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The Astonishing Power of Storytelling

The Astonishing Power of Storytelling
Leading, Teaching, and Transforming in a New Way

First Edition
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Communication | Leadership

September 2018 | 240 pages | Corwin

Visit this page to access a Study Companion for the book. 

Master the secret to engaging any audience—from classrooms, to colleagues, to conference rooms


Everyone loves a good story. More than entertainment, well-told stories captivate listeners and motivate action. In this guidebook, Robert J. Garmston shows you how to leverage the power of storytelling to engage and persuade students, colleagues, and all other audiences.


Written in Garmston’s warm and conversational style and featuring current cognitive neuroscience research, the book includes:

  • Detailed breakdowns of the essential elements all great stories share, and templates for creating yours
  • Tips for supercharging your stories by drawing from personal experience as well as familiar movies, TV shows, and popular media
  • A guide to effective story delivery, including optimized vocal inflection and body language


Becoming a better storyteller will make you a more effective communicator and educator. Get started today with The Astonishing Power of Storytelling.

About the Author and Illustrator
1. Why Tell Stories
Communication Suffocation

Leading Through Narrative

Watch A Story Being Told

How Storytelling Began

2. The Neuroscience of Narrative
Story Worth Watching

Stories Arouse Cooperative Instincts

$$$ The Million-Dollar Story

Desired-State Stories

3. Finding Personal Stories
Story Categories

Locating Personal Story Material

Stories About Your Organization

Finding Your Personal Stories

4. Other Story Sources
Six Story Sources


Films and Television



Stories Unique to a Particular Culture

Two Stories Worth Watching

Metaphor Stories

5. Why Are Metaphors Important?
How Metaphors Are Processed

Right Hemisphere Engagement

Four Uses of Metaphor

Teach Concepts

Generate Ideas


Go Beyond Logic

Subtexts of Metaphor

6. Desirable Story Features
Engaging Openings

Have a Beginning, Middle, and End

Use Present Tense

Use Sensory Images

Include Tensions

Embed Conflict

Create Voices

Use Memorable Closings

Seven Steps to Preparing a New Story

7. Delivering Your Story

Stand Like You Are Credible


Vocal Variety

Intentional Movement

Story Worth Watching

Use Questions to Invite the Audience In

8. Promote Change: Story Structure and Examples
Desired State


Applying the Desired-State Map: Three Examples

1. Shouting at a Parent

2. Bear in the Cage

3. A Strong, Yet Delicate Rose

Presume Positive Intentions

9. Meet Groups Where They Are

Indirect Suggestions

What Listeners Experience

10. Design for the Intuitive Mind
Invoking Receptivity

Beyond Waking Awareness

Story Elements for Subliminal Processes



Artfully Vague Language


Indirect Suggestions

11. How Two Stories Changed Behaviors
General Components of a Well-Formed Story

Factual Specificity

Presentation Congruity

Audience Appropriateness

Elicits Empathy

Contains Submerged Moral or Point of View

Creates Internal Representations

Bypasses Protective Filters

Parallels the Audience’s Situation

Lingers on Point of Irresolution

Marks Embedded Commands

Offers Resolutions

12. In Conclusion
Story Catalog
Organizing the Stories

Shifting Perceptions

Inviting Learning

Inspiring Action

Seeking Desired States

Guide to Story Locations
Worksheet 1: Metaphor Subtexts

Worksheet 2: Anatomy of Desired-State Stories

Worksheet 3: Constructing a Desired-State Story

Poetry Referenced in the Preface

Storytelling Study Companion

In The Astonishing Power of Storytelling Bob Garmston confirms with brain science and sound research what we all know intuitively – stories have the power to both persuade and inspire. What’s more, the book is chock-full of practical tips and approaches to plan and deliver stories with intention and aplomb. Bob has gifted all of us an excellent “how to” manual to make our stories sing!

Joelle Basnight, High School Principal, American International School; Chennai, India
American International School; Chennai, India

Inspiring...this book will add to your leadership capacity and help shape you into a storyteller to transform your skills as a professional.

Kelly Armitage, Elementary School Principal, International School; Bangkok, Thailand
International School; Bangkok, Thailand

Bob has taught me most of what I know about presenting and this book is a wonderful addition to my repertoire. The scaffolds and rich examples provide models for my own storytelling that I can now harvest from my life experiences. I am already crafting an introductory story for my next workshop.

Lucy Fisher, Manager Emeritus, Learning Education Department Educational; Consultant, Tasmania, Australia
Learning Education Department Educational; Tasmania, Australia

Robert J. Garmston has touched upon who teachers naturally are. Storytellers. Throughout   The Astonishing Power of Storytelling Garmston provides evidence that validates the power of telling stories, and offers tools to enhance the innate instincts of a teacher. This book will nurture abilities that some are not aware they possess. After all, what is teaching but a way to inspire students to search for knowledge? What better way to set the stage than to "Tell a Story”?

Karen Tribble, Elementary School Teacher, Fairfield, CT
Fairfield, CT

One of the most important facets to effective change leadership is the ability to engage and create meaning. In Astonishing Power of Storytelling Garmston draws the connection between an engaging story and the ability to stimulate positive change.

Gregory A. Hedger, Director, The International School; Yangon, Myanmar
The International School; Yangon, Myanmar

Al-Hakawati in Arabic, is a person who narrates the old stories transferring values and traditions across generations and inspiring the listeners. In this sense Garmston’s Astonishing Power of Storytelling is a transcultural book; one can help you use storytelling in your profession with easy-to-follow-and-use tools and strategies.

Jihad Dwaidar, Literacy Coach, International Programs School; Khobar, Saudi Arabia
International Programs School; Khobar, Saudi Arabia

Bob Garmston’s latest book, Astonishing Power of Storytelling is a welcome resource which strategizes the use of storytelling for leaders at all levels. The skills he offers through storytelling can help present sometimes bland information with personal and internalizing effectiveness. For leaders who seek to achieve lasting change, this book makes impressive sense!

David B. Cloud, Alaska Administrator Coaching Project; Homer, AK
Alaska Administrator Coaching Project; Homer, AK

This book has helped me to understand and experience how storytelling is an essential element for anyone who presents, lectures, or conducts workshops. Astonishing Power of Storytelling encouraged me to use storytelling as a strategy to hold the students’ attention and better achieve my instructional goals of shifting their perceptions, while encouraging learning and action. As I prepared talking points on working with resistant teachers for my class on supervisory practice, stories from personal experience came to mind. While sharing a story with my students about a teacher I was working with, I demonstrated the body language (crossed arms and legs) he displayed during the post-observation conference. We then explored what was being said by this body language and strategies for how to respond effectively. The results were amazing. Not only were the students intrigued, the story also enabled me to engage them in meaningful discussion with productive results. This book will continue to be my guide as I prepare for future classes and presentations.

Marcia Knoll, Professor, Educational Administration, Hunter College, NY
Hunter College, NY

Great storytelling feels almost magical. It creates natural connections between speakers and listeners that are personal, meaningful, and authentic. We all remember the stories that captivate us, inspire us, and open our minds to new ideas. Storytelling is at the heart of good teaching and this guidebook promises to teach all of us to become splendid storytellers. I can’t wait to share it with my teacher education students.

Aixa Perez-Prado, Professor of Education, Florida International University; Miami, FL
Florida International University; Miami, FL

I remember gathering around my mom listening to her stories light up the room. Her stories had a big impact on who I am today. This book is a perfect guide to discover your own personal story and suggests ways for why and how you can use your story to make a memorable impact on others.

Servet Altan, International Educator & Educational Researcher, Bilkent University; Ankara, Turkey
Bilkent University; Ankara, Turkey

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ISBN: 9781506386393

For large school/district orders, volume discounts, availability and shipping times contact customer service at 800-233-9936

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