5 Signs of our Storytelling Nature


What is the essence of human nature? Walter Fisher, PH.D., an American professor and the father of the Narrative Paradigm, answered this question in 1984 by saying that people are “storytelling animals.”


Fisher believes that we are “narrative beings” who experiment with and understand life as a series of continuous narratives, so he argues that all forms of communication between humans should be in story format. Even in a court of law, Fisher tells us, the winner is the person with the most compelling story.


And the professor clearly separates the Rational-World Paradigm (which we’re taught is our reality) from the Narrative Paradigm, which he believes to be the true mirror of our human world.


This table shows the 5 common beliefs about human communication vs. the 5 signs of our storytelling nature.


Rational-World Paradigm – The 5 common beliefs about human communication Narrative Paradigm – The 5 signs of our storytelling nature
1 – People are essentially rational. 1 – People are essentially storytellers.
2 – We make decisions on the basis of arguments. 2 – We make decisions on the basis of good reasons.
3 – The type of speaking situation (legal, scientific, legislative) determines the course of the argument. 3 – History, biography, culture, and character determine what we consider good reasons.
4 – Rationality is determined by how much we know and how well we argue. 4 – Narrative rationality is determined by the coherence and fidelity of our stories.
5 – The world is a set of logical puzzles that can be solved through rational analysis. 5 – The world is a set of stories from which we choose, and thus constantly recreate, our lives.


If you compare both sides of the table, you can start to see that the ideas on the right side are actually true: It’s true that we’ve all been part of a story even before we were born and we always naturally love a good story. It’s also true that we’re a part of a culture that clearly influences who we are and the way we judge a story to be good or bad. And if we analyze our daily life and the course of human nature, we also have to consider true the idea that the world is a set of stories in which we take part.


But, although we’re totally surrounded by stories, it doesn’t mean we all know HOW to tell a good story. And when you’re preparing a business presentation, it is important to know how to tell a good and compelling story.


Fisher says that a good story needs to meet the twin test of narrative coherence and narrative fidelity:


Narrative Coherence: Does your Story Hang Together?

When you’re writing the story that will sustain your presentation script, you need to ask yourself: Do the characters and events seem to be part of the same piece? Do the characters involved act in a consistent way? Does the story sound probable?  Also, for a story to hang together, no important detail or fact can be left out, otherwise the audience won’t trust  the story.


Narrative Fidelity: Does your Story Ring True?

The other test your story needs to ace is the fidelity test  –  in other words, the quality test. If your story has enough quality to sound true, your words will strike a response in your audience, and so your story will change its listeners in a substantial way, which is the ultimate goal of every story. But remember, your story will have fidelity only if it rings true with the audience’s experiences and provides solid reasons to guide their future actions. People need to relate to your story if they’re going to buy into it.


So now that you know and understand our storytelling nature, you can start your next presentation by writing a story that hangs together and rings true, just as Walter Fisher’s Paradigm decrees.