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30 Reasons To Thank A Storyteller, Part II


Looking for Part I? Go to


photo of man jumping in thankfulness

Storytelling makes so much possible!

Let’s start our new year with gratitude for storytelling. After all, storytelling makes so much of human life possible that it’s tempting to take storytelling for granted.

In this second half of “30 Reasons to Thank a Storyteller,” I’ll look at the big picture, from how storytelling helps our species survive to how it helps us live in communities and even whole societies. (Read Part I at )

Our Survival Skills As a Species

Humans have extraordinary intelligence, which allows us to respond creatively to ever-changing circumstances. In addition, we cooperate with each other at a level unmatched in other species. Biologists call it “ultrasociality.”

16. Storytelling is a uniquely human way of comprehending not just what is, but what was, what is likely to be, and what could be. This aspect of our intelligence allows us to learn from the past and plan for the future, overcoming some of the limits of the here and now.

17. We survive and thrive by functioning in highly cooperative societies. Storytelling gives us imagined experiences of behavior and its consequences, allowing us to learn about and react flexibly to social life.

18. Science gives our species powers beyond those of any other species. Yet storytelling, along with other artforms, makes possible the imaginative leaps of science.

“If man had not encountered dragons and hippogriffs in stories, he might not have conceived of the atom.” – Lewis Mumford (as edited by Brian Boyd)


Living together is vital to our species. That doesn’t mean it’s easy! Storytelling helps bind us together, appreciate each other, mediate disputes, and create a common identity.

19. Storytelling is fundamentally a communal act. One story reaches the ears of many, giving listeners shared imaginative experiences. A community is created whenever a story is told.

20. Because stories allow us to reveal ourselves and our motivations, they make communal relationships safer.

“Stories can help people trust one another. They can lead to a sense of sharing without coercion.” – Doug Lipman, Improving Your Storytelling

Successful communities – from hunter-gatherers to Facebook groups – depend on a sense of belonging.

21. Stories convey shared history and identity: who are we? What is our heritage? Any group’s cohension is cemented by the shared stories of its founding, its trials and its triumphs

“Out of shared telling and remembering grow identity, connection, and pride, binding people to a place and to one another.” – Tom Rankin

22. Stories don’t just tell us how to be, they show us characters taking actions in specific situations – and the consequences. Shared stories become a communal background for future action.

“We hunger for what stories can provide – context enriched by emotion, a deeper understanding of how we fit in and why that matters.” – Daniel Pink

Successful communities also require ways to mediate the inevitible disputes and to motivate each other to action.

23. Stories help us find common ground, even when we quarrel or disagree.

“A good story can build a bridge, reconcile a difference, heal an old wound, and promote peace.” – Holly Stevens

24. “Stories help move people from compliance to commitment.” – Ronn Lehmann

Building a Society

Stories help us gather together, share what we know, establish norms for behavior, lead each other to constructive action, and overcome barriers to understanding and cooperation.

25. “Throughout history, people have gathered together and created cultures bound by a foundation of narrative.” – Laurence Vincent

Storytelling assists us in several vital social functions:

26. Sharing knowledge

“If you can get [experts] to tell you about tough cases, nonroutine events where their skills made the difference, then you have a pathway into their perspective, into the way they are seeing the world.” – Gary Klein

27. Establishing constructive ways to behave

“Stories are a way for gaining an understanding of virtue so we can act virtuously.” – C. Edward Weber

28. Effective leadership

“Leaders achieve their effectiveness chiefly through the stories they relate.” – Howard Gardner

29. Mobilizing people around a vision

“Storytelling…is one of the world’s most powerful tools for achieving astonishing results. For the leader, storytelling is action oriented – a force for turning dreams into goals and then into results.” – Peter Guber

30. Reducing inter-group hostility.

“You can’t hate people whose stories you know.” – Roz Bresnick-Perry.

Storytelling, of course, is an art in its own right, and needs no justification beyond the pleasure of creating, telling, and hearing great stories. But, like all art, its pure existence has practical advantages. As an artform that can survive the generations, it contributes to the achievements of civilization.

31 (bonus). Along with the other arts, storytelling helps build a rich, robust culture. Each country is rightly proud of its unique artistic achievements – and is enriched by the artistic achievements of other cultures.

“The arts…have nothing to do with the defense of the country. They just make the country worth defending.” – Ken Burns


Six years ago last month, I married Pam McGrath, who was then a seminary student. Naturally, I coached Pam on her coursework. I got to know some of her fellow students. In the process, I got an inside look at the education of future preachers.

Much of that education impressed me with its depth and completeness. But I was appalled to learn that, at many seminaries, future ministers get NO training in storytelling.

And, even when a beginning course on storytelling is offered, it’s necessarily just a first step on the road to realizing the potential power of storytelling in a minister’s life – especially in sermons.

For years, Pam said, “Doug, please offer instruction in storytelling, just for clergy. Ministers need it. They don’t realize how much easier it could be for them to get their meaning across!”

Well, at last I’m offering a telephone/online course in storytelling, just for ministers. It’s called:

TRUSTING THE STORY VESSEL: a course for ministers in inspiring, teaching, and commanding attention through storytelling.

If you want to communicate with maximum effectiveness, either as ordained clergy or as a lay leader, give it a look:

Or do you know a minister – whether beginning storyteller or beyond – who might be interested? If so, I’d appreciate your forwarding this message. I can even send you a link to a printable flier. But, don’t delay: the payment plan option ends Wednesday, January 19!

Yours in storytelling,


P.S., You can pay just $50 now and $37 a month. Preach now, pay later! For details:

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