Not spelling everything out

Films are classic storytelling and its well know that the 7 basic plot lines (hero’s journey; fall and redemption; slaying the monster) are played out time and time again. However not all films fall into those neat compartments. Some films make you work a little harder. They stay with you as after you’ve left the cinema or switched off the DVD.

These films don’t spell everything out and a lot is left unsaid. They don’t explain everything for you (but not in a completely bizarre way as David Lynch does!). What happens then (assuming you care about the story) is that the brain kicks in and works on it.

The brain is like that. It processes a lot in the sub conscious and because it’s doing that the impact is all the greater.

This has application in our work life. Story telling is one of the most powerful techniques to use when presenting and within that is the use of metaphor. At best, we don’t explain the metaphor; we leave it for the audience to figure out. That makes the idea we’re putting in front of the audience more powerful and memorable. It works in the context of coaching and developing others. Instead of spelling it all out, we get them to join the dots and arrive at their own answers.

Of course, this would not apply to a lot of situations where time or risk wouldn’t allow it. But it is an underused approach and can pay great dividends when used appropriately. If you’re into stories and metaphor, don’t explain. Let the audience do the work.


Guest Author: Richard Wentworth Ping

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