As one of the oldest methods of communication, storytelling is part of the fabric of human nature. In modern day, we see storytelling appear in numerous ways outside of just your typical conversation or passing down of a tradition.
Most of our modern ways of entertainment are centered around the practice of storytelling. Movies, TV shows, plays, and books are all prime examples of how we invest in the stories of others, from fictional characters to real-life people. Perhaps the newest wave of entertainment comes from social media sites, which are basically storytelling hubs in and of themselves. We tell your stories through photos and posts, and we engage with other people’s stories by liking, commenting, sharing, or simply reading.
We sure like to spend a lot of our free time telling and listening to stories. The reason is simple: Stories allow us to connect with our emotions, and they create a stage for us to learn about each other and the world.
If our personal lives are impacted so remarkably through storytelling, imagine how our professional lives could transform if storytelling were more ingrained in workplace cultures. Think of how the relationships between leaders and teams could thrive if everyone were able to share a piece of their life experience. Think of the abundance of knowledge and inspiration we could learn through others’ successes and failures.
Storytelling is powerful, having the ability to change our beliefs and influence our behavior. The proof is in our neuroscience, and it mostly boils down to the fact that our brains have a stronger reaction to emotions, which enhances our ability to remember, than they do to factual information, according to UC Berkeley.
In response to hearing a story, Forbes notes that our brain produces 3 chemicals: cortisol, which helps with awareness; dopamine, which helps with arousal and pleasure; and oxytocin, which helps produce human action. The chemicals produced show how storytelling not only engages audiences, but people enjoy the experience and can even be lead to action.
For example, if someone approached you on the street with a statistic on cancer patients’ survival rate and asked you to donate to research, you may or may not oblige. However, if instead that someone told you about their young son’s brain tumor and his current battle for life, you will feel more connected to the cause and willing to donate. Your emotions are activated and your action now has a personal purpose attached to it.
Stories can be a really powerful tool in marketing products and services to consumers. If you’re able to share a story that connects to your brand, you could unlock an emotional response in your audience that leads them to participate in your desired outcome. Marketers have used this tactic for years with favorable responses.
Stories can be an active part of your corporate culture in almost every aspect. From learning company policy, to collaborating with others, to building work relationships, storytelling has the ability to teach, influence, and impact people more than any other communication method. Storytelling is just a way to craft how you communicate information so that others are more likely to connect with and remember what you say.
Forbes provides a relatable example, “You can’t even successfully order people to ‘follow the rules’ because nobody reads the rulebook. But people will read a good story about a guy who broke the rules and got fired, or a woman who followed the rules and got a raise. And that would be more effective than reading the rulebook anyway.”
Or let’s say you’re collaborating with a group, brainstorming ways to solve a problem. You’ve ran into this issue in the past, and you know what won’t work as a solution. Sure, you could quickly discount team member’s ideas and move on. Or, you could share your past experiences and share how proposed solutions failed in action. Your team will gain an understanding around the topic, and they’ll remember the information for future instances.
As a leader, you’re always in a story. You’re working to make your story come true and achieve a “happily ever after.” But you can’t achieve your happy ending without a team of people who are also engaged in the story and the desired outcome. Your job is to tell the story, share your purpose, and help your team see a vision so that they, too, can feel connected. Storytelling and leadership are intertwined by their very nature.
The effect storytelling has on the brain proves its unique ability to motivate abilities and actions. When applied to workplace settings, storytelling can connect people’s purpose to their work, develop strong leaders, and contribute to a culture of understanding and inspiration. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how to perfect your storytelling skills and apply them to your position as a leader.