I have mixed feelings about TED talks. In the beginning, I was addicted…Dan Gilbert’s 2004 presentation about Happiness might have been the first one I watched more than once …and who can forget Brene’ Brown sharing her research on vulnerability? Goosebumps! Of course, the popularity of TED made everyone want to learn how to do “that.” Its about great storytelling, right? Yes… if the stories are true. Particularly when it comes to scientific studies. But that’s not what happened.
A bit more research and I discovered my beloved Dan Gilbert was telling stories as well. Gilbert issued corrections to two of the stories he told in that first video. No wonder I’ve been so uncomfortable with the way storytelling is being taught. Making a truth more vivid and engaging is one thing, but recent leaps of inference or stories that make a correlation sound like cause/effect? that just keeps us in the dark. Specifically videos about recent neurological studies that purport to explain storytelling. I think we need to stop “telling stories” that oxytocin or the magic of a “narrative arc” explain storytelling. It’s much bigger than science can explain. Storytelling is an art – subjective, emotional, and as variable as humanity is diverse.