He couldn’t throw another punch because every bone in his hand was broken. Details like these are great for stories, but they impact a listener in ways far more than mere entertainment. Learn to match your stories with the right situation, and give your communication a “punch” … See what we did there?


Does it really matter how we string words together? TRY THIS EXPERIMENT. Words are imbued with meaning. At least that is exactly what one researcher at Stanford found when he gave two different groups given twelve different lists of 10 nouns they needed to memorize. Something like: 











The first group tried to memorize their lists by traditional methods of study and repetition. The second group was asked to create a meaningful story around the 10 nouns. This isn’t a new technique. It’s a mnemonic device used when memorizing was still in vogue. Aristotle used it for his lessons. Cicero used it for his speeches in Ancient Rome. For example, the subject might recreate the list in the following way:

A LUMBERJACK DARTed out of a forest, SKATEed around a HEDGE past a COLONY of DUCKs. He tripped on some FURNITURE, tearing his STOCKING while hastening toward the PILLOW where his MISTRESS lay.

Surprisingly, those that used traditional methods didn’t do too bad. In fact, they produced about the same results when asked to immediately recite the lists. But things looked very different when researchers asked them to recite their lists after an extended period. They found the “narrative group recalling six to seven times” more than their counterparts. Not only that, but their sequencing was dramatically more efficient.


Story Matching. Your stories don’t just make a difference, they are the difference. Take one important situation you’ll face today and match it with the right story. For example, are you trying to make a new team member feel comfortable? Tell a story where you felt insecure and emphasize that aspect.


  1. The morning news. [volume], March 02, 1892,
  2. The Salt Lake herald. [volume], April 07, 1893, Page 2, Image 2
  3. Your Brain on Fiction By Annie Murphy Paul March 17, 2012, New York Times
  4. The record-union. [volume], April 07, 1893, Image 1
  5. Colorado Weekly Chieftain, December 20, 1894
  6. Will Kill Pugilism, SUNDAY INTER OCEAN, Dec. 16, 1896, at 2; No More Glove Contests, KAN
  7. The Tacoma times. [volume], February 10, 1904, Page 4, Image 4
  8. Bower, G.H., Clark, M.C. Narrative stories as mediators for serial learning. Psychon Sci 14, 181–182 (1969).
  9. Haven, Kendall. Your Brain on Story. Stanford, 2015.


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