JS Tip 496: The Power of Stories

From the Communication Workshops: The Power of Stories

Our friend Darrell Harmon has written, “Stories are sense-makers.”

Stories make sense of things. They explain. They engage.

Consider three examples. Consider the questions.

  1. The story, the fable, of “The Fox and the [Sour] Grapes”:  What color was the fox? What color were the grapes?

  2. The story, the parable, of “The Good Samaritan”: What was the terrain like? Dry? Rocky? Green? Trees? Where was the man who fell among thieves? On the road? Off the road?

  3. The story, the account, from the 1984 State of the Union address: During the invasion of Grenada, a Army Ranger climbs into a burning helicopter to rescue his fellow soldiers. What color is the Ranger’s uniform? What does the downed helicopter look like?

Probably: Red with a white face and chest. Purple. Dry and rocky. Off the road about ten feet. Camouflage green. On its right side with a broken tail boom.

But the stories said nothing about color or terrain or configuration. As you thought of the stories, you saw the pictures.

The stories made concrete sense of the conceptual values of honesty, caring, and courage. The stories—literally and figuratively—illustrated the values.

So what are we saying here? As you plan your speech or draft your document, consider the power of stories and examples. They’re sense-makers

We love this stuff.

  • * Darrell has co-written the soon-to-be-published Master Storytelling: How to Turn Your Experiences into Stories that Teach, Lead, and Inspire.   

Mark Brooks