Business storytelling, part #4: convey truth with tales of the extraordinary.


Super woman

I’ll bet you didn’t know Truth was a man! Of course you didn’t. He was separated from his twin brother and birth and grew up an only child. As a toddler he ran about he place without a stitch on. But then no one minds a little naked Truth, do they? The trouble was he grew up. And it wasn’t long before he was a strapping young man… still getting about in his birthday suit. Well just imagine how you’d feel having a naked Truth just pop up out of nowhere and stare you right in the face. Believe me it wasn’t easy, especially when you had company. Talk about causing affront and alarm. Forever flaunting himself, he was appearing whenever and where it suited him. You see Truth had no shame. He scared a lot of folks round here, and what people fear they shun. So it was no surprise when he found himself all alone, bereft of comfort and friends. You’ve never seen a sadder, sorrier sight. And then one day he was reunited with his long-lost twice brother, Parable. A gloriously attired fellow that one was, all decked out in coloured robes of silk and satin, Parable was welcomed everywhere he went. He greeted Truth with a warm smile and embraced him.

“Come, brother,” he said, “We are of the same essence, you and I. Take my robes and wear them as your own.”

And with that he took off his robes and dressed his brother in them. And ever since then, Truth, in the guise of Parable, is received with open arms wherever he goes.

– Morgon Schatz, from the Jewish tradition

If my blog a couple of weeks ago was subtitled, “Tell a story but tell the truth”, then I guess this one must be “Tell the truth, but tell a story”! And so it goes: truth and story, story and truth… they should be joined at the hip.

Stories don’t have to be based on fact to do their job. In fact, the countless archetypal myths, legends, parables, fables, fairy tales, symbols and metaphors that have come down to us through the millennia suggest that sometimes what we need is a touch of the extraordinary. These stories are rich and layered with meaning. We read into them far more than the sum of their parts.

Last week I mentioned the importance of holding up a mirror to the reader. This is not just to show readers who they are – do that all the time, and you’ll be pandering. The mirror is also to reflect potential and possibility. The best extraordinary stories – even when they feature non-humans – show the greatness of the human spirit in action. They inspire us and urge us to extraordinary feats of our own: slaying our own dragons, searching for our own golden fleece, being our version of the good Samaritan.

The beauty of using myths, legends, parables, fables, fairy tales, symbols and metaphors is that you can create your own, or use (or adapt) ones that are already out there. Send them out into your audience or market without much explanation and trust that the ones who are meant to get it will get it. And the ones who don’t get it perhaps need another story… or another storyteller.

Which is fine, because you know what? The more great, inspiring storytellers that are out there, the better things will be for everyone. And that’s the truth.

This is the final entry in my series on business storytelling. I trust you’ve enjoyed it as much as I’ve enjoyed creating it for you. If you’d like to talk to me about my workshop, Stories for Trust and Leadership, please get in touch.



Photo credit: © SergeyNivens via DepositPhotos

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