Why Are Stories so Important?

The world is overcrowded with information.

We’re wired to tell stories because it’s how we make sense of the world around us. Stories let us distill large, complex ideas and important messages into sticky, memorable pieces that we can carry forward with us in our minds. In the absence of a person or a phenomenon, we tell a story about what we saw and who we met.

Telling the right story about you and your business can be a big challenge–online, in person, or through social media. How do you decide what story to tell? And how do you know it’s the right one?

A story is what you take with you. We don’t keep lists and facts and essays in our minds; rather, we carry relationships, connections, and (sometimes false) ideas about correlation and causation.

A story is how we understand the world.

We’re wired to consolidate complex information into pieces we can carry—like little suitcases for the brain.

The test of a great story is what people remember about you when you stop talking. Listen for what people say about you (or your company) after you’ve left.

If you have the chance, listen to how people introduce you; it’s an inside look into how people remember you and your business. Just like ideas, viruses, and people–stories have lives, and how far they spread relates to how sticky they are. The life of a story spreads when the story is good.

In general, this means that simple stories are better — the gift of a story is not capturing every single moment, although detail is important — it’s in giving the listener something that they can enjoy and remember.

What stories are you telling — or what stories are being told about you and your business?

Doors are now open for the summer session of the Writer’s Workshop, now open for early registration! Join us for a six-week program designed to kickstart your writing habit—and discover secrets of storytelling, narrative form, and powerful writing. Early registration closes May 25th and classes start June 30th.



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5 Responses to Why Are Stories so Important?

  1. Brianna says:

    I’m currently re-working my business’s story and it hasn’t been easy, but I’m slowly figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes it can hard to find a place to fit when you do so many different things.

    • Sarah says:

      It is so difficult! The reason for this (and I’ll go into this in future posts + in my classes) — is because of the psychology of how we explain and remember things. We are inherently complex; we simplify them into stories in order to remember them. So, we have to distill something into a phrase that’s so simple it feels like we’re cutting out parts of who we are in order to share ourselves. It’s painful, almost by definition. The reason for simplicity is because it’s a gift to the listener: the better they can understand who we are, the easier it is to get the conversation started. And once we begin the conversation, we can start back down the path of complexity and get to the inside of who we both are. But we must begin somewhere.

  2. […] reminds us just how important stories can be. Sure, it’s a challenge to do this well, but the trust you can build by doing so can reward […]

  3. Theo says:

    Great reminder! I’ve make the experience that people understand much better what you do when you tell them stories about what you do rather than telling them what you basically do. Sounds weird, hmmmm

  4. Allison says:

    Love a good story! It’s such a thought provoking question because right now I’m looking to hone my voice in my writing and along with that seems to come the desire to really filter down to what is my message, which then comes down to ‘what is my story’? It feels vast sometimes but I think the closer we get to being authentic, the closer we are to knowing our story – the story that matters.

    Thank you for the great post, as always, Sarah! ;)