One Sunday morning on a train in New York.
People were sitting quietly: some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. Steve was there too. It was a calm, peaceful scene.
Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the train. The children were so loud and unruly that instantly the whole climate changed.
This man sat down next to Steve and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to Steve did nothing.
It was difficult not to feel irritated. Steve could not believe that he could be so insensitive to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. Everyone else on the train felt irritated too. And finally, Steve couldn’t take it anymore. He turned to the man and said, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. Can you pls control them?”
The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”
Steve’s irritation vanished. What looked like parental incompetence was actually grief. The story of Steve’s encounter teaches us not to be hasty in judging other people.
It’s this kind of empathetic story that can inspire people to change.
People may listen to what you’re saying but if you want it to sink in, tell a story because Stories spark emotions. Words without stories are like food without seasoning.
From the biblical story of how Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden to how Jesus sacrificed his life to save humanity, Stories teach us lessons.
Telling stories is not just the oldest form of entertainment, it’s the highest form of communication. Job Interviews & academic essays are actually story telling contests which is why the best story tellers win and not necessarily the most qualified, because Stories help us succeed powerfully.
PowerPoint presentations may be state-of-the-art technology. But Stories are state-of-the-heart— they connect us with others and move people to act on our cause because stories provide emotional transportation.
From Martin Luther king Jr who had a dream of a black president in a white nation to Barack Obama who fulfilled that dream decades later by reminding us that ‘yes we can’, the world’s greatest leaders use stories to engage, persuade and inspire real change.
Stories keep us on the edge of our seats, stories move us to tears. A story is the most powerful tool with which you can change the world.
I only have one question for you: Are you ready to tell your story?
*Steven Covey shared the train story in his book ‘7 Habits of highly effective people’. I edited it for clarity.
*I delivered this 5 min speech on the 28th of August 2016 at PACESETTERS CLUB, IBADAN (where we speak, lead, listen & think)