Can you remember a good story? Well if it was good, it was probably memorable. But why? What makes the difference between stories you remember and those you don’t?
Storytelling is part of human life. It is used to entertain people, but has an important roles in conveying messages – to educate, instil values and pass on and preserve culture. It is a social activity that brings people together to listen, tell and share narratives. We are engaged in this social interaction from an early age yet its impact continues long into life in all areas.
How story telling works
An article in Harvard Business Review suggests
the stories that move and captivate people are those that are true to the teller, the audience, the moment, and the mission
These are the four truths of the story teller – truth to the (story) teller, truth to the audience, the moment and the mission. These all point to the need for authenticity in the story, for it to resonate with the audience.
In a series of posts, I am going to explore these ideas. I would love to hear your responses to these and any examples you would like to share.
Truth #1 – truth to the teller
The teller of the story has to believe the story themselves, if they are to bring their audience along in the narrative. For it to be effective, the teller almost has to want to share their experience of the story and its importance to them.
Being true to yourself also involves showing and sharing emotion. The spirit that motivates most great storytellers is “I want you to feel what I feel,” and the effective narrative is designed to make this happen. That’s how the information is bound to the experience and rendered unforgettable.
Easy to say. Not so easy to do. By sharing an experience, and the accompanying emotions, you are exposing your vulnerabilities to your audience. Guber (2007) suggests this requires a lot of generosity on the part of the teller.
The aim of the storyteller is usually to “move” people. To influence, persuade, entertain – to create an emotional response that affects them. Guber suggests appealing to the minds of the audience is part of the approach, but that “the heart is the bull’s-eye”. In order to achieve that, the teller has to be willing to open their own heart – reveal and share their own emotions, first.
There are many examples of this emotional generosity demonstrated in TED talks. A personal story that moves the audience always adds to its impact. A couple of examples:
- My invention that made peace with lions – a Masai boy’s story
- Your body language shapes who you are – Amy Cuddy
By demonstrating a willingness to invite the audience into their world, the teller is inviting them to reciprocate and engage their own heart in the heart-felt story. It may not be something that moves you to tears – but something hooks your interest, attention and empathy.
Think about a story that moved you. Would you share it here?
Next truth – the audience.
Guber, Peter. 2007. The Four Truths of the Storyteller. Harvard Business Review. December 2007.