Storytelling is an essential skill to motivate, inspire and convince others. But what makes a good story? Recent scientific research into storytelling shows exactly how a story impacts us and how a story influences our attitudes, beliefs and even our behavior.
Attention and empathy
In this age of information overload, it’s hard to be heard. Facts, figures and other rational things that are important for business do not stick around and do not make an impact. By packaging your message in a story, you have a greater chance that your message really gets through and that something is done with it. For example, a study from Claremont University shows that storytelling activates a larger area of the brain, so that information is remembered better and longer. In this research, two core aspects were demonstrated that make a story effective; it must first grab and hold the attention, which then allows the listener to ’transport’. In other words, the listener can fully empathize with the story. For this it is important to create an exciting structure in your story, containing a main character, a conflict (struggle) and a solution. Adding details and describing emotions also grabs the attention of listeners and helps them empathize. A guideline used in the most popular TEDtalks.
Influence on behavior
Empathizing with a story causes the production of the neurotransmitter oxytocin. This is a substance in your brain that helps to make a connection with others; it makes you more empathetic and more susceptible to what is being told. The same Claremont University study found that the more oxytocin released in the brain while listening to a story, the more the listeners believed in what was being told and the less critical they were on any inaccuracies. In addition, it influences the beliefs of the listeners and increases cooperative behavior that aligns with the story. So; customers are more willing to buy your product through storytelling and colleagues are more likely to support your idea if you package your message in a strong story.
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