Storytelling: Sesame Street Story-tells

“Our head of sales, Natalie is excellent.. and I wish everyone was like her.”

“Mariam is top of class in her grades, hope all students can become like her.”

“Sandy is a great writer, she always comes up with best articles.”

We have all heard such statements and perhaps rolled our eyes when listening to them too!

Often the teller of these statements, boss, teacher, parent is of an opinion that, I am sharing success stories and creating role models who will inspire others to be like them.

However, this way of communicating rarely achieves the desired outcome of everyone becoming like Natalie, Mariam and Sandy.


Let us try and understand this with an example of *Sesame Street, the TV series that debuted in 1969 with the express purpose of using stories to educate and influence preschoolers.

Elmo, Big Bird and the Cookie Monster continue to enthrall, influence and educate more than 170 million children in 140 countries.

When the creators of Sesame Street wanted to help kids learn how to pay attention and control their impulses, they decided to make an example out of Cookie Monster — the character who cannot resist cookies.

They realized children needed to see someone struggle with the same issues they struggled with and try multiple techniques to overcome them.

Now, this is exactly what we miss in our telling. We are so focussed on the success of others that we miss the mark by not telling the most important thing, which is, what exactly did Natalie, Mariam and Sandy do to be good at what they do. What were there struggles and how did they overcome them?

Effective storytelling happens when we tell our audience about someone who is like them struggling not when we cite examples of successful individuals.

If you have time watch this 5 min video where Cookie Monster needs three tries to learn a special move from his sensei. He finally masters listening with his whole body and, as a reward, he earns a cookie belt — which he eats. This is effective storytelling because the focus here is on learning the process to overcome a struggle.

* Source: Storytelling can be a force for a social change. Here’s how

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