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This election cycle we’ve seen conspiracy theories come to new prominence. The upswell in conspiracy thinking is having a tangible influence over political discourse, and it's tiring. Even the lizard people are over it. Psychologists have found that belief in one conspiracy theory actually encourages belief in more conspiracies. That’s unsurprising, because if you believe you’re being lied to about one thing, why not all the things? WHY NOT ALL THE THINGS OMG I SEE IT NOW. If some on your team are in the grip of conspiracy thinking, check out this article from HBR: How to Inoculate Your Team Against Conspiracy Theories
The Truth Is Out There
Conspiracies are exciting because they feel like privileged information, and powerful because they’re stories about how the world works. Let’s take a look at how stories appeal to our intrinsic human desire for meaning, and how you can harness their persuasiveness in your communications.
Stories exist to explain things – why situations change, what it all means. They create the satisfying illusion that actions lead to predictable consequences. That’s why conspiracies are so attractive in these turbulent times: it’s comforting to believe that someone, however unhinged, robotic, reptilian or rich, is in control of things. Otherwise we’re just submerged in meaningless chaos, like an Aucklander on the Harbour Bridge.
In your own communications, focus on telling small stories that illustrate and emphasise your point. We call these ‘Spotlight Stories’, because they should be short and highly illuminating. They usually come from your practical experience: authentic snapshots of innovation, success or failure, courage or leadership. They’ve usually got a punchline, or unexpected twist to make them memorable.
'Putting Stories to Work' author Shawn Callahan defines 5 markers of a Spotlight Story:
I Want To Believe
We’re hard-wired to absorb stories, especially those that provoke an emotional response. This brings us to the next point: that if stories have the power to influence thought and belief, then we need to use them responsibly. Not to manipulate or to fool our audience, but to illuminate our message. In political discourse as well as in our organisations, clarity and honesty should prevail. At least until you’ve handed over the reins to your reptilian overlords and can retire to Atlantis with your tin-foil sunhat.
Conspire With Us
The Pickering Group can help you find and shape your Spotlight Stories into effective communication tools. Check out our programmes on Business Storytelling and Persuasion and Influence. We’re open for training in person or virtually. Follow us LinkedIn for interesting content and til next time – take care out there.
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