takes people out of prisons and within two weeks, turns out clean, sober, responsible and hard-working individuals.
The read was compelling, the reasoning sound, and the theories, if correct, earth shaking. But the primary value, to me, was it explained to me why I am such a convincing person. I have always had the comforting knowledge that I can talk my way out of nearly any situation my impetuosity or big mouth has gotten me into.
It’s because I am a good storyteller. You may construe this badly; it’s not because I’m a good liar (though I am), it’s because when you use a story to illustrate your point, it engages people emotionally. The reason why this works when persuasive argument fails is because people don’t reason logically. 😮 The hell, you say. They reason emotionally.
I especially liked the examples of using mainstream media to influence the behaviors of entire cultures. I’ve noticed this on shows like Law&Order (I was especially impressed with the one portraying a pedophile who runs a support network for other pedophiles to encourage them to suppress their urges)(Season 10, episode 2). What I didn’t realize is that people are studying this; Sociology departments around the world are taking over popular TV shows. A soap in Mexico shows the macho main character admit that he is illiterate and seek help, the next day, literacy centers all over Mexico are swamped. A similar show in an African nation portrays a virile main character who picks on his wife, cheats with prostitutes and doesn’t wear a condom. Over the course of the series, he realizes the error of his ways, causing many men to rethink abusing their wives (seriously!). It was a fascinating and powerful section.
Go find this book. Read it. If you want to make a difference in the world, if you want to have a tight –knit community, or if you simply want to convince people to buy your stuff—learn how to spin a good tale.