Stories Persuade

Is written history vastly superior to oral traditions? While it might be easier to trace the reasoning for why a particular written history is reasonable, oral histories have a bigger emotional impact.

We communicate best with stories

Stories may not be as rigorous as Edward Gibbon’s “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” but emotional content is easier to remember and to relate to. 

When you hear a story you automatically translate it into your life experience and then draw value from that because it is a familiar condition seen from a different viewing point. The idea of a different viewing point is fundamental to increased understanding.

Stories become metaphors that lead us to new or deeper understanding.


I know of no language in common use today that is metaphor based. There may be some and the contrast to our formal languages would be worth understanding. The closest I can come is Star Trek: Next Generation episode season 5. Episode 2, “Darmok.”  Picard and Dathon, the captain of an alien ship are trapped on a planet and must avoid a local beast. Unfortunately,  Dathon’s language is metaphor based and not subject to translation. Eventually the two work out enough meaning to communicate the idea they can be friends.

Language is not always a reliable communication tool.

The 7-38-55 rule.

Some communication theorists believe that only 7% of communication involves the words. The 38% is the tone and the 55% is body language. I have no idea if that’s right, but I am willing to believe it is not 100-0-0. That being so, written material cannot be as powerful as a verbal communication. Bandwidth if you prefer that idea.

Written communication must have some kind of story. Could be your personal experience or the experience of others. The idea is to provide a viewing point that is similar to, but enough different, that the reader can adapt the point to their own experience. Maybe only enough to ask questions.

An example. Use concrete terms. They evoke images. If an architect asks, how many square feet should the garage be?, the answer may be unsatisfactory. If instead they ask, How many cars will you want to park in the garage, the answer, will provide a baseline, and the further question of what else do you want to put in there will narrow it further.

Jokes can help. Novel viewing points and surprise Surprise of any kind can help. Obscure facts can help. Steve Jobs audited a course in calligraphy while at university and what he learned helped make the MAC the choice of graphic designers and other similar professionals. If I were selling MAC I would treat that fact as a memorable thing for any prospective customer.

The takeaway

Communication is key to persuasion.

It is quite simple. You cannot believe what you cannot understand and you cannot understand anything far from your personal experience and knowledge dataset.

Your idea of meaning will be at least a little different. Stories can accommodate both.

Stories connect ideas to experience.

I help people have more retirement income and larger, more liquid estates.

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