Use story to control people’s emotions

Youch. What an aggressive title. The first thing to get straight is that you can influence your audience but not control it. If you try to control it, your story will be contrived and the audience will think more about the terrible storyteller than the failed story. But let’s not shy away from emotion.

We all have that friend who tells us about his argument with the unreasonable hot dog vendor who was stingy with the onions and things escalate and yadda yadda this is the end of days. Your friend wants you to empathize with his anger but you feel delighted because it is all so funny. Still, you felt something so the story seems like a success.

Make sure they feel something. 
Being objective is for pie charts (and even those emphasize one point over another) not stories. You must demonstrate genuine emotion in your story or else it will be a bust.  The emotions you’re projecting might not be the ones your audience feels and that is ok.

If you want your audience to act, then you have to be deliberate.
Now if your friend wanted you to join him and beating up the hot dog vendor, he would feel his story failed. Perhaps getting angry in tandem isn’t your thing. Then your friend could have appealed to myriad emotions (e.g., distress over injustice, loyalty to a comrade, etc.) that would lead you to want to do something to the hot dog vendor. The same is true for igniting action at work.

Instead of thinking, “I will make an urgent announcement that makes people panic and then they will do my bidding” try for some other more genuine emotion that would get them to comply. Instead of “fill out this insurance form on time or you’ll make a lot of annoying paperwork for me, you lazy bum” go with “fill out this insurance form on time and I will make sure your kids are covered, you loving parent.” It’s less manipulative, too.

Oh…and never beat up a hot dog vendor. He’s got that hot meat water and no patience for shenanigans.

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