graffitti spider manAt some level, we know the world is made of elements and molecules of stuff. But most peoples’ worlds are made of stories. And stories are usually the best way to get an idea across.

Saying “Okay, do what you know, but when you know better you should do better.” resonates with most people more than saying “The data shows that…” They’re both right, but the more story-like first sentence will get more traction with people.

“I understand how you feel, lots of people feel that way. But when they learn about… they sometimes change their minds.” may not always convince somebody but it more likely to convince than saying “Well you’re wrong because of x, y and z.” People will forget what you said and maybe what you did, but people won’t forget how you made them feel.

In a writing program to help the elderly to cope better with aging, participants ranged from violinists to bricklayers and from cowboys to doctors. What did these older people choose to write about? A woman working with the writers said, “No one regardless of what they did for a living, ever writes about their job, or their wedding, or the birth of their children, or the war, things that many people would assume most older folks would write about. They write about the relationships and the very small gestures that have made them human.” They wrote about how certain small gestures made them feel.

What about the people who compete in memory contests? They don’t just forcefully memorize random things in their memories. Instead, they create stories, usually involving a building they know well, like their house. They make up a story about where each thing they want to memorize is located in that building.

The best communicators tell a story. If you can make data into a story that makes people feel something you’re way ahead of the game.