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  • Writer's pictureFrancisco Mahfuz

E37. The Craft and the Buzzword with Synne Lindén

Below is an AI-generated transcript and therefore it may contain errors.

Francisco Mahfuz 0:00

Hi everyone, Francisco here. Just before we get started, I wanted to share something I'm really excited about. I recently launched the story powers bootcamp, a course that teaches you everything you need to know about how to find craft and tell stories that work. But it's not just an online course, because you get personalised feedback from me for all the practical activities in three hours of life coaching to work through any challenges, or focus on specific projects. So it's like if you bought a cookbook, but the chef came along with it. So go to story and click on Course, all the information you need will be there. So please check it out. And if you love the show, and would like to support us, you can go to buy me a forward slash story powers. I drink about five coffees a day, so any support would be much appreciated. All right, on with the show. Welcome to the story powers podcast, the show about the power of stories that people who tell them and why you should be doing it too. I'm your host, Francisco mahfuz. Ah, I screwed up my introduction. I got too much on today.

Again. Welcome to the story powers podcast, a show about the power of stories that people who tell them and why you should be doing it too. I'm your host, keynote speaker and storytelling coach Francisco mahfuz. My guest today is sin. Linden. Sin is a writer and storyteller for businesses that want to grow while making a difference. At linden tree. She uses a creative and Professional Writing expertise to help integrity driven companies speak to their customers in a brand new way. Sin is also a lot braver than I am, because she actually calls herself a storyteller. But then again, she's a Norwegian leaving in the middle of the Swedish forest, which is expected to do some weird stuff. Ladies and gentlemen, sin Linden sin, welcome to the show.

Synne Linden 2:03

Hi, thank you for having me. And thank you for that awesome introduction. That was hilarious. I had to actually really focus not to crack up while you were talking.

Francisco Mahfuz 2:13

Well, I as I mentioned to you, I I like listening to other podcasts that my guests have appeared on. So I listened to the one that you you pointed me to. And the three main things I took away from it worried that Sweden actually has fibre optics I was in your your name is unpronounceable, supposedly. And I think I'll spend a week in your house at some point in the near future. But yeah, those are my takeaways. That sounds

Synne Linden 2:43

about right. I'm really glad to hear that none of your takeaways have anything to do with storytelling.

Francisco Mahfuz 2:49

Oh, actually, there was one, there was one that I wasn't 100% on, which was that, you might have said that the greatest benefit of storytelling is that it serves to as far as a way to to hack trust. Was that was that right?

Synne Linden 3:05

Well, that's the exact opposite of what we said. We said that many people try to use it like that, which is pretty depressing. But yeah, it is, you know, it is a way to hack trust. If you are awful.

Francisco Mahfuz 3:24

It's good that you let that pause because then it's very easy for me to edit it. You know, get it send in and storytelling, it's a way to hack trust. I don't even need a deep fake to get you in trouble.

Synne Linden 3:40

Well, you know, it is it is though it's it's it's really interesting how much how much story drives trust in people? I guess that's one of the things that I find most fascinating, and actually also kind of most fascinating in the sense that I don't understand why all businesses everywhere aren't doing it because it would be such an obvious thing to do.

Francisco Mahfuz 4:03

It's the million dollar question of a lot of communication, isn't it? No, I used to think that before I I focused a lot more in storytelling. I used to think that about many aspects of public speaking. So I just couldn't understand why most companies or businesses thought it was absolutely okay to have people standing up and speaking to represent them. And for all these people to suck, or even internally, I just couldn't understand when meetings and presentations are such an important part of internal business communication. Why no one ever thinks, Oh, okay. These people are terrible. Like they're boring. They you know, we don't remember anything they said after the presentation is over. Now, maybe this is a problem for our business. Maybe this is something we should fix.

Synne Linden 4:54

Yeah, maybe, you know, maybe that's a good idea.

Francisco Mahfuz 4:57

Yeah, I guess what story we store is the Same and no. Do you have a well developed theory? Why story is so effective at trust hacking?

Synne Linden 5:09

Well, I, I think that the correct way to answer that is that I have a well formed opinion. And then I, I'm also always interested in reading, you know, academic research that that directly explores storytelling. And what happens, you know, on a neuroscience level, what actually happens in our brain when we consume stories. For me, it just boils down to how humans build trust, like one on one, how you would build trust with a person. And considering how businesses are always looking to do that with their communications, that's what they want, they want their customers to trust them, because trust drives sales, I mean, that's just how it is. And so then if you transfer the concept of interpersonal communication, and look at how businesses do communication, there's like, there's a very obvious discrepancy, which is that imagine getting to know someone without them sharing any stories from their life, like nothing, no experiences, no vulnerability, no honesty.

Francisco Mahfuz 6:19

See, you're I think you forget who you're speaking to, I don't have to imagine that. Because I'm, I'm a Brazilian. Now there's this, there's a few things Brazilians are known for one of them is being good at football, I'm not, and the other one is being warm and friendly people. And I left Brazil 18 years ago, and then I spent five years in England, and then I've now spent 12 years in Catalonia. Now, neither the English nor the Catalans are terribly well known for being friendly, open, and warm communicators, that bring you into their lives and share their intimacy or their home with you. Imagine it, I'm living it.

Synne Linden 7:03

And yet, they are so much Well, I haven't lived in England, but I have lived in Barcelona, like you. And I can say and yet, they are about 10 times more open and friendly and vulnerable than both Norwegians and Swedes are. So you know, it's it depends on where you're coming from. But even okay, even if you look at Scandinavia, where we are terrible at talking to each other, we hate each other, we're the culture that literally will stand in our apartment, looking out the people to make sure the neighbour isn't there before we take up the trash like that is how much we want to avoid speaking to people. And still

Francisco Mahfuz 7:42

or this is or this is when your your biggest problems in life have been solved by a you know, halfway decent government, and then being nasty to your neighbours, which is how human beings I think have evolved to be, you know, your friends to some neighbours, but then you hate everyone else. That's just a natural, natural. This is your biggest problem in life. You know, Van always makes a mass out of the trash. So you avoid van with as much as you can.

Synne Linden 8:16

You know, it is like a super ingrained cultural thing. But even here, the way that we build trust is when we share stories, because I mean, experience is just another word for story. And that is how we remember things. And that is how we begin to know each other. So if we want customers to feel like they know us, ie trust us, why not tell them stories? So so that's kind of my theory is this idea of, to me, it is just so obvious that if stories and shared experience is how we build trust and relationship interpersonally why? I mean, then there is no other I can't think of a better way to do it in business communications than to just apply the same concept.

Francisco Mahfuz 9:08

To me that makes complete sense. I think a lot of people he doesn't because we have completely fallen out of the habit of, of being storytellers, or being intentional storytellers. I think we all still tell stories on a daily basis. But most of us have no idea that we're doing it. In the end. If you call it a story, people will will react to the resist that they will say, Well, none, I'm not telling stories. I'm just, you know, I'm just telling someone, something that happened. We've now our culture has now associated the word story or the concept of telling stories, with, with fiction, with entertainment with things you do for children. And you know what, it's something that is not many people have said this before, but obviously this is how we evolved to communicate and you know, when when we did it 100,000 years ago He was our main learning tool. And I've heard many people argue that this is one of the reasons why human beings managed to get ahead or to evolve well above the our station in the in the food chain. Because we didn't need to leave each experience by ourselves, we could tell each other stories and so multiply the learning by at least the whole tribe. But we've gone very further away from how we evolved to be you know, you're only making fun about what you said about the neighbours. But the reality is that we the most natural thing in the world isn't an idea that most people think is very strange nowadays, which is, you live in a small, tightly knit community, everybody is up each other's business all the time. There's a, you know, there's gossip for people that don't conform to the rule, and everybody helps each other. But then also, there is no privacy. That's how we evolved. It's not something most people would want today, like the idea that all your neighbours know what you're up to all the time. It's not, I don't think anybody wants that for their life now. But that's how we evolved to be as human beings. And I think when we lost that, and we lost sort of the oral tradition, that was the only way to communicate knowledge, then we we got to the point where regard today where this thing that would have been the most natural way of communicating a few 100 years ago, would be perhaps the only way of communicating 100 years ago when it came to learning. That's just not something we do anymore.

Synne Linden 11:35

Yeah, but it's like you say we, we actually still do it all the time, every day, it's just that we don't label it as a story. So I think you're definitely right in saying that, we, as long as you're talking to people, you're sharing experience, you're sharing story. So I think you're right, and that the difference is more how its labelled. And how people tend to say that No, no, I'm not telling a story. I'm doing this or doing that. And I also agree with you that it has become very closely associated with fiction. Now, obviously, in the negative sense, like it's made up. It's not true. It's not authentic. But you know, me coming from a background of studying fiction and studying creative writing, I only see the positives. So I said, Well, I see the negative suit, like read hack trust, but I can only see positives in using what works in, in fiction, in creative work, like in film or in books, in business communications, because it's like you say people are, people are wired for it. Like that's what people want. That's why people watch Netflix all weekend. And I have yet to meet someone who spends all weekend because they just cannot wait to see the next webinar.

Francisco Mahfuz 12:53

So I don't, I don't disagree that we still do it all the time. But I don't think it's just a labelling issue. I think that it's slightly less common than perhaps it used to be in our grandparents or great grandparents generation, that the way you teach children is by telling them stories, I think that still happens. But you know, we school and some other some other institutions that our society has developed, the person who was mostly responsible for teaching children is no longer the parent or the grandparent is the school. So you know, we, the grandparents that tells Tales is is an exception now and not the rule. And I think it very much used to be the rule a few 100 years ago. And the other aspect of this is when it comes to the whole professional to business separation, which is, if I want to share an experience with you, personally, I will tell you about something that happened to me, but I'm doing sort of instinctively, if I say okay, I need to teach scene about how it is how living in Brazil is like, I'm not 100% sure that my first port of call would be to think of a story to tell you about Brazil, I might actually just start telling you things, am I trying to reason with you and use arguments and things of that nature? You won't be the first thing I will always do tell a story. I mean, now it will be for me. But for most people, if you want to teach someone something, I think that connection between the way to do it is tell them a story that has been broken. It's it's slightly broken on the on the personal way. And I think it's completely broken in business, like in business, you would think it has to be, you know, reason and data and facts and figures and that that type of more rational argument is how you'd convince anyone of anything. It's definitely not with a story. So I think we still do it, but I think we do it in a much more constrained or, or limited way. Then we used to be normal for our species A long time ago.

Synne Linden 14:57

Yeah, maybe but I also kind of disagree with you because because it is definitely changing. It is definitely changing in the business world businesses and corporations are coming more and more to terms with the fact that they need to engage and connect emotively. And so they haven't necessarily quite yet made the connection that that you know, and emotive li equals with, with story or with movies or whatever. Interestingly, they have been doing it for like the last 100 years with ads, ads have always been emotive and pulling on the heartstrings. And that's always kind of been the point, it's always been really at the core to make the buyer feel something. And so I'm seeing this much sort of much more widespread acceptance, at least for the argument that consumers are getting more and more and more educated themselves, they don't really need you to tell them the facts, they need you to tell them the story, because that's what they're going to care about. And that's what they're going to want to connect with. And that's what they're going to develop a long term relationship with. Because when you have all the answers at the tip of your fingers in Google, that doesn't give immediate authority anymore, it's still important, it's still important that you know what's going on. But with the sort of hyper educated consumer who is tech savvy and knows how to navigate information online, you know, information, then is no longer the primary kind of communications goal, at least it shouldn't be, because the consumer can get that themselves. They don't sort of rely on businesses to tell them facts anymore, they expect them to be clear on their facts and to be educated and to know what they're talking about within their given field or industry. But you know, they they don't associate with fact, they associate with emotion and story.

Francisco Mahfuz 16:52

And I think you could argue, given what's happened to the way most people see truth these days, is that if you're depending on whatever information you you're putting out there to be accepted in, you know, acted on because it's true, then you are treading on very flimsy ground. Because nowadays, people tended to accept fact, this is the impression I get at least people tend to accept that there were such things as facts. And nowadays that become a lot, a lot more wishy washy in a lot of people's minds. And it doesn't mean that people shouldn't use facts, and they shouldn't be truthful. But to a lot of people, that is not a convincing argument, even if you could back it up. That is if you've ever moved anyone to actually if reason ever moved in your interaction, how argue that right now, it's it's weaker than it's ever been. Because we can't even agree that something is objectively true. So, so whatever power that used to have, perhaps it he doesn't have anymore. Now, you mentioned Google, and one of the things of I know you talk about is this idea of search engine optimization for humans. But I have a I have a problem with your your metaphor. So I think you you said that Google is kind of a librarian, but then people would find you know what they were looking for, but they would open the book and the book, the pages would be blank. I think this is how you described, you know, when people put together a website or a blog or whatever, but they're worried about optimising it for search and not for humans, right? So I read that and I thought to me, Google is less less a librarian in more like a drug dealer, but but not a good one like the one you can invite to your house for a party. Not that I've ever done that. But he reminds me of those shifty guys in Barcelona You know the ones that sell drugs on the beach. So you know, for anyone who's never been in Barcelona we there's this guys who who usually dressed up as if they're going to the office, and they go around and start telling everyone and they saying, you know, service or call Agua Fria, or you know, beer Coke, cold water, and as they get close to most people, they add a few products they'll say, Dear Coke, cold water hash skunk?

Synne Linden 19:18


Francisco Mahfuz 19:20

And I, I'm not sure I'm not dumb enough to ever have bought anything like that from from those guys. But But I know if they use that people would have bought whatever they were selling. And it is what you asked for. But it's definitely not what you wanted. That's not That's not satisfying any needs. And to some degree, I guess this is what this is what the problem with the way a lot of people have dealt with content and SEO has been right.

Synne Linden 19:51

Yes, exactly. And I think the the metaphor is not that the pages are blank, but it's that the pages are written for the librarian. So the library Marian, this is sitting there, they don't actually give a shit. Like they literally just want to organise. They just want to keep their library tidy and organised. And they just want to know exactly where to go. If people ask for a specific thing,

Francisco Mahfuz 20:13

you have a very dim view of librarians.

Synne Linden 20:16

No, no, no. No, but this librarian is also amazing. I mean, this is like the biggest library you could possibly imagine. And this librarian has it all memorised in their head, you know, which is brilliant. And Google is brilliant, the internet is brilliant. But Google is not the person. In fact, Google isn't a person at all. But even if Google was a person, it's not the person who's going to read your content. And that's the idea. And even I mean, this was shocking to me, when I did research for this particular metaphor for the SEO for humans page on my website, was that I went and I read the Google's SEO started Starter Guide. And one of the very first sentences in that Starter Guide, pretty much goes, Do not write your content for Google, write it for your audience, that's Google telling you not to create your content to sort of, you know, hack the machine because Googles mission is to get people to the information and the content that they need, and they want so you're not doing Google any favours, you know, in Google's mission by by trying to sneakily rank with stuff. That's crap. And also, that reader who's at the librarian who opens your book is just going to close it immediately. Again, that's what a bounce rate is people. For me, it's also I mean, sure, I like, I like facts. And I like tracking and I like frameworks, and I like systems. But the the sort of reason that this is important to me is that I think that there needs to be a much higher respect for your audience, if you if you want to sort of put out content that someone is going to read, and you expect someone to spend their precious time reading it, you know, you better do your best and elevate it and make it you know, human readable and human interesting. And I believe that the way to do that is by using far more creative tools than businesses are currently using by default.

Francisco Mahfuz 22:18

Let me go into story more specifically with you because there's something I think, I don't think we necessarily disagree. But but we might. So this is, this is part of a conversation that I have occasionally gotten into with our mutual friend, and Tony Abed, because she you know, she, she has a big cinema background in her storytelling experience. And yours is more of the writing than necessarily cinema. But you know, from a lot of the things you've said, and from a lot of the things I've read from you, there is this idea that I think you might have actually said that you can take a six weeks, or a six week chorus to learn story. It's a craft, and it needs to be practice, and it needs to be developed, and refined. But and this is where I think I slightly disagree. I think all of that is true for a specific type of storytelling, the storytelling that I tend to do, you know, whenever I put a story out in the world, and whenever I work with people to get stories from them, identifying that, that takes very minimal craft, it's more a case of making them aware, they should be doing it, help them figure out where to look for it. And then just be very clear on what stories are more likely to work when they're necessarily crafting them or being very knowledgeable about story. Because you know, I think most in business at least when I'm talking about oral stories here, I'm not talking about necessarily what you're going to put on a website. I undefined that the the one that you can tell naturally once you get the right prompts, that's going to take two or three minutes to tell is is one that most businesses will find lots of value from in for that six weeks would be too much. Like there's no no reason you need to study for it. I mean, you need to practice it for way longer than that but you don't need to study it for that long. Now, do we disagree here?

Synne Linden 24:28

That depends what kind of stories that is it a made up story or is it a memory or experience so

Francisco Mahfuz 24:34

it's always a memory of an experience? Okay,

Synne Linden 24:37

so so when you tell a memory or an experience, you are an expert on that you have crafted that because well known that memory never seen

Francisco Mahfuz 24:47

it I'm an expert of remembering that the way it was to remember it actually happened.

Synne Linden 24:54

So you know that's that's something very different because that is you know, you are the Best and arguably only expert on your experience. So in that case, if you're telling a memory, if you're sharing an experience from your life, it should come out, you know, the way you want to remember it or whatever, then it's yours. That's something different. And there's also a huge difference in oral storytelling and written storytelling, massive difference.

Francisco Mahfuz 25:24

Yeah, on that one. I'm not gonna argue I mean, it is 100%, I would say is easier. But I think to most people, that's what's natural. oral storytelling is the storytelling that is natural, written storytelling. To most people. It's significantly harder than they think it is. I was just speaking to a friend of mine yesterday. And he said, I was thinking of writing a book, and I said, Oh, I didn't know you wrote. And I said, Oh, I don't really. So okay. So what book are you thinking of writing? I said, how my father was the salesperson and he has such amazing stories. And I just thought it would be great to get them, get them in a book. And I said, Okay, but what why don't you just have like a podcast with him, like, record him telling the stories or something like that, then I just, I just feel like a book would be nice. But you do realise that it's not quite the same thing to just write down a story that someone told you in person, like on the page, it doesn't work exactly that way. Oh, no. You give it a go. And you're letting me know.

Synne Linden 26:29

Yeah, and I mean, and you're absolutely right. oral storytelling is what's natural. I mean, we've only had written language for the last like, what, 500 years and only accessible to most people for the last like 150 years. You know, that's nothing. So when people talk about Wired for Story, that's spoken story, it's not written story. People aren't wired for written story yet, not at all. And that's why it's a craft, it takes a lot more to get people hooked to get those parts of the brain engaged and going on a written story. Because we're not hardwired for written story. word heart. We're hardwired for spoken story.

Francisco Mahfuz 27:08

I agree with that. I don't necessarily

Synne Linden 27:10

do you're an oral storyteller.

Francisco Mahfuz 27:14

I agree that people are not wired for written stories, I don't necessarily think that it's always a massive difference between one and the other. I think you can approach a written story very much in the way you would approach an oral story. If it's a simple one, it could just be the case that you just write slightly differently, because we don't right away you speak. But the story itself is very similar. So in that way, I don't I don't think there's an issue. But let me just clarify something that sounded like you said, but I knowing you I don't think that what you were saying. But you said that the stories that I tend to, to help people with their in a sense, they're easier because they are true. So you know, you don't need to learn all that much to talk about your own experience that you're supposedly an expert on. But I would imagine that most of the storytelling that you get involved with, at least for work, you're still talking about true stories, right? Is not fiction.

Synne Linden 28:10

Yeah, that's true.

Francisco Mahfuz 28:11

There's a very long pause there.

Synne Linden 28:14

I really had to think about it. Because I think what we're actually discussing here is the difference between story and storytelling tools. And story is something where I agree with you, we can all do that. Naturally, it doesn't take much practice, because we do it from we're tiny, you know, I have a two year old, she's telling me eight stories before she's even gotten her outer clothes off by the time she's in the door. Like, that's what we do as people storytelling tools. However, our you know, the recipes and the utensils and whatever. However, whichever analogy you want to use, I went for kitchen there, but you know, to, to bring that story to life, and especially on the page, you know, which is obviously which is obvious that I would say because I work with writing, you know, but it's just as much a craft and filmmaking, it's just a much as much a craft in theatre. But I also think that the the kind of frustration that is easy to experience is when people say they kind of make this assumption and the conclusion that because I have told the story. I am a storyteller. And I think that's the big difference because a storyteller is someone who is purposeful in their stories. It's kind of kind of like circles back to what we were saying before. We all tell stories all the time at work, we tell stories, but we're not kind of maybe doing it with purpose. And we're maybe not doing it mindfully but we're still doing it. You know, the storyteller takes that takes that experience takes that truth and turns it into something more emotive, more kind of likely to build connection.

Francisco Mahfuz 29:57

Don't you find that the term though, has It's I find it difficult to dissociate the term with the sort of pretension that what, what do you do? I'm a storyteller? Because like when people would say, I'm an artist, yes, you should you play the guitar, you're a painter, you whatever. Right? I find that I never identify myself as a storyteller, although by most people's criteria, obviously I am. But I tend to think of storytellers, you know, by definition, as people who do who tell the stories professionally, not you know that you work with stories. So, you know, I remember finding it a bit strange when I've seen filmmakers or writers identify themselves as a storyteller, but then I saw it for two seconds. And I said, now for sure that they are storytellers. That's what they get paid to do is for telling stories, but I tend to think that it's either that or the people who generally are in the, in the storytelling circuit, you know, people that have spent a lot of their time going to live storytelling events and things of that nature. That's what I think of when I think of storyteller. And, and so many people love talking and calling themselves a storyteller these days. There's like a brand storytellers like, Yeah. He just seems pretentious to me. So I'm saying,

Synne Linden 31:18

I agree. I agree with you that it's very easy to connect with pretentiousness. But again, I think that is actually more about where you're coming from than how people perceive you.

Francisco Mahfuz 31:28

But that's everything, though, isn't it?

Synne Linden 31:31

Well, I think that communication is, you know, a lot about intention. And I also, by the way, think that that's how good storytelling works is when you're clear on what your intention is, and what your kind of foundation is, in telling that story. Like, what is which connection Are you looking to make? And sometimes you're just looking to make a sale. Okay, cool. But then be honest about that, you know, and sometimes you want to tell a story, that's entertaining, you know, and those will be two very different things. And I think also, context is, is so different, because obviously, you being a speaker will have a different view on you know, what a storyteller is than me. But wouldn't you agree that, you know, when you if you work with someone, when you start working with them, they know their story, and they might tell their story, but when you're done working with them, they're a storyteller?

Francisco Mahfuz 32:21

I think this is to a great degree of discussion about semantics. I think, yes, obviously, I am by all different motivations, a storyteller, I just tend to think of it as, as one as a professional thing. So one aspect of it is, are you getting paid to tell stories? If not, then to me, it doesn't seem natural to me to call myself a storyteller. The other thing is, it is this thing that I spoke to Sean Callahan from anecdote about how the word is too loaded, like stories are very loaded word now, although it's a weird thing, because on the one hand, is a buzzword, on the other hand, is a super loaded term, that when you're in the real world, working with people, they resist it. So if you say, I'm going to help you find the right stories to tell the people like what but I don't have any stories and all of that. Whereas if you just say that we just need to look at some of your professional experiences or your personal experiences, they go okay, yeah, so. So there is this aspect, as well of, you know, it's fine. If I'm, if I'm, if I'm giving a keynote, or if I'm giving a university lecture. And then like, I'm, this week, I'm giving a university lecture to like 150 people in Spanish, God knows how I'm going to pull that off. And they, they are really thinking, you know, they talk about storytelling is this really sexy subject, we're really keen to have like a storytelling lecture. But then you go into the real world, and you tell people, you know, I'm going to make you a storyteller, I'm going to make you tell stories, and then they resist that. So I think it's it's finding that balance between people who are attracted to this idea, but at the same time, they resist it when it comes to the doing of it. So I think finding, finding, finding the terms that they will automatically relate to, sometimes it's just, it just makes more sense than trying to convince people you know, you're a storyteller. You tell stories all the time. I was like, you can just call it by something else. And then you're already doing it. And then we don't have to have this argument.

Synne Linden 34:18

Yeah, but Yes, true. Yes. Fair enough.

Francisco Mahfuz 34:22

And sorry, there is one more thing there is one more thing. When the moment you call yourself a storyteller, and the same thing would go for comedian or something along those lines, then people think you're a trained monkey. And then you say, it's all you do. I'm a storyteller. Tell me a story then. That happens, right? Oh, yeah. No, I I help people how to tell better stories. But can you tell my story then, and, of course, I do have stories to tell, but he's like a super awkward way to tell any stories. It's like, Alright, and then you have to sort of launch in and they're like, they're people get their resistance. their defences up. And then they're like, well, this better be the best story I've ever heard. Otherwise, I'll think you're crap. It's your job.

Synne Linden 35:08

Yeah, well, luckily, I don't have that problem because no one ever goes, well write me a story then because

Francisco Mahfuz 35:13

you're in the middle of the woods. Right? So most of the people you see on a daily basis, you either you know, gave birth to them, or you married them.

Synne Linden 35:27

Yeah, no, it's more like people, I guess, don't have the patience to wait for me to write a story?

Francisco Mahfuz 35:34

Sure, no, I was, I wanted to get to the more specific stuff. So when I was looking through some of the things you do for your clients, is five of what you call story tracks, and I wanted to focus on some of them. But the first thing that that jumped out at me is I was looking at how you described how the person might be at the moment, and how they're going to be how they're going to be after doing the work. And, you know, the very first one on the identity statement, story track is, you know, from insecure to understood, and then it looked through all of them. And it was like insecure, lost, confused, inadequate and hopeless. And I thought that when I was a teenager, I would have been your ideal client.

Synne Linden 36:19

Yes, true. But also, you know, we feel that way all the time as adults do.

Francisco Mahfuz 36:29

Yes, true. I think I've, I've learned to make jokes about it. And that seems to be my major. That's a major difference between me as a 14 year old and, and as an almost 14 year old, 40 year old man. So the first one you have in there is he was called as the identity statement and say, moving people, you better move it from seeking security understood. And then I think you listed six specific or you mentioned, there'll be six specific measures to make your identity clearer. So I was wondering, what would be one or two of those of those measures? What type of thing are you looking for, when you're trying to help someone identify their, you know, define their identity, identity statement,

Synne Linden 37:10

right. So with that specific package, or that work that process, we look at brand voice and brand story. So those are like the two key parts that make up your foundational identity. And so what the measures are, will be completely dependent on the person I'm working with, because the idea is to make sure that at the end of it, they the customer feels understood by their audience, but also that they feel kind of understood by themselves, like they understand their identity, they understand who their businesses. So these measures can be anything from cutting out a sentence that has nothing to do with their core narrative to doing a workshop in house on the unique identifiers that they would like to have their brand voice be associated with. So there are things that you can implement to strengthen your identity. That's the idea.

Francisco Mahfuz 38:10

And when you talk about brand story, I think the term there is you go from loss to align. Now, what type of story are you normally going for? Would it be another? No, if the answer could be more than one? But is it more common that you end up with some type of origin story? Or is it more the you know what, what I tend to call the Help story, but some people call the customer story or the value story or the success story about the people that they actually help?

Synne Linden 38:36

Yeah, so I also call the brand story, the core narrative. So I think out of the ones who mentioned their origin story would probably be the one closest, but again, it's not always about the origins. When you do a brand story on your website, what you want to make sure is happening is that your customer is identifying with the story you're telling. And the way to do that is to identify what's called fertile facts, which are the facts that you hook up, hook on to as a reader. And so that story can wind up being pretty much anything but more often than not, it ends up being a combination of your origin story, your values, your ethos, your mission, where you want to go. And you know, the infamous why, why you're doing this, what makes your story important and what will make the reader not just associated associate with it, but feel part of it. What would

Francisco Mahfuz 39:37

you call a fertile fact? Or how would you define that any further than you already have?

Synne Linden 39:42

A fertile fact can be okay, so let's say you have a bike repair shop and it's been in the business for a sorry, it's been in the family. It's been in business in the family for four generations. So a fertile fact can be I remember the sound of the bell as much My grandfather pushed me down the street on my first bike ride. Something very emotive, it's something very sort of puts you into a moment, more often than not a fertile fact is a moment. It can be the way a door creaked, it can be the moment you realised that everything you've been doing is wrong, and you need to change. But it's very specific, because specifics are what kind of puts us into a feeling or a place or a sense of a place.

Francisco Mahfuz 40:31

Yeah, so fertile fact is a much, much more literary way of describing what I tend to describe in my sort of the three elements that I say that a good story needs to have, which is the inst to be relatable, specific and an emotional or emotive is that the specific part so they'll call those specific details. So this needs to be a detail that anyone who has any familiarity with that world you're describing is going to latch on to, you're going to go yes, I've I've ridden a bicycle, or my father, or my someone has taught me how to ride a bicycle. And I had one of those, and that bell 100% I remember that.

Synne Linden 41:07

But they're actually, both of the other things that you said, they're also both relatable and emotional to Yeah, I

Francisco Mahfuz 41:13

think there's a lot of, there's a lot of overlap in this things. The way I described it, you know, relatable usually means you need to have a relatable character or situation, the specific I want to have a moment in there. And I won't have specific details, I want one or two things very clearly sad, that that make it feel more real, because you can have a moment. And still in that moment not have those one or two things that really say, Yes, I understand what you know, learning how to ride a bike looks like you can talk about learning how to ride a bike and have the moment be very real. But sometimes just a one thing about what the bike is to look like. And that to people that leave the same generation you have they they were then they will see that specific detail and go, yeah, 100% My bike didn't have that. But I know that was a common thing, or my bike had that in what I when I say, emotional. What I mean is people need to care about what's going on in the story. Now all of these things have an emotional connection to us. But if you're if the story you care you're telling doesn't have stakes. No one is that first, if the whatever complication or problem that came up in the story gets resolved or not, then it's not going to be a particularly great story can still tell a moment. And that moment will have an emotional connection with people. But as a story goes, if the characters don't care about what's going on, I would argue it's not a particularly great story.

Synne Linden 42:44

Yeah, that's true, the characters need to care what's going on. So in this example, the specificity would be you know, the sound of the bike Bell, the relatability would be a grandparent teaching you how to ride a bike. And the emotional thing would be the feeling I had in my chest as I sped off. So it's you know, and and this thing about steaks is is definitely true. And I think definitely important. In storytelling, I also have, however, feel frustrated when things like story brand, over simplify things. And say that all storytelling follows the structure of the hero's journey, which is what often happens in marketing these days.

Francisco Mahfuz 43:27

I find it very easy for people that talk about story to bash storebrand to certain degree, but I think that when you read into the stuff, or you speak to them, as I've overdone it to do with with JJ a few episodes back, I think it just they realise what works and what works better. For the model. They have, you know, the the approach they have to marketing in that specific scenario where they're teaching people to do very specific things. It suits them to, to focus it in a certain way. And if you ask them two questions about it, they be the first ones to say, Yeah, of course, there's, there's way more to it than that. But you know, we're getting we're trying to get to this one thing perfectly well. And by doing this one thing perfectly well, it's easier to not open it to all the complexity it has, because it's not going to serve the purpose. We have, we want to give it now. And I think, to a certain degree, a lot of the storytelling that I that I help people with and that is natural to me. There is that aspect as well of figuring out what's important, you know, what is the message you're trying to get across, and all the other things that might add a lot of colour and detail, but don't necessarily serve the message and might confuse the message sometimes are things that you need to leave in the editing room, because you know that they're getting in the way of the truth of the story without necessarily adding anything to it and And I find that when I tell an oral story, the first time I tell it, it's twice as long. And then I just naturally go, Okay, well, but all I'm trying to say is, there's one thing, and I can say it in one line. Now, I don't need to add all this extra context, because you understand what I'm trying to say. And then the more I tell it, the more everything that is irrelevant drops off, and I'm left with this is what was happening. This was the problem, or this was, this is what changed. And this is what this is how things were afterwards. And you just you just naturally add it to, to the learning that or the lesson that that story is trying to impart. And I think at the end of the day, if with oral stories, that's what they were, they always were they're learning to. So they were not an entertainment to in the beginning, I don't think they developed as that as well. But if you try to share an experience because of something you've happened to you and you learn, and then the learning is the really important part. And the rest is there to take all the Story boxes and make your brain realise it's important, not necessarily to keep people entertained for for 10 minutes, and then have some sort of learning payoff at the end.

Synne Linden 46:10

Yeah. And I do think that your your writing that story brand works for that specific thing it does. The problem is that far too many people read story brand and think that that they now understand storytelling, which is problematic, because sometimes if you if you make it too simple, that's fine, people get it. But I would like people to be aware of how comprehensive the storytelling toolbox actually is. And it's vast, there are so many narrative structures, there are so many characterization tools and things you can do with place and everything there is it's It's massive. That's why there are as many books as there are, as you know, there's, there's like no end to what you can do with it. And I think that's so awesome, because it's just this total freedom of communication, and making communication, you know, as you say, both a learning experience and enjoyable because, you know, if we're talking about those kids who were listening to the grandparents tell stories, if they had just told their grandkids, the learning, without the story package, the kids probably wouldn't have caught like seeing what they were supposed to learn from it.

Francisco Mahfuz 47:27

Oh, no 100% You need the brain to understand that this is now a story. And this is why you should pay attention. And this is why you should be releasing all this, this hormones, you know, I need to it needs to get you know that the time and place will get the dopamine going say okay, well, now I need to pay attention, because this might be important. And then depending on how the story goes, you either get in the oxytocin, or you get in the endorphins. But the brain needs to understand that it's a story to do all these magical things that it does to allow you to take in the learning. If you just tell me, Oh, by the way, don't do this, then none of those things are gonna happen. But what I don't say what I think some people get confused sometimes. Or at least this has been my my learning over the last year, the more I looked into this was that people think that there is their story needs to be massively entertaining, to work. But it doesn't like a story that sounds like a story is going to have your attention at least to begin with. Now, he won't hold your attention for very long if there's nothing exciting happening. But it's not that it needs to have a laugh every minute, or it needs to be this high stakes or, or, you know, lots of danger or anything like that, because the brain doesn't need that to pay attention. The brain just needs it to feel like a story. And again, it's a lot easier to do to pull that off. If you're telling someone in a two minute story, then if you're trying to do it for half an hour, this is never gonna work. If it's not much more, there's a lot more tension and a lot more things going on for longer. You know, I test this out on a regular basis when I put stories out on social media is my stories never have a particularly exciting start. It's always 10 years ago when I was in London, doing whatever, and then I just launched into the story. I'm not doing anything to hook people's attention. I'm just telling a story. And I think it's it's to me is proof that as long as you do it the right way, you will grab people's attention, at least oral stories, that type of format. It's very different if you're doing it in writing, I think in writing when I write I'm always trying to hook their attention. I don't because I realise that it's you know, it's a different medium.

Synne Linden 49:43

Yeah, exactly. But I think that you know, you said something there about how it's it's just a story. And it's the same when you're writing, you know, it doesn't need to be super, it shouldn't be in fact super comprehensive or complex if it doesn't need to be but There's also this idea of you said, as long as you do it right. And I think that is where the, where I would draw the line between the craft and the buzzword, so to speak, because knowing how to do it right is actually just knowing a set of tools and techniques and frameworks and then applying them correctly. Whereas the buzzword is saying that, hey, I told a story. And I'm a storyteller, and that's fine in its own right. But I feel that it's too narrow, it doesn't do the history of this incredible thing of you know, stories and entertainment justice, because there's so much more you can do,

Francisco Mahfuz 50:40

and talking about so much more, you can do something that occurred to me, when I was reading through your most of the work you do with your clients, right, so we already mentioned the whole, you know, secure, lost, confused, whatever. And what I thought about when I read that, it's something I've thought about before is, when you're doing this type of work with clients, which it's different than the stuff I do, like, I, it's not very common that I'm going to go into that level of depth with someone, because I'm not trying to help them define themselves or their business, mostly just trying to either help them find the stories that are going on inside their business. So you're trying to genuinely get real feedback from the people you work with. And you do that by collecting stories, and also finding ways to present things that are happening to them by telling the story of what happened to them, and you got a new product, I'll tell the story of why that product came to be. Because that will be a lot more interesting than whatever sales pitch you're going to come up with. I'm not doing a lot of the stuff you were doing. And as I read through it, I thought, I mean, this sounds like either is or could very easily become therapy.

Synne Linden 51:58

It's so funny that you say that, because that's, you know, yeah, I mean, that's a lot of the work that I do with people certainly, you know, addicts really deep. And as I think most people would say writing a novel digs deep or writing a movie digs deep or preparing a one and a half hour keynote to digs deep. So yeah, to an extent, it is very much about vulnerability, and being willing to really introspect and be honest about what it is you're trying to do and who it is you're trying to speak to, and the stories that you that you want to tell. And I don't know if therapy is the right term, but it's certainly is very foundational work. And that's part of that's like, that's the other side of the coin to why I absolutely love what I do. Because it's not like people send me a Brief Write me a brand story. And then they send me 15 facts about their life, and I pumped something out, you know, I do a one to one and an one and a half hour interview with them, where I interview them. And I map out their whole story and then craft that into a core narrative. So you know, it is personal it is. Yeah, it is it is a vulnerable process. And I think I just find people immensely interesting. So I absolutely love that I get to know them, and also kind of create this narrative where they go, Oh, my gosh, that's me. That's exactly me. That's my voice. That's my story. These are the right details. And, and it drives the narrative forward. And I feel like, you know, you've summed it up, and in some cases when I'm working with solopreneurs, because obviously, this will be very different for a company. But when you're working with solopreneurs, then it's, you know, this notion of you've, you've summed up my life, like you've written a life story. And that's just, honestly, that process is just like a huge privilege. It's just really, it's something I take very seriously. And it's something I feel very honoured to do with people when they're willing to Yeah, to kind of let me hold that space or a less New Age way of saying that, but yeah, it really is incredibly rewarding, I think,

Francisco Mahfuz 54:13

always has to be no surprise to anyone. I've never had therapy. But But I, I read fairly obsessively. Right now I'm actually reading a book called the examined life. And it's just a whole bunch of, of short stories from from a therapist, and, you know, just relating patient stories. And, and so much of at least the type of therapy, talking therapy that he does, has to do with, you know, this is what's happening in your life, but you don't know, don't know why you don't know, what's the inciting incident to use a storytelling term for why this is happening in your life. And then mostly what he's doing is digging through what people tell him and their histories to try and find the beginning of the story. You know, now you do this thing. Because of this thing that happened in your childhood, and then the moment that he makes that connection, people feel that they make sense. Like I never, I never understood why I was shouting with my wife so often. And then once you dig up, that this used to happen to you, because I don't know, your father did it to you or whatever, then now the story makes sense. And now you can make sense of who you are. And now we can decide to move from that chapter. And, and obviously, the objectives we're trying you're trying for are significantly different than what they're not a lot of therapies is focused on. But I can, I can fully imagine that if you speak into someone who, who is just not clear of why they do the things they do, and they have to go back in time to realise why they are important to them. It must be immensely empowering, to to walk away from a conversation or an interaction with someone. Now, knowing why you do the things you do, or knowing your why. And, you know, it might not be specifically therapy, but a lot of the a lot of the positive outcomes that a lot of people get out of therapy, which is essentially feeling better about themselves and being happier suffering last. You know, I think taking control of your story can achieve the same goals.

Synne Linden 56:23

Yeah, definitely. And, and that's honestly why I mean, your brand story is certainly not my sort of highest price point product, but it is definitely my favourite one. Because it is the one where the journey is from last to aligned. And that is how people feel at the end of it. They feel in alignment about where they've come from, where they are and where they're going. And that is those are the best stories to tell.

Francisco Mahfuz 56:49

No, we would only be bad to if you found a way to charge them what you charge them for an hour every week forever. That seems like a better business model to be.

Synne Linden 57:01

True. Now I just need to really get clear on how to hack their trust, right?

Francisco Mahfuz 57:04

Yes, hack their trust and tell them that story work is is a lifetime commitment. You know, 150 euros per hour at a time.

Alright, so if people want to want to find out more about the about the work you do, or maybe read some of the stuff you write, where where should they go?

Synne Linden 57:29

Right. So my website is a good place to start. That's Linden On linden tree. You'll also find storytellers magazine, which is my editorial where I write magazine style pieces, where I've interviewed you, Francisco. And

Francisco Mahfuz 57:46

but you also have some good good ones in there. Some good ones, too.

Synne Linden 57:49

Yes. And, and also LinkedIn is the best sort of social media platform to to go to where I am under my name sind Linden,

Francisco Mahfuz 57:58

thank you very much for a time scene. This was as as much fun as I thought it would be.

Synne Linden 58:04

Thank you, Francisco. It really was. Thanks for having me.

Francisco Mahfuz 58:07

All right, everyone. Thanks for tuning in. Take care of yourselves. And until next time.

I hope you enjoyed the show. And if you did, I'd love for you to subscribe and leave us a review or a rating on the Apple podcasts app. It's very easy. You open the app and find this show and scroll down a little and when you see the stars tab. I'd really appreciate it and it does help other people find us. And if you'd like to get in touch or find out more about what I do, reach out to me on LinkedIn or visit my website story

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