“The debilitating interpersonal impairments experienced by individuals with Austism Spectrum Disorder are assumed to result from a neurocognitive impairment in the basic motivation and ability to understand people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors – perhaps even their own.”
– Personality and Self-Insight in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder by: Roberta A. Schriber, Richard W. Robins, and Marjorie Solomon
I really want to fit in and connect with people. This desire is what has led me to try and understand good communication skills and to do a LOT of self evaluation.
People with Autism and those struggling in storytelling have something in common. We can get a message delivered, but are often perplexed as why the audience isn’t responding.
I am on the Autism Spectrum and considered to be high functioning. What is important to understand for this blog post is at its core Autism is about a disorder that has social impairment at its core.
My wife, family and friends have all gotten used to me. I will be deep in thoughts and when something fascinating is in my mind I often just share this with those around me.
When I do share these thoughts I am seldom taking the time to understand what is going on at the moment with them. I do a poor job of meeting people where they are in that split second and helping them make a transition to something I would like to share.
Guess what? When it comes to business and communications in general this is a problem for everyone. When you have something to sell you are often like a person with Autism. You have a really hard time to meet people where they are. People often are talking about everything they know about their product, but not understanding at all where your audience are in the moment and in relationship to the product they are selling.
One huge thing people who are in business and Autism have in common is often lacking an understanding of self.
We are so into our thoughts that we are not thinking about how we are coming across to others [AUDIENCE].
Two common themes I heard through my life is that first I need to learn to meet people where they are in the moment. Secondly most everyone said that once people got to know me they appreciated me so much more.
When you are in communications or sales you cannot survive very long with these characteristics. You need to be seen as a person who cares for others. You need to be seen as someone who is interested in others and not just yourself.
The hardest part of storytelling is not knowing your subject or peeling the onion to get the best story. The hardest part of storytelling is meeting the audience where they are with the story.Stanley Leary
You need to do as much research understanding your audience’s knowledge of the subject as you do about your story/product.
When it comes to storytelling for nonprofits you are always going to have a “Call to Action” at the end of the story. Now that you have heard this story here is how you can get involved.
People take action to work with a nonprofit because of a few things.
- They have a skill the nonprofit needs
- They have a heart for the purpose of the nonprofit
- They have someone who is involved with the nonprofit that they care about [ie..family or friend who they want to support]
In narrative storytelling the hero of the story, the subject, has a problem that they cannot solve on their own. They need some help. Either they have someone to help them like a mentor or some sort of a resource that helps them overcome the adversity and become better because of this process.
Many nonprofits are about providing education. They need teachers, administrators and others to help run a school. When telling a story of someone they helped this helps to tell what they do and invite others to help them continue doing this with even more people. If the audience has people who have worked in education in some way they may see themselves wanting to be part of the organization. A teacher who just finished 30 years teaching and retired in their early 50s may want to go and teach in a nonprofit and give back.
The key is the storyteller must know what the audience can do to be a part of the success of the future story of the organization.
Once you understand your audience you now know how to meet them where they are and tell the story in a way that helps them to see how they are part of the solution.
Here are some questions to make you think about if you are engaging your audience as a storyteller.
- Have you had to change the story because of the audience?
- Have you asked questions that you wouldn’t have asked, but the audience may ask when working on a story?
- Have you ever created a focus group of an audience and asked them what makes them want to participate in a nonprofit?
- Have you ever created a focus group of an audience and asked them what turns them off about nonprofits?
- Have you ever dropped a great story because it doesn’t really help the organization?
- Have you had to talk a client out of doing a story because it doesn’t really engage the audience?
To sum this up, when have you had to adjust how you tell a story because of the audience?