“Make an Englishman shit”

This is also a reason why it is anecdotes, if well told and timed, are enormously persuasive in the American cultural context. For Americans anecdotes are empirical. They are reality experienced, the opposite of theory, which is often seen as abstract and unrealistic, separated from reality.

An anecdote says: “I know what I’m talking about. I was there. I saw it with my own eyes. This is no theory, it’s reality!” Any American politician, for example, speaking in their legislative district or in the media about a difficult issue, such as the war in Iraq, will come across as especially convincing if they can claim to have visited that region.

Like aphorisms, anecdotes transport deeper-lying wisdom. Isn’t that what the Bible – Old and New Testament – does via one story after the other, communicate the deepest-felt, and therefore most complex, beliefs of a people, of Jews and Christians?

Isn’t story-telling the highest, the most sophisticated, form of activating (speaking to) the human imagination? Truly persuasive communicators in the U.S. plan very carefully when they draw on anecdotes. This is why we all listen so carefully when our grandparents tell their stories. They have the years of human experience.

The historians are in agreement. That Abraham Lincoln was the most masterful storyteller in American history. It has been written that he could hold audiences for up to four hours at a time.