words at work by lynda mcdaniel
“Let me tell you a story.” That’s how the late Steve Jobs often started his presentations. He
understood the power of story and
used it to capture attention—even
before he told the first story!
You know the power of stories too.
Remember all those years ago when
you gathered around a campfire or sat
cross-legged at the library story hour?
You were spellbound. Stories have that
power over us—then and now. Ever
since Zog and Grog shared saber-toothed tiger tales, we’ve shared stories. Today, though, technology has
made it too easy to simply dump data.
No wonder most of us suffer from
TMI—too much information. Stories
are the perfect antidote.
Why stories are powerful
Stories come in different shapes and
sizes, from case studies and lengthy
chronicles to similes and short anec-
dotes. Whatever form they take, sto-
ries captivate us, in part, because they
take us out of our critical left brain so
that we’re no longer on the sidelines
listening—we’re there with the story-
teller. Joshua Gowin, Ph.D., reports in
a Psychology Today article titled “Why
Sharing Stories Brings People
Together” that “by simply telling a
story, [we can] plant ideas, thoughts
and emotions into the listeners’
brains.” As a result, we’re better able to
illustrate ideas, make information
more specific and meaningful, and
guide our readers toward action.
Stories, even short ones, make your
messages clearer and more memorable.
And they can speed up comprehension
when they quickly make the unfamil-
iar, familiar. For instance, a cattle
farmer was explaining why grass-fed
beef was better for consumers than
grain-fed. His puzzled listeners asked
what was wrong with grain. “Well,” he
answered, “to the cattle, it’s like eating
In a world of TMI, stories are the perfect antidote
Stories captivate us,
in part, because they
take us out of our
critical left brain so
that we’re no longer
on the sidelines
with the storyteller.