I Believe Your Story. God Have Mercy if it Proves False.
Sucker turns scrapper when story unravels
The woman shouting optimistic, full sentences from the top of the dune (that story here) highlighted my own willingness to be entrapped by a story. Although I have much of the cynic/skeptic in me, my basic approach to communication is to believe what is in front of me. This bit of openness (or blindness, as the case may be) allows me to enjoy stupid movies. Example: I watched and even finished Fast Five the other day. Fast Five is nothing but a string of car chases. In Rio. That’s it. I guess there was gunplay and corrupt officials and a few pretty girls. But the cars steal the show and the vault (I’ve said too much).
The movie never really asked me to believe it. From the beginning it was just a string of car chases.
Mrs. Kirkistan costumes theater productions. We often talk about what happens to actors the first time they put on their costume: they inhabit the clothing in a very visible way. The actor in costume becomes the character before your eyes. You believe, partly because the actor now believes all the more.
In the same way, we also talk about what happens when the costumes in a staged production are wrong. It’s not just that the production looks bad; it’s that the believability is sucked from the room and the play turns sour. The ill-fitting or badly adapted costume shouts, “This is a fiction.” Of course, the audience knew this already, but they had suspended disbelief. Until now.
And when the story unravels and proves false, you feel duped.
Duped is Dangerous
No one wants to be sold something. No one wants to be taken advantage of. And when we find we have been sold a bill of goods (as the cliché goes), our cynical/skeptical knob gets turned a notch or two. Sometimes we even become enemies. This is true for advertising. This is true for the company line the CEO utters from the podium. It is true for the pastor’s manipulative reading of a text from the pulpit. It is true for the talkative salesperson at the AT&T store. People turn when duped: loyal employees, devoted congregants, potential customers—each has the capacity to become the opposite when the truth is revealed.
Keeping things believable is tough work and a big challenge all the way through a communication event. Maybe that is why evangelizing for something you don’t fully believe is so hard if not impossible.