The regular post-BTS schedule has reestablished itself. I went back to the gym yesterday, and I have the sore muscles to prove it (ah, those lat pulldowns). I prepared three wholesome meals. I also accepted a 2-inch square piece of The Princess’s tiramisu, put butter on my popcorn when I watched Twelfth Night with the kids last night, and made this morning’s banana nut muffins with white flour because I had run out of whole wheat.

So I guess I am back to normal.

The book I am reading right now (it’s a forthcoming book from the Amazon review arrangement) is called Influencer: The Power to Change Anything, by Kerry Patterson and a whole bunch of other guys. It begins by suggesting that people who try to cope with things, or rely on the Serenity Prayer, or try to adapt to circumstances, are just flat wrong. You can, the authors claim, change things in your work, your nation, or your private life. Just follow their simple steps.

This book keeps making me think of Ozarque. First, because she has written extensively about the political problem we have right now of feeling that we cannot do anything about our nation’s circumstances, and therefore we shouldn’t even try. I know that a lot of us feel that way. I don’t know whether that is a new feeling or not, but it does cause people not to vote and not to work for change.

Patterson, et al give examples of successful change in a variety of settings, from prisons to public health. I’ve only read the first few chapters, but they begin by saying that you have to pick a couple of behaviors — not attitudes, not outcomes — that you want people (including perhaps yourself) to change, and focus all your efforts on that.

I think that this could be a powerful concept for marketing. The Empress and I were not able to come up with an answer to “What one or two things do we want our customers to do?” but I bet that once we do, we will find that more useful than the question we’ve been working with: “What outcome do we want for the store?”

The next thing that reminds me of Ozarque is that the next step, according to Kerry and the gang, is to come up with a story that will accomplish two things: make the people involved believe that they can do the thing you want them to do, and make them believe that it will be worth it.

I have to say that by the time I read this claim, I was already pretty fed up with the stories in this book. I am not generally impressed by anecdotal evidence. I like a good story as much as the next woman, but for the conveying of information and concepts, or for persuasion, give me quantifiable data every time. Long passages of case studies make me suspicious. Like, maybe they simply don’t have any reliable evidence, so they’re going to throw in lots of stories instead.

Influencer, in particular, presents stories with a sort of teaser about what the stories are going to prove — they say, “There, wasn’t that a great story and wouldn’t you like to be able to get great results like that? Well, we’re going to tell you. Keep reading!”

I’m paraphrasing.

But their claim is that the story is the important part. It is supposed to provide a vicarious experience, a field trip, for the people whose behavior you are trying to change. And Ozarque has been writing off and on about the stories people use in political contexts in the United States, and how much better the right wing is at that than the left wing. She talks about the story of The Welfare Queen, or the WMD story which made a whole lot of people willing to invade a sovereign nation in spite of international law. It has seemed to me, in reading the discussions at her website, that one of the great advantages of these stories is that they don’t have to be true. People don’t expect stories to be strictly, factually true. That’s part of the definition of a story — that the details can be changed around and don’t have to be accurate, because there is a higher truth in the story, which is the point.

And I suppose that that is why I don’t find stories persuasive.

Though maybe I do. Most people believe that advertising has no effect on them, according to interviews, and yet the advertising industry can prove with hard data that we are indeed influenced by advertising. So maybe my impatience with stories is just me persuading myself that I am too rational for all that, while my subconscious says, “Hey! This might work!”