Stories that Stick: 4 Examples of the Power of Storytelling
by Naakai Addy, on May 2, 2019 12:00:00 PM
“You need to watch the Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl,” my best friend recommended over the phone. I was hooked based on the title alone; as soon as I got back to my dorm room I pulled the web series up on YouTube. By the time I’d finished the first episode, I was in tears, both from laughter and from realizing, for the first time ever, that my awkwardness and I were in very good company.Storytelling affects us all in different ways, but its impact is undeniable and radiates far beyond the confines of books and TV screens. Every day, people all over the world use stories to make connections, access opportunities and make a difference in their communities. Here are 4 important ways that storytelling can affect our day-to-day lives for the better.
1. Stories Can Boost Empathy
Stories are impactful when they are specific; generalized ideas are easily forgettable, whereas specific moments leave a lasting impression in our brains. A recent art installation in Kentucky captures the stories of high school immigrants in the U.S. in an effort to increase awareness of their experiences. The topic of immigration is often discussed in an abstract manner, with the humanity of immigrants largely removed from the conversation. The stories of individual immigrants told in their own voices, however, have a much better chance of increasing empathy and awareness of their lived experiences.
2. Stories Can Propel Your Career Forward
Throughout your career, the very best way to get the job, promotion, raise or funding that you want is to learn how to tell compelling stories about your professional experiences. Even writing a resume, which many tend to think of as a list of accomplishments, is most effective when you use storytelling throughout. As Leah Curney highlights in her blog post about creating a resume that gets results, consider the difference between writing “Law office receptionist. Responsibilities included filing, phone calls and organization.” and “I oversaw office logistics and client communications for a team of five attorneys. During that time, I streamlined spending costs resulting in over $2,000 in monthly savings.” In the second example, a hiring manager can see not only the raw facts of your experience but also the impact of your actions.
3. Stories Impact Decisions on the World Stage
As Bob Keiller explains on LinkedIn, storytelling plays an influential role in international politics. He recounts this advice given to a U.S. presidential candidate: ‘“If you are not communicating in stories”, they wrote, “you are not communicating.”’ No matter how well thought out a candidate’s policy ideas are, the reality is that what the public remembers is their story. This is why you’ll hear stories like, “I was talking to a single mom in North Dakota just yesterday and she told me about how difficult it was to afford daycare, even with two jobs.” That story, with its specific subject and specific details, simply leaves a more lasting impression than saying, “I believe in increasing access to affordable daycare.”
4. Stories Can Fight Stereotypes
Though Hollywood’s stories aren’t by any means the most important ones to tell, storytelling through film has helped propel social movements forward. After the passing of groundbreaking film director John Singleton, many have been reflecting on the impact of his work in telling specific stories about a variety of specific black experiences. His work was consistent proof of the importance of telling stories out loud; it is all too easy to assume we know who people are and what their experiences are when we don’t hear their stories.
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