In Writing and Storytelling: Kissin’ Cousins, we talked about the differences between storytelling and writing from a learning perspective. But there’s another one to consider: a biological one

Not only do people learn about stories before they learn to write, from an evolutionary perspective, storytelling came first. Way first.

The symbolic representation of language is about 5,200 years old. That may sound ancient until you consider that storytelling is between 2 and 3 million yeas old. That’s 500 times older than writing! And so, while humans have had thousands of years to develop their writing skills, our brains have had a hundred-thousand generations to incorporate story as a part of it.

Storytelling is programmed into each and every one of us. The effects of story tie all of us in profound ways that science is just beginning to scratch the surface of understanding. It crosses time and cultures, and requires no formal education to be proficient as evidenced by the best storyteller that I’ve ever met: my grandfather, a Boston cabbie with a sixth-grade education.

And so it begs the question: If story has had millions of years to work it’s way into our DNA, if it’s such a natural way for us to communicate, then why is writing–a relative upstart in human communications–the prime focus of business communicators? Isn’t it time to flip the script?

Photo Credit: Library of Congress