From that moment, Frank commands the full attention of every person in the room.
Why? Because he's given his audience a fascinating bit of seemingly contradictory information to ponder. How can a mayor, a respected community leader, also be a former convict, a disreputable societal pariah?
It doesn't make sense, doesn't fit the expected pattern. In fact, it seems to run completely counter to common sense. Faced with such a conundrum, the logic-loving part of the human brain immediately snaps to attention and launches a valiant attempt to solve the mystery.
Not only will Frank's audience now hang on every word he speaks, they're likely to remember his message for a long, long time.
Frank has hooked his audience with the power of paradox. Listeners can't help but focus on his story because we humans are curious by nature. We're programmed to notice and investigate anything that doesn't seem quite right. It's a survival thing.
Paradox is the secret of mega-stories-those riveting tales that continue to mesmerize readers for years, even decades after the fact.
Think about these enduring examples:
· The Titanic, first of a new class of unsinkable passenger ships, sinks on its maiden voyage. Rich tycoons and poor immigrants drown together.
· The marriage of Charles and Diana begins with a storybook royal wedding, yet ends in tawdry affairs, bitter divorce, and senseless tragedy.
· New York City's World Trade Towers, symbols of America's global pre-eminence, are felled by a few terrorists using our own airliners as weapons.
Thank goodness everyday life seldom offers such high drama, but paradox works at every level. Consider these true stories:
· A psychologist who's been divorced three times becomes a relationship expert.
· A 7-year-old born without hands wins a trophy in a national handwriting contest.
· An uneducated washerwoman donates her life savings--more than $100,000--to create a scholarship for kids from her modest neighborhood.
Life is full of delicious contradictions. Once you know what to look for, you'll no doubt find plenty of paradox, both in your personal and professional experiences. Use this secret key to make own your stories unforgettable!