“Story” is not just about storytelling
but about listening
to stories and being a part
of stories. We were all born storytellers (and “storylisteners”). As kids we looked forward to “show and tell” and we gathered with our friends at recess and at lunchtime and told stories about real things and real events that mattered, at least they mattered to us. But somewhere along the line, “Story” became synonymous with “fiction” or even “lie.” “Oh, he’s just telling you a big fat story,” they’d say. So “Story” and storytelling have been marginalized in business and academia as something serious people do not engage in. But gathering from what college students tell me, the best and most effective professors, for example, are the ones who tell true stories. My students tell me that the best professors (from their point of view) don’t just go through the material in a book but put their own personality, character, and experience into the material in the form of a narrative which is illuminating, engaging, and memorable. My hardest course in graduate school was an advanced research methods class. Sounds dry — and the textbook was dry — yet the professor told stories, gave example after example, and engaged the class in conversations which covered a great amount of important material.
In the end, we can all benefit from increasing our appreciation for Story and becoming both better listeners and storytellers. Story can be used for good: for teaching, for sharing, for illuminating, and of course, for honest persuasion.