Gain Influence By Telling Better Stories

We’re story driven beings. From the beginning, stories have been told to pass on vital information.

Somewhere along the line we’ve moved from influential stories to basic facts. And basic facts don’t capture our imagination quite like a great story.

StoryCorps Bus

Image By Steven Depolo

We know leadership is really influence. Influence is the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.

And there’s no better way to influence someone than by telling better stories.

Stories have a way of soaking deep into our subconscious. Implanting the narrative, readying it for quick retrieval when we need it.

How Story Works

Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human manifestation.
— Joseph Campbell

When we tell stories, it gives the listener to gain a new perspective. A great story will bring the abstract into focus. Story allows us to see through a different lens.

Why does it do this? It’s because we’re drawn to story. Story makes sense of the world. Our right brains are engaged and new connections are made.

Many businesses are moving to a story based model because they know it works. A great example of this is the fashion company Love 41.

Their business is selling jewelry, apparel, and accessories. I know because I’ve purchased a beautiful necklace for my wife from their website.

Now, their business is a simple one. Someone makes the jewelry and they sell it. Simple story right? Not so with Love 41. They took their story seriously and crafted a wonderful narrative about the creation of their business. Here’s a sample –

Thoughts began to flood my mind as I sat awake for hours, night after night. And after much prayer, I began focusing on where I might be strong or gifted. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always had a knack for being fashionable and dressing my friends up to be fashionable too. And, for those of you who don’t know me, it doesn’t take me long to decide what I like. I picked my wedding dress out in 15 minutes. I quickly realized what I needed to do. The light bulb went off in my head. That was it! An internet retail business that reflected who I was and what I liked. It seemed like an easy decision to start a company that aligned with my talents and I realized I was born with gifts that could be used in a major way. Because I wanted to make this business personal and authentic, I decided you’ll never see anything on the site I don’t wear.

This story drew me in and made me want to purchase from them. And that I did.

Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.
— Barry Lopez

Why You Should Tell A Better Story

Stories help us make sense of our surroundings. They bring reason to an insane world. They ground us. They influence us.

Think of a movie that has moved you. Maybe it was the heart wrenching story in the Pixar movie UP! Or maybe it was the story of John Rambo and how he wasn’t welcomed as he searched for a place to stay. The story in these movies hit home.

We can relate to the story in UP! because we have all loved someone. The fear of losing them was made real as we watched the old man’s life and wife pass away. The rejection of Rambo as he walked into the town felt so real because we’ve felt rejection before.

Our senses were touched and it caused a connection. Connection moves us. And that’s what stories are meant to do.

In the end, these stories influenced you in some fashion.

When you tell the story of your business or your mission, craft the story with the intention of creating a connection. Creating the connection will make people feel a part of your mission. And if you’ve told your story well enough, the story will compel them to action.

Start thinking of your story today. Begin crafting the narrative that will cause people to listen to you and take action. And then go, share your story with your team and the world around you.

Question: How has a great story influenced you to take action? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Joseph, can’t think of anything, but our church has what we call Wow! time. We share stories or testimonies during each service. And they are extremely powerful. And yes, sometimes they spur us to action or to change.

    • I love what your church is doing. Sounds like an amazing way to show people what’s happening and what they can do themselves. 

  • DS

    Every person I’ve ever met loves a great story.  I love stories of triumph because they encourage me to keep acting.  I love stories that showcase people living real life, what they encountered, and what they did to keep on living life.

    Stories can also allow substantial learning to take place without pointing fingers at an individual specifically – just characters.  It’s one of the great things about Jesus’ parables.

    Plus with stories, there is usually at least one thing we can relate to.

    • True David.

    • Me too. Speaking of great stories that inspire, have you read Love Does by Bob Goff?

      • DS

        Definitely have, and routinely refer people to it. I loved it! I was reading at night, and would bust out laughing, and then read that section to my wife. It’s a great read, and it’s got a good feel to it in your hands if you have the physical book.

  • Thanks for sharing this, Joe. Jeff Goins has significantly impacted my perspective and passion for telling stories.

    • My pleasure Michael. Jeff’s a great storyteller. Another person who tells a great story is Don Miller. 

      • DS

        I love hearing stories from and about average people, and then average people who are seen as great people.  I think all 3 of you have impacted story tellers.

  • Great stories, books, and movies have motivated me throughout my life.  Stories about overcoming obstacles and succeeding keep me moving forward on my own path toward succeeding as a storyteller.  

    As a writer, we get better at telling stories over time, but we can also get stuck and/or lazy.  It’s important to grow through these hard spots and reach the next level.  That’s how we become “great” storytellers.

  • When I first read Don Miller’s book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, I began thinking about this concept of story. It has significantly changed the way I think about the events that happen in my life and how I respond to them.

    • That was a major turning point in my life as well Tessa. It’s amazing what happens when we change our mindset and “create” our own story. 

    • DS

      I’m going to add the book to my “to read” list – thanks for mentioning it’s value.

  • Yusof: Thanks for the great article Joseph. 

    We’re story driven beings. Well said. 
    Countless of stories made who we are today, to name only a few great, it’s unfair to the other stories (to me). 

    But if to say one great story that influence me to take action always, and I believe you too, is this: 
    The fictional great story that we’ve written for ourself – in our head. 
    Think about it, isn’t true that we think in story, too? 

    The reason for you and I and those intentional people to blog, is because they have certain vision in mind, or they wanted to explore certain possibility. They wonder if the story can go on like this.. like that… Slaying the dragon, or seal the mummy, or just be a vampire… Okay, maybe not so. 

    They (us) usually have a strong desire on certain outcome. Even the road to it is hard, doesn’t matter. 

    In other words, I already wrote tons of *my stories (could be)* in my head, and asked myself, “Do I want to live a story (including process) like that? Do I want the ending, character (myself), or plot?”

    At the end, I found one that I truly wanted to live, and I go for it. 

    We write our own stories, better plot and design the ending first. 

    That’s my point of view.

    Thanks for crafting this post, Joseph. 

    Now is your turn, how a great story influenced you to take action? 

    • Glad to see you made it back to comment. I got your tweet and was looking forward to hearing what you were thinking!

      You’re right on with your assessment that we create stories in our heads that become the stories we live. 
      There’s been a few great stories that have influenced me to take action. The biggest was Dan Miller’s stories in 48 Days To The Work You Love. In it, he shared stories of people finding work they love rather than just punching a time clock. A completely foreign concept to me. 

      It drove me to start my own business. Which wound up landing me a nice job that I enjoy. But now I’m beginning to see my story take another turn. More towards helping and giving to others as they’re going along the journey. 

      • Yusof: We grew just like character grew with the story, got what you meant. 

        Glad to hear that book made such an impact to you, n I’m really happy for your achievement. I’m putting it in my to-read list this year. Amazing concept to get paid by doing what you love, it’s possible. Not easy but possible, especially in this century, I believe. Thanks Jo. Keep in touch, have a good day! 

  • While I was in Guatemala last summer, I met a man and his family who decided to move to the town of Xenacoj where we were working for the week.  As I listened to his story, I was inspired.  Part of this inspiration as led me to planning a return trip to the same town with my family this summer.

    • That’s great Jon. That’s one of the powers of a great story. It’s inspiring. 

  • You hit the nail right on the head. As you know I traveled the world teaching people about the power of story and why they need to incorporate it. My story is what got me attention and exposure and ultimately what lead people to buy my books. They connected with my story and wanted to know more. 

    If you as a writer aren’t using the power of story, you’re missing out! Here is a great podcast episode about story:

    • You’ve got a great story Kimanzi. Something many people are able to relate to and connect with. You’ve definitely learned the art of sharing your story!

  • Thanks for sharing this!

    •  My pleasure Brandon. How do you use story?

  • I have learned the power of using stories during my sermons/presentations. Both my personal life experience and those that I have read that would be relevant to what I’m sharing. Story telling is a great form of communication and connecting with people. Great post as always!     

    • Great Dan. It’s always fun hearing a great story that relates to the message. Keep collecting and using them!

  • Story is so powerful. The love of good story is so much woven into the human fiber. Thanks for all you do, Joe.

    • Thanks Arlen. How are you telling good stories in your leadership?

      • Thanks for the challenging question, Joe. I think maybe the key for me is from the very start: 1. I love the story I’m about to tell, and 2. I love telling the story. I’m on board. I’m emotionally invested. Then I can present it as my story. Only then I can present with passion. Only then it will really be effective, reach a life, and make an impact. I enjoy being a part of your community. Thanks for being a good ‘question-asker’.

        • Awesome Arlen. Having the passion to tell and live the story is a huge motivator in telling better stories!