The Power of Story

The Power of Story

Why use a story to share information?  A good trainer will share information with their audience.  A great trainer will share stories with their audience that helps them remember the information being shared.  Why is this?  Why can we remember stories better than just technical information being shared?  The answer may be in our DNA.

Human beings shared oral communication hundreds of years before written communication.  Many believe that speech originated at about the same time the tool use began.1   Evidence of the first tool use by is documented around 3.3 million years ago in Kenya.2   The first written communication by humans is documented to be about 3,500 - 3,000 BC in Mesopotamia.3   As evident, there is a huge amount of time between those dates.  So, for roughly 3.29 million years, humans communicated verbally.  As our oral skills evolved, those skills also became more ingrained in our DNA. 

Take, for example, children.  They enjoy story time and learn a great deal about their environment by listening to stories.  Children even enjoy listening to the same story over and over.  As they get older, they can even relate when a story is told out of order or when disjointed events do not belong in the same story.  They tell you, "You're telling it wrong."  How do they know?  Did someone specifically teach them how a story should "go"?  The answers all point back to the evolution of story telling as a means of communication in the years before we had written communication.  Our ability, as a species, to communicate, teach, and share information was managed by storytelling.   Today we exhibit the same behaviors.  Our ability to learn, maintain, and share information is enhanced when communicated with or by a story. 

Think about the last time you heard a great speaker.  What made them great?  Were they personable, funny?  What made you remember the information they shared?  Chances are they shared their information in a story.  The story was relatable, it was funny, it evoked some emotion.  All those characteristics are the same for great storytellers.  These characteristics should be shared by people who are in a teaching position.  We remember stories when those emotional triggers are activated and if there is information being taught or shared along with those stories, we are much more likely to remember it.

We share this information in relation to the training we share at M-Files.  A great training event should be delivered by someone who is a storyteller.   We want to share information with you in a way that helps you remember it, allows you to use it, and makes you confident enough to share it with others.  This method of learning is not just preferred, it is embedded in us.   If you, as a software user could have a choice of reading through a technical manual or participating in an event where you would be able to have your questions answered,  have hands-on exercises to complete, and learn through some relatable stories, which would you choose?   

Works Cited

1   Alexander Anlyan. "When did humans first begin to communicate via verbal speech?" Quora, 2019, https://www.quora.com/When-did-humans-first-begin-to-communicate-via-verbal-   speech?share=1

2  Rebecca Morelle. "Oldest stone tools pre-date earliest humans". BBC News, 20 May 2015,  https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-32804177

3  Brittany Brewster. "History of Written Communication".  History & Development of Mass Communication, 26 October 2017, https://brittanybrewstersite.wordpress.com/2017/10/26/history-of-written-communication/

 Author: Colleen Adams, Consulting Unit Manager, North America Enablement Training.  

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