I tell stories because they are the most powerful force in the universe to make a difference in the lives of real people. All great truths come to us through story. Story shapes us constantly, and whether people realize it or not, the story they believe in any given moment has monumental consequences.
Here are 3 big reasons I believe storytelling is so powerful.
- Stories are emotional. All people, save a handful of psychopaths, make decisions on an emotional level. Logic is important, yes. But it is fundamentally emotion, backed up by logic, that makes us move or change. Stories create emotion in us like nothing else. In fact, without story there would be no emotions at all. Data can’t cause emotion until we connect it to a story.
- Stories are communal. Imagine a total stranger getting up in front of a room of a few hundred people. If they recite facts at us we are going to quickly grow bored. If they impose their beliefs on us we will be offended. If they ask for something from us we will grow jaded. But if they tell a story – maybe the story of their biggest failure, or the first time they fell in love, or the day they buried their father – then we connect. Story breaks down barriers and creates empathy. All the differences in us fade away when an authentic human connection occurs mid-story. It’s that commonality that brings to mind the time you yourself failed, or fell in love, or buried a parent. Suddenly we are way more the same than we are different.
- Stories are imaginative. We are hard-wired to argue over facts and issues. We develop -isms and -ologies to define ourselves. While we naturally critique definitive statements, a good story is rarely instantly debated. Stories engage our brain in a different way. We suspend our opinions and judgments in the middle of a well-told story. We’re ready to take the ride with someone. We may possibly judge them afterward, but we won’t in the moment. In the moment, we’re just present. Being present with someone creates space for a genuine connection to occur.
We all go through life with both declared and hidden agendas. We can’t help that. But stories allow us to set down our agendas for a moment – like a Christmas Day cease-fire. The most politically charged issues can be gently discussed within the context of someone’s story.
Storytelling is my job. I lead a growing creative agency and production company. We make videos and web media, put on live events and do creative consulting. I see everyday the power of a well-crafted story. I also see the danger of a story that lacks emotion, congruence or authenticity. Sometimes in the business world we lose track of the main thing. (It’s easy to do. I can’t say I haven’t done it myself a few times.) But the main thing is telling a great story. It’s the only way to get where you want to go.