Aizuchi: Yes, I Hear You

Allow me to introduce you to an excellent e-book, Aizuchi Playbook:  Brand Your Business with Story, by my friend and collaborator, Andrew Nemiccolo of Seven Story Learning.  I first read this thought-provoking document last November when it was originally published and picked it up again earlier this month (which, of course, means this post has been a long time in the coming… my apologies for depriving the CLC community of an outstanding resource for too many months! ).  Once again, I was reminded of its many important messages, all emblematic of Seven Story Learning’s mission:  To help businesses develop story-based strategies that work.  From my angle, storytelling, or as Andrew would instruct, “storylearning,” is critical to success in connecting with others – in networking.  And, hey, who doesn’t love a good story?  They’re not just for kids anymore!  (Were they ever?)

First, a brief explanation of what is “aizuchi.”  According to Andrew, “if you’ve ever seen a Japanese person nodding in conversation and saying ‘aah soou?’ or ‘is that so?’ then you’ve already witnessed aizuchi.”  It is the Japanese word for brief but important responses during conversation that demonstrate active, engaged listening.  Though it does not necessarily connote agreement, as a listener, it indicates to the speaker, “yes, I hear you.”

As such, you’ll not be surprised to learn that I believe aizuchi can be a useful tool for all networkers – both in terms of sharing stories and in terms of actively listening to and engaging in others’ stories.  When I asked Andrew why he thinks aizuchi is so important, he shared, “good networkers listen and talk this way.  Good businesses practice this by listening to customers.  It’s simply two way communications.”

In the book, Andrew asks readers to abide three rules as they embark on their story-sharing journeys…

  1. Use stories for good, not evil.  No tall tales… don’t abuse the gift of an active, engaged listener.
  2. Remember stories should be honest and authentic.  Authenticity matters.  Speak from the heart.  Open up to others.
  3. Promise to listen to others’ stories more than you tell your own.  Listening is more important than telling. Telling other people your story increases your chances of being remembered. Listening to their stories increases your chances of being liked! Networking is equal parts storytelling and “story-listening” (i.e., deeply active and generous listening that helps someone else to share their story).

So, if you have taken the oath and can agree to follow those simple rules, then there is just one thing more you need to do to get ready to incorporate Andrew’s philosophy into your networking efforts… Be prepared for networking with stories. 

Sharing stories, prompt other stories – it is a beautiful, virtuous cycle.  And, as Andrew mentions, if we don’t have a good awareness of who we are, and what our business is, then it’s hard to network.  It forces the other party to do the hard work that we should have done already.  One goal of the Aizuchi Playbook is people and businesses that put it to use will have great verbal stories for networking, sales, etc., and great written stories (e.g. “About Me” pages for blogs, LinkedIn profiles, client success stories and testimonials) for their online profiles.

Ready to get started?  The Aizuchi Playbook recommends a three-step process for preparing yourself for storysharing – it even provides space for you to complete the suggested steps which are:

  1. Goal Setting.  The more specific you are about with whom you would like to communicate (customers, investors, donors, employees, partners, board members, vendors, legislators, regulators, et. al.), what action you would like for them to take and how you imagine they might feel about taking the action, the more likely it is that you will be successful in your interaction.  Writing it down is critical.
  2. StoryMining.  This is a method of systematically sifting through personal and professional experiences for content that can be polished and refined into complete stories.  The Aizuchi Playbook provides a lot of guidance for engaging in this process – it is easier than you might imagine.
  3. StoryBanking.  Simply put, this is about having the right story at the right time.  It is a systematic way to organize and house the stories you would like to share.  You can keep stories in your memory, on whiteboards, in paper files or on spreadsheets.  You may even choose to place them in databases, CRM systems, blogs and/or apps (e.g. Evernote).  Whatever you do, bank them somewhere.  Again, the Aizuchi Playbook provides a suggested approach and guidelines for documenting the key elements to your stories in a way that makes them easy to store.

I urge you to jump into this process and get a copy of Aizuchi Playbook.  With just a little bit of effort, you will be rewarded through improved connections to others.  Oh… I haven’t even told you one of the best things about the Aizuchi PlaybookAndrew and Seven Story Learning have made it available at no charge in exchange for your registration and willingness to allow him to keep in touch with you from time-to-time via newsletters, etc.  Click here to gain access to the e-book.  Go check it out and begin building your StoryBank!

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