What's your story?
It goes without saying … or maybe it doesn’t … that every message needs a rich story. Storytelling is the way we hand down our history. Stories teach us to love. They teach us to forgive. To be just. To try to be better. Stories are a human gift.
Think about this:
The Weight of the Glass
Once upon a time, a psychology professor stood on a stage teaching stress management principles to an auditorium filled with students. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the typical “glass half empty or glass half full” question. Instead, she asked, “How heavy is this glass of water I’m holding?”
Students shouted out answers ranging from eight ounces to a couple pounds.
She replied, “The absolute weight of this glass doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute or two, it’s fairly light. If I hold it for an hour, its weight might make my arm ache a little. If I hold it for a day, my arm will likely cramp up and feel completely numb and paralyzed, forcing me to drop the glass to the floor, where it may break. The weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it feels to me. Your stresses and worries in life are very much like this glass of water. Think about them for a while, and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and you begin to ache a little. Think about them all day long, and they can overwhelm you.”
The story is one way to deliver the professor’s message about stress management. Instead, she could have given a dry explanation like this one:
“It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses and worries. No matter what happens during the day, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the night and into the next day with you. If you still feel the weight of yesterday’s stress, you will begin to feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything else.”
While poring over the pieces of a workshop on storytelling, it became obvious. The story IS the message. It takes you there. Without it, your impact is left on the side of the road.
The way you tell your story is THE MOST powerful driver for your message. More powerful than a well crafted explanation. More powerful than the most authoritative data. It surprises you and shifts the ground you walk on.
We ended the workshop with this:
The most powerful words in the world are, “Tell me a story.” The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller.