How Stories Help Learning in Stressful Situations

Stories help learning

Stories have been a powerful vehicle to transfer knowledge to others. From a young age, we are taught life lessons, values, and morals through stories. They could be fables or a story someone close to us shared. Stories can help people learn a great deal.

For instance, in 1996, a physician called Norman Berlinger had to deliver a baby diagnosed in the womb with a large cystic hygroma on the side of his neck. The sonogram suggested that the hygroma had grown inside the neck, wrapping around the trachea, with the implication that the baby would die shortly after delivery because his air passage was blocked.

Berlinger’s strategy was to pierce the trachea and insert a breathing tube into it. Upon delivery, the baby gave a cry, suggesting a clear breathing passage. But then the passage sealed up. The baby could not even grunt.

Berlinger remembered an earlier situation when he had been called in to operate on a young man who had run his snowmobile into a strand of barbed wire strung above the ground to discourage trespassers. The wire had jumbled the victim’s neck tissue. 

On that occasion, when Berlinger arrived, he found that the emergency technician had already inserted a breathing tube, and Berlinger had wondered how this was done. The technician explained that he stuck the tube where he saw bubbles. Bubbles meant air coming out.

So in the delivery room, Berlinger looked into the mouth of the infant for bubbles. He only saw a mass of yellow cysts, completely obscuring the air passage. No bubbles. Berlinger placed his palm on the infant’s chest and pressed down, to force the last bit of air out of the infant’s lungs. Berlinger saw a few tiny bubbles of saliva between some of the cysts and maneuvered the tube into that area.

The laryngoscope has a miniature light on its tip, and Berlinger was able to guide it past the vocal cords, into the trachea. The infant quickly changed color from blue to a reassuring pink. The procedure had worked.

Knowledge databases in companies usually comprise a list of dos and don’ts. Elaborating key aspects with a story helps people remember them better. And they will be able to recall them when needed, especially during stressful situations. 

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Story Source: Sources of Power by Gary Klein 

About The Author
Vinod Krishna

Vinod Krishna is a brand storytelling trainer and consultant at DustyPaths.
He brings 3 decades of experience in leading people, projects, and businesses
to forge new paths in storytelling, communication and leadership development.
He is an avid barefoot runner, trekker, theater artist, and photographer.
Connect with him on LinkedIn

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