Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Synopsis: Elements of Persuasion (Passion)

The first 'element' of persuasion is the PASSION with which a story is told. 'Passion' is defined as the energy that makes you need to tell a story. The two big advantages of passion are that:

(i) passion can cut through all the competing demands for an audience's attention and make them listen to you

(ii) if your story connects with people emotionally, they will spread it for you because it's fun to tell (*).

(*) I'm not entirely sure the authors justify how that second point follows from a story being told with passion, though. Unless 'passion' is simultaneously "the energy that makes you need to tell a story", and "the emotion you want the story to create."

According to the authors, speaking with passion has another couple of benefits. It warms the audience up (getting them ready to want to listen to you). Passion then makes the story come alive for them; the story seems more vivid and more real.

Apparently, the more passionate and personal your story is, the easier it is to overcome the natural stage fright of telling your story to people. In particular, stories that are personal are easier to remember, and able to be told in a way that makes you appear natural and relaxed. They also increase your likeability and show that you're authentic (talking about something that means something to you).

Which brings me back to the first point: passion is your need to tell a story. The Elements of Persuasion (TEOP)describes itself as being about how to get other people to care about what you care about. The key to this, according to TEOP is that you need to be personally committed and passionately involved (in order to be able to make anyone else care). Before you tell your story, you need to ask:
  • Do I really care about what I'm about to say?
  • It is true?
If the answers are 'No', you should pick another idea to talk about. And if people aren't connecting with your story at an emotional level, then you're telling the wrong story.


As I mentioned earlier, I'm also trying to figure out why I've found this book so difficult to read. At this point, I don't really have firm conclusions, but some of the stuff I've noticed while working through these two chapters on Passion are:
  • the book occasionally makes some spurious connections between different facts
  • some of the books used as examples have quite tenuous connections to the points being made (going from the idea of 'victory through a single strike' as portrayed in the Book of Five Rings to William Safire's (and Presentation Zen's) idea of summing up a story with a single memorable phrase ... well, that's quite a stretch for an analogy
  • it's not focusing on the 'How' of how to tell or construct stories; so far, it's more about providing examples of stories. I assume it's hoping we'll learn through reflecting on those stories.
That's it for Passion; despite my criticisms I found the ideas in these section were solid and seemed true to me. The next element of persuasive story-telling is the Hero.

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