How to Use Storytelling to Start Your Movement
July 18, 2022 7:30 AM EST | 7 min read
History and knowledge were passed on by word of mouth in the early days of human civilization.
Storytelling enabled ancient humans to remember information.
Sometimes, storytelling provided them with a way to pass on coded information that was illegal under current governments.
Consider the Twelve Days of Christmas.
People were passing on the Christian doctrine through what many believed to be a nonsense Christmas song.
In the same way today, storytelling is a great way to pass on information, gather support, and launch a movement to change the world.
Check out these storytelling quotes for more inspiration.
Use storytelling to illuminate injustices
The slave trade in the British Empire was primarily brought to an end via stories told by former slaves about the harsh treatment they received.
They spoke about not only the cruelty of their owners but of life on the slave ships.
They illustrated the suffering and mistreatment that was experienced by the slaves.
Their stories, and their scars, were powerful forces that could not be denied.
Abolitionist, William Wilberforce, took influential members of parliament to view a slave ship and see for themselves the deplorable conditions.
As the story of their mistreatment was repeated and strengthened, the truth became difficult to deny.
Thanks to storytelling, the slave trade was ultimately ended.
Tell the truth of your story
The slavery stories showed chains that had once shackled slaves and pictures of a somber slave enduring his work.
Some slaves even put their own blood in imported sugar from slave-owning plantations.
I worked with the homeless and often told the stories of men and women trapped in a culture of poverty and addiction.
Then, I introduced them to the now freed man or woman and let them tell the story of healing.
Find the back story to your plight.
What can you bring to ensure that people will find the truth of your story?
It does not matter what cause you want to support.
There is a before and after tale to tell.
If you are advocating for clean water, bring bottles of contaminated water in to tell your story.
Tell the story of a village that now has a pump to ensure access to clean water.
Telling a specific story changes the tale from nameless faces to specific people.
When you support this cause, you are making sure that Sarah has clean water.
She will grow into a healthy and vibrant young lady.
Tell everyone how Sarah’s life will be different once the pumps are running and how the whole village gets hope.
Make it personal
Being passionate about a cause can make it difficult to remember that this might be the first time someone else even knew that there was an issue.
Several years ago, I worked for an organization that hid and helped an escaped slave (a human trafficking victim).
When I would tell people what we had done they could not believe it.
I was passionate to end human trafficking, but this was the first that they knew that it was happening in their neighborhoods.
I was able to take them to a house that had been used for trafficking at one point.
It looked like an ordinary house, just like in their neighborhoods.
Telling the story as they looked at the house, you could see their minds searching for houses that might look similar in their neighborhoods.
Suddenly, human trafficking was personal.
Questions were asked.
Money and energy were expended toward the cause.
Making it personal will be different for every audience.
If they have children let your story be told as a loving parent.
If they are a doctor tell them details of disease and illnesses in those who are drinking dirty water.
Know your audience and adjust your story to speak directly to their heart.
Use the senses
The more senses that you can touch in your storytelling the more memorable the story will be.
The more someone remembers it, the more likely that they will support your efforts.
If you can incorporate certain smells into the story, then every time your audience takes in that smell they will remember your cause.
Maybe they will be motivated to take action.
If you do this right, your story will come up in their mind often.
It is funny how the mind works.
I am sure that you have experienced this before.
You consider buying a blue Toyota, and suddenly, you see blue Toyotas everywhere.
This happened to me as I was researching names for a Capital Campaign to get money for a new shelter.
One of the names being considered was “Project Rescue”.
When I did the research I discovered that the name was taken by an organization that helps rescue girls from slavery in the third world.
I did not even know that slavery existed up to that point!
I made sure to support their efforts.
Over the course of the next several weeks, I learned more and more about this cause.
I heard stories of children and adults and learned of multiple agencies that have been working diligently to rescue people who are in slavery.
Your story can be the catalyst that sparks new awareness and excitement for folks.
Touch on the senses, and they will not be able to escape the desire to do something.
Tell the story in various mediums
Today we have multiple ways to tell the story.
I spoke with a man who told the story of his ancestors’ sorrow along the Trail of Tears.
He told the story in song using his native Creek tongue and it was moving.
I did not need to understand the words to feel the emotion and the pain.
Song is very powerful and memorable.
We have video that can tell the story in a quick version and then you can get into more details with a live discussion.
Everyone learns a little differently!
When it comes to your cause it pays to touch hearts however you need to share it.
Let others tell your story: I was standing at the information booth talking with a couple that seemed interested in one of our programs that we use to serve those in poverty.
As I was talking with them, a man came up that I knew had a relationship with a participant in the program.
Almost as if on cue, he talked about how much he admired this participant and how much he admired him.
He added details that I was not aware of.
The facts that I had already shared seemed to grow stronger.
Let other people tell your story
While you likely have great integrity everyone assumes that you are tooting your own horn and exaggerating facts to promote your cause.
However, when a stranger walks up and tells your story on your behalf the average person will take that as fact.
The stranger seemingly has nothing to gain by sharing the story.
There are multiple and worthy causes out there and in a short blog, there is no way to do complete justice to any of them.
Whatever your story is, go out and tell it.
Now, make it big and loud.
Our world needs people of passion to help focus us on making our world better.
Wm Scott Baggett
September 29, 2019 at 11:17 AM
I love all that you wrote. So, I have an incredible story of enormous tragedy before the age of 19. But, God had to build a Servant Warrior. At age 35-36 I became a believer. It took my new wife having a nervous breakdown on our honeymoon before believing in Christ. Once I turned towards the Cross in 1989 I have never looked back. Although I`m disabled due to Polio at age 4 & paralyzed for 120 days, and today at 65 Post Polio is taking me apart piece by piece.
But, how do I tell this story about overcoming one tragedy after another? My best friend who is 75 and knows me better than anyone. He has constantly said to me, how did you Overcome all those tragedies? Honestly, there is only 1-explanation, Jesus Christ. I should have been dead at 19 or in a mental ward. Instead, a disabled young man started hitting 200-300 golf balls daily with 1-good arm & lowered my handicap to a 7.
November 13, 2018 at 2:50 AM
Excellent post, thank you. I’m always worried about becoming too personal with our story. How do relative introverts tell a story?
Dr. Nikki Martinez
November 13, 2018 at 6:44 PM
I think that introverts have been able to be assisted through several means due to social media. It allows them to have some level of “safety” and “distance” to share their story with the world, without having to do so face to face initially (or at times at all). It allows them to realize what feedback is genuine, and which comes from a place that had no intention of genuineness at all. In this way, it allows the introvert the time and space to process that, and differentiate that, which they may have feared, in a way that they may not have been able to face to face. Also, many people simply articulate themselves better in the written word than they would in spoken formats, so there are many ways that introverts can share their stories through written form with others.