Once upon a time…
I’m nowhere near an expert in the field of evolutionary psychology, so I don’t know exactly the mechanism or cause of this, but we remember things better if they’re packaged as stories. We remember fables better than facts. We retain the moral lessons better if we get them wrapped in a parable. Maybe it just makes it easier for us to connect the lesson to our lives at the right time, or maybe we’re just programmed to remember things that may have happened better than abstract facts.
Remember the movie “Slumdog Millionaire?” The protagonist gets every answer correct on the show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” and over the course of the movie it’s revealed that he’s not particularly smart and isn’t educated, he just (by a series of crazy coincidences) has a personal story that has led to the exact pieces of knowledge he needed to win.
You can use this particular trait to your advantage. People remember stories. They relate to them, they absorb them. So if you want some particular piece of information to really work its way into someone else’s memory, make it a story.
If you’re in sales, don’t just list features and benefits. Tell a story about a customer that faced a problem, and how your product or service saved the day for them. Make it a parable; make it real. If you’re trying to polish up your resume, don’t just write abstract facts. Frame it as a series of events – things you did to overcome challenges. Make it a Hero’s Journey. If you’re leading a team and you need to teach them something, don’t just give a boring PowerPoint presentation and list the facts. Tell a story that uses that knowledge.
A client of mine was working with one of his own clients, who ran a fashion brand. She felt like her social media posts weren’t getting as much engagement as her competitors despite similar follower numbers. My client pointed out her problem: All her posts were just pictures of models in her clothes. They weren’t doing anything. They were facts, not stories. He advised her to create shots where the models were active – out at a party, drinking tea with a cat, anything that puts the clothes in a context the audience can relate to.
Maybe that’s the core of why stories are important. Context allows us to connect the abstract facts to our own lives, not just so we can apply them, but so we can decide if they’re applicable. Not every piece of information you learn will be relevant, and a story helps you decide if it is.
Learning to tell a good story makes you a better communicator. It’s a good skill, and worth paying attention to.