“I’m drifting out to sea!”

My niece is 9 (and a half) and when she cried out “I’m drifting out to sea!” she really believed it. Fear is a compelling story, and her Inner Jury was taking that story and, well, drifting with it. It was last weekend, and she was on my paddleboard alone for the first time.

In past summers, I’ve had her sit in front of me while I took her for rides. But she’s getting older, bigger and more confident. And I want that confidence to grow. So I gave her the paddleboard, an oar, some directions and a smile. She hopped on and, within minutes, she was “drifting off to sea!”

She really believed she was. The current had grabbed her, and the fear followed. Fear tells a good story. Her Inner Jury was starting to believe that story and to accept it as the truth.

I had to give her a different story. But that wouldn’t be enough. Facts tell, stories sell, but advocates win. I had to do more than tell her another story. I had to advocate for that story with the tools of an advocate.

So I gave her Evidence. “Look, Brielle. You aren’t heading towards the sea. You’re heading towards the clubhouse.”

Then I asked a Question. “What would happen if you put your paddle in and pushed backwards?”

And I used Presentation. I made sure my tone, body language and energy were calm and confident.

Fortunately, it worked. Her Inner Jury believed my story over the story her fear was telling her. The advocate won.

Advocates always win. Facts tell, stories sell, but advocates win. When there are two competing stories (and there are always two competing stories!) the story that wins is the one that has someone advocating for it.

If you want to win sales, attention, loyalty or engagement, your story isn’t enough. You have to advocate for it. Use words, evidence, questions and perspective. And use credibility, reception, presentation and negotiation. Argue if you must. Advocate with elegance, and you will win.

Not only did my niece not drift off to sea that day, but she built her own credibility. Now she believes that the story of fear isn’t always the story to choose. She believes in her ability to paddle. And she knows how to win.

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