To Be Descriptive (and Persuasive), Show Rather Than Tell

journeyTell us about the destinations but show us the journey.

It’s nice to know that you found a great result. And we do want to know all about it.

But no matter how descriptive you are, it won’t be compelling unless you show us how you got there.

The journey is the compelling part.

We listen attentively to stories for very selfish reasons. Mostly because the information might be directly relevant to us in the future.

Stories are a crucial tool for persuasion — if you adhere to the old writing adage:

Show, don’t tell.

That doesn’t mean to use ultra-descriptive language to invoke the five senses, even though some of that can be helpful. And it doesn’t mean to add images and video and sound.

It means you must show us your reasoning.

Sure, we do want to know all about where you ended up, but more importantly, we want to know how you got there.

We want to know the motivation and reasoning for all the choices made along the way.

We want to know what the implications of those choices were. We want to know how you reacted to those things. We want to know how your choices added new twists and turns, what you chose to do next, and why.

That’s the real story. That’s what we want you to show us.

Telling = conclusions.

Showing = how you arrived at conclusions.

Whether you are writing, speaking, or delivering a presentation, we want to hear a story. And we want to know the emotional journey as much as (more than) all of the sensory details.

Learning about choices and selections and implications and more choices drives interest and engagement because that puts us vicariously in the drivers seat. That’s exactly where we want to be sitting when we hear a good story.

But we won’t be captivated if you don’t share the reasons why there is a journey and what is driving particular choices.

People are not moved by your providing the answer, they are moved by understanding the problem you faced, how you solved it, and why you did it the way you did it.

Put this into action and see for yourself. You’ve probably got something you need to write up or maybe you’re trying to convince someone about something. Perhaps you need to elicit someone’s input into a choice that needs to be made.

Invite them into the story by showing them the problem, inviting them into the reasoning process with you, and then discussing potential results. See if you are able to engage them on an emotional level by showing them the journey as well as the destination.