How stories are told, who tells them, when they are expressed, and how many stories are communicated – these are all related to power. Stories are powerful, and they are particularly so because people are not always aware of how influential they can be – but why do we tell stories? People tell them so that others may know and listen. Stories can be told in various ways, which can be the reason why they become oversimplified or over exaggerated.
“Truth” is the property of a statement of being in accord with fact or reality. The only way we can understand the importance of truthfulness is to take responsibility of being storytellers ourselves. In order to know the “truth” about what happened, one needs to be aware of the story, but still know that these stories are not enough. A storyteller needs to validate and even probe when necessary. Selecting the facts, sequencing them, and deciding how to begin and end are the elements that are always being modified. As children, we figured out how the world worked through the stories we chose to believe. Now that we are older, the stories we tell are designed to allow us feel like we understand how things happen.
At this day and age, when stories are so easy to share in a multitude of ways, objectivity is key for expressing facts in a way that they aren’t distorted by personal feelings, prejudice, or misinterpretations. It is a disheartening fact that people tend to accept the most exaggerated version of a story because these are generally more attractive than what is usual. This happens not because humans crave scandal but because common occurrences are in fact so common that when something veers away from established social norms, it is the most interesting to talk about. As the story passes from one person to another, bending of ever-changing details occurs. When this happens, we become colored by judgments and fail to understand the entire picture, all while having no actual memories of the who-what-when-where and why.
Despite all of these, there is a solution to the predicament of being colored by judgments. We must find the root of storytelling – its motive or intention. People tell stories to channel a certain thought, and it is the task of those who listen to delve into them by making inquiries, weighing the evidence, and debunking hearsays. Taking on the duties of a storyteller, we must find out where one is coming from, look at all the sides of the story, and use our power to propagate the truth.
The so-called “secret sauce” of influence is less in what we say and more in how we say it. Storytelling is the oldest tool of influence in human history; stories linger around so their impact stays on long-after rational facts are forgotten. If we choose to believe in the excitement and fascination in the stories of others, without properly deciphering the truth, we become quick to judge and neglect to see the true beauty underlying each story. And in our own turn as storytellers, if we twist and turn our words purely in an attempt to appeal to others, we are no better. We end up opening ourselves to the judgment of others – it’s an endless cycle that leaves an entire community unable to see the true essence of beautiful stories.