The setting was the Union Army’s war room, middle of the night. Lincoln had just been summoned from his private room. A tactical session was quickly escalating into panic as a battle raged somewhere. The scene takes place toward the end of the Civil War, when both sides were drained and had much to lose; and citizens, soldiers, Congress and Lincoln’s cabinet were all at wit’s end.
The president sat down in the middle of this storm and in a tempered, soft voice, began a story. Except for one guy, who was sick to death of Lincoln’s tales and stormed out, everyone calmed down and listened. They even laughed — more like a subdued murmur, a sad smile with sound — at the punchline.
Lincoln’s gift of storytelling cut through the craziness and provided a center, a grounded pause, so that everyone in the room could regroup and start again with clearer heads. You’ll have to see the movie to hear him tell it.
Stories are powerful because they allow the listener/reader to step away from themselves for awhile and imagine walking in another man’s shoes. When you need a transformation in the midst of indecision, or fear, or confusion; the opening of a story feels like a safe retreat. It removes tension, and provides a mental place that breathes.
That’s why little kids “gather settle round” and “settle in” to hear a story. That’s why stories are said to “cast a spell” on their listeners. The mind is led down unknown paths while it turns over details, plot twists, and the actions of the story’s characters. Our imagination tests the story’s believability by comparing it with past or current experience.
Sometimes we even put aside what we know to be true to sample a taste of the fantastic.
The spark of imagination ignites personal recognition and the listener is jolted into a different frame of mind.
This new mind is open with possibility. It is more receptive to new ideas. Stories nourish the mind like water nourishes life.
Do you use stories in your web content and copywriting? If you want to transport your reader from where they are now to where they could be, a story is a wonderful tool for altering their perspective.
Show how you provide a transformation for your clients and customers by nudging them away from the here and now. Introduce “what’s possible” into their current reality.
Try it. Tell a relevant story.
Photo: Flickr, maureen lunn