Why Story Matters

Story is how we understand the world. And so, story is how we communicate.

I just returned from the Stanford GSB, where I gave a talk on using storytelling for change as part of the Me2We conference for LEAD participants. People came from all over the country, Europe, South America, India, and Asia – different cultures, with one thing in common:

At every talk, and nearly every conversation, people told stories.

At the networking events, I watched the animated way people spoke to each other. When I approached, I heard them storytelling. I imagine if a rule prohibited storytelling, the conference would have been three days of silence. Or, at least, three days of boring explanations.

Although we understand the world in terms of stories, and we innately respond to a story, few of us understand the elements of stories.

I do. And I can teach you.

March 17, 2019.


How We Create Meaning

We create meaning by the stories we tell. Without a story to shape a narrative from a set of facts, the events of our lives are just one fact after another. But our nature is to find patterns in what seems random, to shape a narrative from those patterns, and then find a meaning within the narrative.

Amazingly, two different stories can be told from the same set of facts (actually, the are far more than two). Both are true. But the story that resonates is the story that reveals a transcendent truth about ourselves.

Most people think they don’t have a good story to tell. This is not so. Everyone has a great story to tell. The trouble is just that most people do not understand the archetypes and narrative arcs that resonate with all of us. But when we hear a story told with those archetypes and narrative arcs, we stop, listen, and are transported.

I think we have all had the experience of listening to someone describe an amazing experience in a boring way, and another describe an ordinary experience is an exciting way. The difference is the first person does not know how to tell a story, but the second does.

You have something to share and people want to hear what you have to share, but you need to share in the form of a story, and the form of that story must be one that resonates.

I understand the essential story forms that have been with us since our preliterate times, the stories that were spoken and survived and later were written down and reprinted and revived in different settings with different characters. We are telling the same story over and over again, and if we tell it right, it feels familiar and completely original.

If you are trying to tell your story, but it doesn’t yet seem to transport your listeners, I can help.

Christopher P. Kriesen, July 5, 2017.