‘Let Me Tell You a Story’ – The Inherent Weakness of Facts.

by Group Dewey Consulting
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Look at your web statistics. The single most viewed pages of your website are the attorney bio pages. It’s true- or, shall I say, it’s a ‘fact’. Bio pages are the most visited pages of law firm websites, save the landing page. Biographies (otherwise known as CVs or resumes) are a misnomer though. Real biographies are rich, engaging stories describing the life and times of an individual-they are the tales of challenges overcome, of courage, integrity, perseverance and humility. True biographies leave you with a sense of that person, a planted memory in your mind.

Lawyer bios don’t do that.

Attorney biographies are a forest of bullet points, citations, and facts and figures- almost indecipherable from one another. But as any good trial lawyer will tell you: Facts don’t persuade, people do. And people are stories.

An experiment by psychologist Paul Slovic of the University of Oregon demonstrated the motivational power of stories over facts. In his experiment, he asked people for donations after giving them $5 to participate in his study. To one group he showed a photo of Rokia from Malawi, an emaciated child with pleading, wet, fly infested eyes. The photo was accompanied by a description of the child’s life and the difficulty to survive in such harsh conditions. The second group was shown statistics about the famine in Malawi, including the fact that more than three million malnourished children were affected and the rate of death per thousand children each year. The first group gave, on average, $2.83 to the charity.  The second group gave, on average, $1.40.

How can that be? Fifty percent less! Shouldn’t people be moved to give more knowing the extent of the disaster?

We don’t function that way. Our brains don’t respond to facts the way they respond to stories. The media knows this, charities know this and ministers know this. Move people with stories. Cause facts won’t do it.

Since the first campfires in caves, we have passed our most important information from generation to generation through the telling of stories. Somehow our brains are wired to comprehend and remember stories better than facts. Maybe it’s because facts and figures just don’t intrigue us. They leave nothing to our imaginations. They are two dimensional. Facts don’t engage or heighten our curiosity or leave us wanting more. But stories do.

This is the power of relating to people through stories. And lawyers, outside of the courtroom, must do a better job of it if they are to catch up with the rest of the world in the effectiveness of their business development and client relations activities.

Our opportunity to engage and inspire is in just about every communication we put out, from bios, website content and presentations to cocktail party banter, email exchanges and practice group meetings. We have an opportunity to make an indelible impression. If we can just say ‘no’ to the comfortably ingrained habit of facts and begin to relate to others with authentic stories about who we are.

 

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