Why Storytelling is a More Important Skill Than You Realize

by STEVE BLOOM

The World is a Stage

If I had to pick one skill to master, I think storytelling would be a close contender for the top spot. Stories are how we organize our experiences in the world and how we make sense of events that have happened to us. But they’re also important for many other reasons you probably never considered.

The Hidden Power of Storytelling

So why is storytelling such an important skill? With the right kind of story, you can be very influential and persuasive. The reasons they have this power are:

1. Straight facts are forgettable and boring. If you try to influence someone through facts like graphs and statistics, you’re going to have a hard time.

2. Stories can hide your message. When you listen to a story, you concentrate on the overall plot not the underlying point. This why a lot of advertisements use storytelling as a way to convince you to buy their product.

3. Stories can subtly persuade you. Often you’ll barely notice what the story is trying to say so you have no position to argue against.

4. You can build a connection with other people through stories. Through this connection, you’ll build rapport and trust. These are two big qualities to have when influencing others.

5. Emotions are central to good storytelling. Emotions are also useful for building strong memories of what is being said and strengthening whatever message you‘re trying to get across.

6. It’s a good way to get someone to remember what you’ve said. Someone listening to a story is engaged as an active listener.

Stories Are Everywhere

Storytelling goes far beyond the territory of TV, books and movies. To name just a few places, you’ll see storytelling used in advertising, the news, politics, personal relationships and business. That covers just about every aspect of your life.

Think back to your last job interview. The answers you gave in response to the interviewer’s questions are basically short stories. In fact, the purpose of the interview process is for interviewers to get past the facts of your resume and figure out who you are – your story.

You’ll also need to be a good storyteller for many other areas of your life. For example, I had to use several stories from my past as part of my grad school application. The same goes for anyone owning a business. Many companies today focus on creating brand stories through social networking sites. They use sites like Facebook to get people to talk about the company and to share with their friends.

Being able to tell stories isn’t just a useful skill anymore; it’s starting to become essential to know. It’s not surprising that an emerging discipline in the field of management is organizational storytelling. This is an area focused on getting companies to tell stories in order to unify and motivate groups of employees. It’s not only starting to be seen as a powerful tool, but something every leader needs to be competent in.

You Are Your Story

With all this importance put upon storytelling, it is important to keep in mind your story. Your life is a series of events that all make up one long narrative. How you tell your stories and what you share with other people can make or break you in whatever area of life you are trying to succeed in.

Managing your personal story should be very important to you. After all, it is how you tell your story that gets people to hire you, buy things from you and like you. And if you’re not paying attention to the narrative you’re giving off, you might just be giving off the wrong one.

One of the easiest ways to illustrate this is through Facebook. If you’re applying for a position in a big conservative company, you are going to have to explain any unsavory Facebook photos they find of you. The same goes for any negative news articles you’ve been in or bad things that have been said about you.

This really does happen. I worked in a background screening company for several years and I did many comprehensive checks on job applicants backgrounds. And it involves far more than just checking criminal history. I personally checked Facebook and Twitter accounts of job applicants to see if there was anything notable to flag. I also searched local newspapers for any news articles on them.

People are no longer just interested in your facts. Otherwise companies like these would just look at a resume, do the interview and be content with that. But people are demanding a little more and want to dig deeper than ever into who you are.

Who Needs Facts?

Facts will always be important. There’s no denying that. But if you’re only focusing on the facts, you’re missing out on a large portion of what the world really wants to hear.

Storytelling is a skill that has been gaining importance over the past few decades. It’s about time that people started to take their storytelling skills more seriously. It’s never been more important than now for you to answer the question of “what’s your story”.

Do you think storytelling skills are important too?  Have you used your storytelling skills recently?
photo credit: Pensiero

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Comments

  1. Humm, that remind me of a story…

  2. Reading this entry made me look back when I first applied for a job in the company where I’m still connected today. There’s something so powerful as well when you are honest with your storytelling. When it comes from you and you don’t embellish any detail, it becomes all the more persuasive.

    This correlates with your other article (I’ve read sometime) about great lives require undergoing hardships. When you share a story of something that you had to overcome, the listener of your story will definitely be interested. Since you’re talking about your story that happened in real life and how you were able to go through that challenge and come out a better person than before.

    • There definitely is something powerful to a story about overcoming a hardship. I know that people respond most to those kind of stories when I tell them. It could be that people really respond to how inspiring they can be or perhaps the conflict present in them.

      I think honesty is really important too. Nothing will destroy your credibility more than if someone thinks you’re not being honest in your stories. And you’re right that being honest can be persuasive in its own way too. It can be pretty powerful.

  3. I can say that I am a storyteller by heart 😀 It is the reason why I love to blog and write scripts even if my grammar sucks at times. I remember someone telling me that I should simply stick to the facts on writing my blogs, but there’s more to facts that will get the interest of the reader.

    I agree that in job interviews, narrating your story is a bit more better than just staring at the resume. Reminds me of another job interview i’m about to venture on next week. Wish me luck!

    • Facts are important in their own way, but if you want to get people’s interest, you should become a storyteller. That’s part of the reason I love to blog too. Writing out the things that I have experienced and observed makes me feel good. Plus, I hope that people get something good out of it. Good luck in your job interview.

  4. Nothing beats a good story Steve definitely!

    Did you know that Aboriginal culture is passed from generation to generation through storytelling? They call the stories ‘dreamtime’ and the ones I’ve heard are good!

    • Yeah, I did know that Aboriginal culture used storytelling to pass their culture. I’ve heard a few of their stories too and find them really fascinating. It’s amazing how important stories can be to some people and their entire culture.

  5. I enjoy good storytelling as well. I like to read posts that flow and also have some personal stories added to it.

    I am by no means a professional when it comes to writing but I am getting better at it.

    • I like posts with stories in them too. They just add a nice personal touch and help to keep the topic moving. That’s why I try to add a story to each post. I find adding the right one can make a good post an even better one.

  6. You’re right. Stats and facts get lost on folks but the tales we tale (and are told) can last forever without any effort.

    I never considered it a top contender for most important skill, but you may be on to something here….

    • Tales really can last forever. That’s what makes them so powerful. Just think back to some conversations in the past and I bet the ones that stand out the most are stories.

  7. “Storytelling is data with a soul” (some TEDtalks lady).

  8. Totally agree! Good business storytelling is good business communicating. The thing about storytelling is the human memory can recall stories much more than dry facts or “death by PowerPoint” presentations.

    I blogged about this same topic a few months back:
    http://rogiercommunications.blogspot.com/2011/07/art-science-of-business-story-telling.html

    • The power that storytelling has in memory is what makes it such a useful tool. I know what you mean by “death by Powerpoint” presentations. I’ve been in that situation before and it doesn’t really work. While dry facts are useful too, it’s much more powerful to pair up that data with a good story to really make a memorable impact.

  9. Yes, I definitely think being able to tell a good story is important. I kinda fancy myself a pretty good storyteller, and I’m mostly basing that on what other people have said. And I definitely appreciate someone else being able to tell a good story-there’s nothing worse than having to suffer through an interesting story that just isn’t being told very well!

    • Oh yeah, delivery of the story is important. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat through an interesting story that wasn’t told well. On the flip side though, someone telling an ok story well can be good too.

  10. My grandfather was legendary for telling stories (with some more stretched for truth than others). :)

    I agree about storytelling being so important. It’s one reason I try to do and try new things. I want to be able to have stories to tell.

    • That’s one reason I like to do and try new things too. The wider range of experiences you have, the better of stories you have. I think doing and trying new things can give you a lot of material for good stories.

  11. Steve,

    There is nothing that gives me more joy than telling a story. Most of them are made up becuase my life just isn’t that interesting but they are still fun to tell. I only could imagine the storytellers of yester year who job was to pass stories from generation to generation. What a job. :-)

    • That really would be an interesting job to pass on stories from generation to generation. It would be an important one too since you’re in charge of passing on the stories of your culture.

  12. i agree man… that’s why marketers, advertisers, pr and sales people…almost everyone is using this medium to convey their messages :-)

    • It’s so true. If you look closely enough, you’ll see stories used by all those people so they can get their message across. And they use it too because they’ve seen just how powerful it can be.

  13. Uhhh not sure of anybody will reply but will like it if you did. Well to start off with I like to say I’m 13. I enjoy storytelling. It a great way to express feelings and emotions. I am you can say a interimedate storyteller.though lately I fell like it’s a lame talent but this made me feel better. Also the one about eevrybody having their stoey I’ve know that for a ling time. Well I’m more of fiction and adventrous yet sounds true storytelller. Wll sorry for any gramical mistakes. I’m using a phone which maes it diffcult to type.torT

    • Hey Rafael, storytelling is definitely a great way to express feelings and emotions. Being an intermediate storyteller isn’t so bad. Many people can’t tell stories at all. It just takes practice to get better. It is a really good skill to learn for things like job interviews and influencing others.

      • well thanks. I gotta a whole lot better already where I can make storys in instant and mke them sound real. though I need to work on emotions. Any advice on getting better? Also If I’m really into my story that I made oit of mind, I can make people lust so bad because Thet wanna lnow what happens next. Is tgat good thanks becaude im thinking of being a writer

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