Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Power of Story

I am impressed with the power of story that persists in post-modern life. I find it interesting when I listened to speakers at an awards dinner I attended last night that the speakers who had the greatest impact on the audience were those who had a story to tell. When speakers made story the center of their speeches they were able to reach the audience in impressive ways.

One may think that public policies and political elections are decided on the political philosophy and “the issues,” but it is increasingly apparent to me that these elections and policy orientation is determined by whether or not there is a compelling story behind the politics. We want to feel as though we know our politicians, and we don’t believe we know them unless we know their story, or at least a believable story that they use to define themselves.

Likewise, for public policy. The inclination of the general public will be much different if the story they buy about poverty in the United States is that we are suffering the effects of a post-industrial economy which no longer has a place for many who would otherwise have been able to take manufacturing jobs and support their families – as opposed to the story that people who lack ambition and are addicted to drugs have rendered themselves unable to take advantage of the “great opportunities” that are available to them.

Story shapes public sentiment.

Even something that is typical quantitative and dry as business benefits if there is a great story behind it. I know a very intelligent man, who is generally not very attracted to corporate America – but there is one very large corporation that he likes, because the owner of the company tells a compelling story about the company’s origins. It is a personal story that personalizes the company in this otherwise anti-corporate person’s mind.

Story-telling is one of the oldest art forms. I find it interesting that it is still one of the most powerful methods of communication.

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