One of the best blog posts I’ve read recently has stayed on my mind ever since.  It’s over at Copyblogger, and it’s about how to use stories to change the world.  The neat thing about that post is that it IS a story!

I subscribed to the comments, which now number in the hundreds.  Because this idea is so powerful, i wanted to comment a bit about it, and suggest some ways to use the power of a good story to help change the world.

Good stories change things. Photo by digitalskillet

First of all, just about all people love stories.  They are an easy way to connect with people.  Stories are also an easy way for people to truly understand a complex situation.  As they say, there are two sides to every story — the viewpoint of the person telling the story, and the viewpoints of all the other people in the story.  And of course there is the viewpoint of the person hearing or reading the story.  So maybe there isn’t just ONE story — there could be many.  Which is a good thing, if you’re a writer or a communicator.

How do stories create change?

  • One way is that stories can touch your heart.  The people working on the campaign for Darfur, for example, bemoaned the fact that what they really needed was a “Darfur puppy” — something that would not only catch people’s attention, but grab their hearts too.  They can get the attention — but they needed the empathic connection that seemed to be missing, to inspire people to take action and help.  They knew the power of a good story can change things.  (As far as I know, they are still looking, however; anyone got a good story that can help?  Go get in touch with them!)
  • Another way that stories can create change is because a story can bypass intellectual barriers that we set up without knowing it.  Prejudices.  Biases.  Assumptions.  When we simply listen or read a story, we enter another world where we are not so inclined to put up our barriers; we want to be entertained.  Our unconscious guard is down; we are more open.  A story reaches a different part of us — one that is available for change and new ideas.
  • When we truly understand what it’s like for someone who is or has been in a dilemma, we often see the person/situation differently.  We may previously have believed that a group of people have certain characteristics of which we do not approve, for instance, but when we learn the WHOLE story about their lives, we may change our opinion.  (Or not.)  But at least we have a different way to look at it — which makes a slight shift in our attitude.  They situation may not have changed — but sometimes how we think about it does.

A good story can move you to tears, or get you laughing from the gut.  It can make you want to take action, or make you a better person because it inspires you.

A good story can also explain to your visitors how something works, or why its features are something they might want or need; stories can help educate your target markets in ways that don’t preach or promote.  After all, isn’t that what testimonials are all about?

Here’s a thought, for those of you that have services or products to sell.  What is THE story you need to tell your target markets, that is so compelling they would HAVE to read or listen — and buy?  I challenge you to go write that story now.

And for those of you with a passion or cause?  Same thing:  get those fingers flying on the keyboards, and tell that story you are burning to share.  Someone may desperately need you to do this; it can literally save lives.

Here’s the real question:  do you have the courage to tell that story, in service of a better world?  Go on.  It’s probably way past time you did!