Authenticity Practice #7: Storytelling

Here are four basic points:
  • Stories bring facts to life.
  • Human beings are meaning-makers and storytellers.

As some neuroscientists say, “Our brains are hard wired for storytelling.” We’ve been using stories to share information for much longer than we have had PowerPoint.

  • Stories can help us or hurt us—when you tell a story which is happening?
  • The most impactful stories feature relevant surprise—something unexpected that is relevant to purpose, emotion, and/or physical circumstance.


There is much written about storytelling. Joseph Campbell’s Hero with 1000 Faces and The Power of Myth profoundly influenced storytellers like George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg. More recently, neuroscientists in books like John Medina’s Brain Rules and Diane Ackerman’s marvelous An Alchemy of Mind are proving that storytelling shapes the human journey and is worth our never-ending interest.


Developing a story

In our apprenticeship of many storytellers and researchers, we now trust this flow for developing relevant, surprising stories:

  1. Regarding your vitality imperative, what is important to you now?
    1. It all starts here: only base your story on what is real and important to you.
  2. When have you (or someone you know) faced a similar situation?
    1. What is a favorite story that you are glad to remember?
      Most of the time this one will feature difficulty, resilience, a turnaround, and ultimate success.
    2. What is a disappointing story that is painful to remember?
    3. Most of the time this anecdote will feature lessons you do not want to forget.
  3. Who is my audience? What matters to them? What is on their minds? Will your favorite and/or disappointing story be relevant and surprising?
    1. If yes, go to the next section, “Telling the story.”
    2. If no, gather a few people who care about the situation and go back through steps 1-3 with them.


Telling a story

Prepare the story:

  1. Reflect on the purposes (what they are FOR), worries (what they are AGAINST), and circumstances (the FACTS) that matter to your audience. Note the words they often use to talk about what they are for, against, and in.
  2. Write the story and use their words where you can:
    1. Name a situation that matters to you all.
      1. Give factual details first…
      2. Then the meaningful challenge…
      3. What happened that led to success or failure?
      4. Why does this story matter to you (the storyteller) now?Tell your favorite or disappointing anecdote, or a combination.
  3. Tell your story in the mirror. Keep doing it until it is comfortable and conversational rather than “recited.” Be your real, honest self and share what matters to you.


Sharing the story
  1. Name the situation that matters to all, using their words where fitting.
  2. Share the facts of the related story and the major challenge being faced; pause to allow people to reflect on whether anything similar and relevant is happening for them.
  3. Share moments of fear and worry that people experienced.
  4. Tell about the fear, worry, and mistakes and then what they did that led to success or failure.
  5. Ask your audience if anything in the story is relevant to them; if a large group, have them turn to a partner and answer the question. Have some people say the relevance to the entire group.
  6. Say what makes it relevant to you, and why you wanted to tell the story.
  7. Make promises—tell the group what you will do to turn the lessons of the story into valuable action.
  8. Make requests (only after you have made promises yourself)—ask people what actions they will take.


Accurate inquiry is potent even when you are not telling stories. Just remember:

  • Make purpose your guide.
  • Connect people to reality: facts first, explanations second.
  • Learn from the explanations.
  • Keep generating explanations until you discover a path to advance purpose.
  • Take action.

Upgrading conversations of sincere opinion to accurate inquiry reduces stress, builds community, and provokes creative achievement.