sto·ry·tell·ing

Storytelling. It seems this term is being used a lot nowadays to describe a multitude of variations of person-to-person sharing. How can we describe this word? What does it mean to individuals, non-profits, corporations….? How can we harness the power of storytelling to amplify our messages? And finally, probably most importantly, why are stories trusted more than other methods of communication?

Journal

These questions, among others, are what have captivated me in understanding how we use stories and the act of storytelling in our lives, particularly in our work. This quandary stemmed out of an organizational challenge (and personal frustration) to explain the work we were doing. Sure we were great at “program speak” – aka, report writing. But we weren’t great at demonstrating the human impact of why our programs mattered. Beyond the data we were limiting ourselves to communicating internally with an audience who already understood our goals and measures of success.

Business and non-profit leadership will always question the value and return on investment in human resources as well as programmatic initiatives. How can we argue that storytelling is worth it? For one, people value human testimony more than advertising. This fact has stood the test of time. Why else do marketers and advertisers use individuals that reflect their intended audience to sell their message/product? And why on Earth would reality television shows be as popular as they are? More importantly though we need to reflect on the fact that storytelling is at the crux of all human connections. Humans have the innate need to feel part of something larger than themselves – to understand that others feel, think and (re)act as they do. Stories allow us to frame our human experience in a way that allows us to create an instantaneous bond with another.

As technologies evolve and we live our lives more secluded from our friends, families and colleagues we need to find alternative ways to share our every day triumphs and disappointments with one another. Though visual and verbal storytelling dates back to the time of cavemen, as times change we have to challenge ourselves to integrate storytelling in our modern media and message-saturated lives.

Lucky for us technologies are also evolving at a rapid pace, allowing amateurs to access them cheaply and easily. While the tools are there we must not forget the simple elements of story construction and constantly remind ourselves how to honor the narratives that are shared with us. The world of storytelling is vast and sometimes daunting, with a bit of a learning curve attached to it, but give it some time and thought and you may just find it’s a beautiful landscape to explore.

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