Humans have been telling stories forever. It’s an incredible way to connect with another person, build familiarity and trust. Think about it – we use, consume, and create stories our entire life.
As a child, we listen to them, for entertainment and lessons.
As a young adult, we are influenced by them and also use them to create and establish who we are.
As an adult, we both create them for our work and live them in our careers.
As an older adult, we tell them to younger generations.
Rinse, wash, repeat – and they are effective! Psychologist Jerome Bruner’s research shows that facts are 20 times more likely to be remembered if they’re part of a story. Most commercials we consume have an element of storytelling. So how can we use stories in our day-to-day life?
In so many ways – but before I start listing all of the places that stories can show up in every person’s life, and how you can use them to further human connection, there are two critical questions that have to be addressed by every single person that is interested in telling a story to another person or group of people:
Who is my audience? and Why am I telling this story?
If you don’t know the answer to both of those questions, you need to take a step back and find those answers! Think about it: if you don’t know your audience, you’re probably not going to be effective. You don’t tell a story to a kindergartener in the same way you tell a story to an adult.
Get the point?
Also, when it comes to your why – if you’re doing it because you heard storytelling is effective and trendy, you’re going to have a flat story, because you don’t have a strong purpose. If you understand your why your story will resonate.
After you understand your why, you can find a place for a story in your day to day. Aside from the obvious story to small kids, you can also use stories in:
Networking and Small Talk
And so much more – get creative! Where might you need human connection? That’s where you should tap into storytelling.
Once you decide who, why, and where, you can start laying out your story – which might be the simplest part! Every story has the same five elements – exposition, that information that sets things up, like the characters and the location – rising action, what the day to day looks like, the “norm” for our characters in their place – the climax, that moment when everything might go wrong and we worry about the fate of our characters – the falling action, what happens after the climax – and the resolution, how everything turns out.
Another way to think about the story elements: you need the situation, the problem, and the solution. Simple as that – and every story needs those elements.
After you’ve got the bones of your story, remember to not get stuck in the details. Too many of them can sink a story! Think about using the details that enhance the story and remove any that weight it down. You can always add more when you’re telling it, or attend to your audience and if they are interested, add those spicy details in. Remember, you’re not telling the story for the details, you’re telling it for your original why.
Now that you’ve got all of that figured out, the biggest thing that makes good storytelling great: practice. If you’re not both practicing the creation skills and the presentation skills, your story will fall flat. Think about getting excited when you’re telling it, make sure you know why you care about it and incorporate dramatic techniques if you feel comfortable. Things like pregnant pauses and cadence changes are easy ways to level up any story.
And when you’re done? Do it all over again with your next story to grow your skills that will never go out of style – humans have been telling stories since the beginning of time!