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Storytelling truth in public life

Most of us know storytelling is a vital source of truth in public as well as in personal life, but many people dislike others saying and writing so. Too often, storytelling is presented in a weird and whacky way, or by people who for some reason seem unqualified. This devalues the proposition.

Earlier this year I researched, wrote and presented an academic paper to a peer-reviewed conference on the usefulness of storytelling in public life. I wanted to cut away myth, identify experts and get down to what we know for sure. I’m NOT presenting that in detail here.

I offer the following points (in true interweb fashion) without any attribution whatsoever. I do this because these are the claims I see as being self-evidentially true. See what you think.

Seven reasons to add stories to your repertoire:

  1. People enjoy stories because they are part of what makes us human. We voluntarily give up our own time, stand in queues and pay money to read, hear and watch — to be immersed — in a sustained, pleasurable story (e.g. a movie or play). In every generation stories are personally, socially and culturally natural and acceptable. Stories are so desirable and memorable, good ones transcend their original means of distribution.
  2. Stories transmit emotion, complex ideas and meaning, so are a significant part of how we interpret and connect with ourselves, each other and the world. A story can carry a heavy cargo from one mind into others. A story may seem trivial, yet be far from superficial.
  3. Leaders, professionals and innovators use stories to influence people. From Plato (even though he distrusted art) to Jesus to Marx, from Homer to Bunyan to Chekhov, from Shakespeare to Lincoln to Spielberg. From Edison to Churchill to Buffet. Stories are a peak and perfection of communication.
  4. Stories give license to say or mention anything you can think of, and often to do so in ways we could not or would not normally. Stories can be fictional, and true, at the same time on several levels.
  5. Stories have fun with words, jargon-free, so are highly inclusive. Everyone (mostly) gets it. No-one is excluded by a lack of knowledge.
  6. Producing culture confers credibility on its creators. Commissioning and creating stories of lasting value are genuine, generous acts of innovation.
  7. Stories remove the taint of narcissism from marketing.