It’s no surprise that Joseph Brodsky’s commencement speech is amazing – after all, he won a Nobel Prize in Literature. What IS surprising, however, is the power with which it moved me – a “Millennial,” to consider why people find it so difficult to take advice from those more experienced than us.
Even if that advice is spot on. Especially if it’s spot on.
First, consider the forum. Advice is often dispensed in an uneven playing field where the person giving advice draws from a well of personal experience. That experience is a language of it’s own that is very difficult to translate into words, and worlds away from inspiring change in someone else. In short: your best advice quickly devolves into preaching – and it takes a rare person to translate for you.
In short: your best advice quickly devolves into preaching…
Additionally, consider the subtext of the situation: if you’re giving advice, that implies you believe the other person is misguided – an uncomfortable position to be in.
The solution? Eliminate your experience and assumptions. What would have been personally effective with you at our age? What would have inspired change? What would have opened you up TO change? On-the-nose advice, while often exactly true, curiously fails.
Perhaps this is why messaging through stories and fables has been so powerful throughout human history. Instead of advising directly, they allow the audience to deduce their own conclusions, encouraging autonomy, control and engagement. It empowers the audience to relate in a way that makes sense to them.
Now, consider the following thought-experiment:
Replace the concept of changing behavior through ‘advice’ with ‘branded content’. In both realms, you:
- Have more experience
- Pitch an idea to your audience
- Try to change behavior
Assuming that your clients or customers are human (physically at least), why then would telling me, “Our product is 10x better because…” work, when what I want is a way to connect and engage?
Pitch me a story, and allow me to connect the dots.
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