I apologize for scrubbing “story” out of my messages

I apologize for scrubbing “story” out of my messages
March 29, 2023 Beth Nyland

Whenever I tell people what I do for a living—helping people bring storytelling and creativity into the workplace—I’m met with immediate interest.

“Wow! Cool! That sounds like so much fun.”

It is!

And not just fun, but useful. The ability to craft and tell a good story is oh-so-valuable to any business.

My livelihood depends on convincing people that this is true—that getting a business in Story Mode is worthy of time, effort, and money.

This is not always an easy sell.

“Stories” are (mis)perceived as fluffy or frivolous.

Occasionally, my Story Mode partner Jill and I  encounter prospective clients who are interested in our approach, but hesitate when they imagine bringing words like “story” and “storytelling” into their workplace.

“We have a no-nonsense leadership team. I doubt if they’ll pay for a story consultant.”

“Our culture is serious. I don’t think people will make time for a workshop on storytelling.”

“Our company is all about measurable results. I can’t imagine they’ll view storytelling as an essential skill.”

I confess that we have occasionally caved in response to such comments. In order to secure the business, we have retitled our offerings to avoid the word “story.” We’ve revised proposals, calendar notices, and seminar teasers to instead emphasize hard-hitting concepts like:

  • effective communication skills
  • attention-getting content strategies
  • persuasive presentation techniques

Sexy? No. Not at all.

To anyone who received those watered-down messages about Story Mode, I apologize.

I am sorry for editing the “story” out of our stuff. Not because those phrases were false advertising. In fact, our story-based approach delivers all those results and then some.

What nags at me is this … By softening our vocabulary (actually, hardening it) to appease cautious clients, we betrayed the Story Mode motto:


Those phrases—scrubbed free of stories and storytelling—are boring.

That’s precisely what happens when you omit stories, storytelling, and storytellers from your business. You get boring. And let’s face it: you also get bored.

I am proud to say that Jill and I have never scoured the stories out of our advice or programming for clients—only the language we’ve used to nudge people through the door. The moment you enter a Story Mode meeting, workshop, or conversation, we’re all story, all the time.

And in response, we get no complaints. What we do get is a lot of curiosity, interest, and agreement.

Stories do belong in the workplace, and confident storytellers deliver strong results.

If you have the sense that stories could be good for your business, but you’re surrounded by nay-sayers who think storytelling is fluffy or frivolous, perhaps it’s time to redefine the word “story.”

Here’s the Story Mode definition:

A story is a set of details you select and organize for a purpose.

Framed this way, stories become excellent containers for meaning and motivation—and incredibly useful business tools.

By crafting and sharing the right story, you can:

  • make complicated topics easier to understand
  • stoke interest in something new
  • help someone see things from a different point of view

That sounds like good business, doesn’t it?

If your business culture needs a nudge in the direction of storytelling, let me know. I’m no longer scrubbing “story” out of my vocabulary, and I’m not sorry about that at all.


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