Storytelling is not something that is only used in Hollywood films. More and more professionals are making use of this approach and skill set. For example in presentations to win over an audience, to enthuse customers or to get colleagues excited for their ideas. Storytelliing is essential 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 affects 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 matters that are important to business do not linger or make an impact. By ‘packaging’ your message in a story, you have a greater chance that your message will actually be heard and transferred into action. For example, a study from Claremont University shows that storytelling activates a larger area of ​​the brain, so information given will be retained better and longer. In this research two key aspects were proven 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 effect, it is important to create an exciting structure in your story, with a main character, a conflict and a solution. Adding details and describing emotions also grabs listeners’ attention and helps them empathize. An approach used in the majority of the most popular TED talks.

Influencing behavior
Storytelling puts the brain into action; empathizing with a story produces the neurotransmitter oxytocin. This is a substance in your brain that makes you connect more easily with others; it makes you empathetic and more susceptible to what is being told. The same study from Claremont University 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 of any uncertainties. In addition, it affects the beliefs of the listeners and increases the cooperative behavior that aligns with the story. Simply put; customers are more willing to buy your product and colleagues are more likely to support your idea if you package your message into a strong story.

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