Reading between the lines.
Influence doesn't primarily come from your ability to tell a story well.
Influence primarily comes from your ability to interpret the stories other people tell themselves.
Everyone's behavior is driven by the stories they internalize. Sometimes they're inherited stories — true, false, or exaggerated — shaped by previous generations and passed on. Sometimes they're stories we believe to be true simply because everyone else says they are, and we’ve never examined them beyond that. Sometimes they're stories we cling to because they're familiar, though at times toxic and harmful.
Examples of this include:
"I'm this, not that."
"If I could only have X, I could achieve Y."
"Their business is more successful because they are married/single/a parent/childless/have investors/have low overhead."
"I can and should be doing everything. After all, "If you want a job done right, do it yourself."
"The way to land luxury clients is to wear more expensive clothes/change my entire lifestyle/have a pricey studio."
"If I close this part of my business or stop offering certain services in order to strategically focus, people will think it failed, so I need to keep it in order to maintain my reputation."
"I can't price that way until I've been in business for at least ten years. It wouldn't be fair to the industry veterans."
"My first marriage/career/business failed, so now everything I do needs to prove I'm not a failure."
"Having famous clients will make me more important and more accepted by others."
"If only the market here were like New York/Chicago/Los Angeles, I would really be able to thrive."
"If I have that kind of wedding, my guests will think I'm showing off."
"If I don't have this kind of wedding, my guests will think I'm not successful."
Stories may help form a circle of "people who are like me," but the deeper stories that drive daily choices often go unspoken. As such, they make it hard to fit people in a box, a clean target market grouping on a business plan.
Listening well — being focused more on being interested than interesting, reading between the lines — is perhaps one of the most crucial skills needed to grow as an entrepreneur and certainly the most necessary to growing in influence.
Originally published September 2013