How often have you sat back and realised you just spent the last 15 minutes of your life playing your very own, self directed movie in your head? Perhaps it detailed the perfect way you’re going to get back at your ex, or how you’ll become famous and live happily ever after? We all do it. In fact, we spend most of our time narrating our lives in our heads, creating stories for everything we do.
Why? Because that’s what we’ve been doing for the last 27,000 years, since cavemen started communicating by illustrating their experiences on rocks. Humans have evolved sharing and learning through story so we are practically wired this way. The same reason goes when it comes to why we engage in others’ stories.
Ever wondered why when someone feeds you information through a story you feel so much more engaged than if they were to present it to you in bullet points or a slide show?
I did some research (without getting too scientific) and found out that it is all down to where your brain is being activated. When we receive straight forward information for information’s sake it hits our language processing parts in our brain, gets decoded into meaning and then that’s it, finished – Probably not that simply but you get the gist. (Ref)
However, when we receive knowledge through being told a story, our brains work completely different. Again, the language processing parts of the brain are activated but so is every other area that we would use if we were to actually experience the events of the story. As a storyteller, you can synchronise with the listener and allow them to experience the same experiences that you have had through planting ideas, thoughts and emotions into their brains (ref). Wow, powerful stuff!
If we can use storytelling to connect with others and allow them to live the experiences within, imagine how it can be used to our advantage throughout all aspects of life.
Stories for inspiration
At points in our lives we all experience various negative emotions – whether it be confusion, anxiety, fear or mistrust. When we look for support we often go to sources that can inspire us to look beyond the negatives and into a positive future (ref).
This is why inspirational stories can transform lives. When was the last time you felt inspired by a list of bullet points telling you what you need to change? My guess, probably never. By allowing people to step into the positive experiences within a story and live them with the storyteller, people can obtain real emotions that help motivate them to turn their lives around.
A great short example of an inspirational story:
Once a man was walking along a beach. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. Off in the distance he could see a person going back and forth between the surf’s edge and and the beach. Back and forth this person went. As the man approached, he could see that there were hundreds of starfish stranded on the sand as the result of the natural action of the tide.
The man was stuck by the the apparent futility of the task. There were far too many starfish. Many of them were sure to perish. As he approached, the person continued the task of picking up starfish one by one and throwing them into the surf.
As he came up to the person, he said: “You must be crazy. There are thousands of miles of beach covered with starfish. You can’t possibly make a difference.” The person looked at the man. He then stooped down and pick up one more starfish and threw it back into the ocean. He turned back to the man and said: “It sure made a difference to that one!”
Stories for education
As I mentioned earlier, sharing knowledge and education through storytelling is a much more valuable way of connecting with listeners. Instead of listing a bunch of facts and figures for students to write in their books and forget what it actually means, teachers should put facts into context. It is far better for both the teacher and the students as they can create meaning and mutual understanding through connection. It also helps students to relate to and remember the information easier.
A great short story example for teaching marketing/advertising:
An old blind man was sitting on a busy street corner in the rush-hour begging for money. On a cardboard sign, next to an empty tin cup, he had written: ‘Blind – Please help’.
No-one was giving him any money.
A young advertising writer walked past and saw the blind man with his sign and empty cup, and also saw the many people passing by completely unmoved, let alone stopping to give money.
The advertising writer took a thick marker-pen from her pocket, turned the cardboard sheet back-to-front, and re-wrote the sign, then went on her way.
Immediately, people began putting money into the tin cup.
After a while, when the cup was overflowing, the blind man asked a stranger to tell him what the sign now said.
“It says,” said the stranger, ” ‘It’s a beautiful day. You can see it. I cannot.”
Stories for connection
When you meet up with your friends over coffee what’s the first thing you do after greeting each other? You share all the stories of everything that’s gone on in your lives since you last saw each other, am I right?
By storytelling we are able to form special connections as we share knowledge that others can relate to. When we hear stories that we can relate to it becomes a lot easier to create conversation as we know there is a common interest.
Storytelling can be a great way to attract new business prospects, job opportunities and relationships as we draw people into an experience and leave them with a memorable lasting impression.
Stories for persuasion
“Trying to convince people with logic is tough for two reasons. One is they are arguing with you in their heads while you are making your argument. Second, if you do succeed in persuading them, you’ve done so only on an intellectual basis. That’s not good enough, because people are not inspired to act by reason alone.” – Robert Mckee (ref)
Harness the power of storytelling! You won’t persuade an audience with facts and figures alone, you have to put them into context. Engage the audience, make them feel a connection to your ideas and experiences. Allow them to feel what you feel. Plant your ideas, thoughts and emotions into their brains and give them something memorable to think about.
Share your own story about the journey you’ve taken and the experiences you’ve had, allow the audience to get to know you. By doing this you’ll build trust with your audience and when you’ve got that, it becomes a lot easier to do the rest.
There’s a whole world of people out there who are accessible within seconds on the world wide web. If we can harness the power of storytelling in every day life then why not take it to the net?
Read for inspiration
Many people around the world are already sharing their valuable stories online. Get some inspiration! Have a read of some of the fiction and non-fiction stories and gain an insight into how you can use the power of storytelling to make an impression online.
Write for motivation
When you have your inspiration, get writing! Share your stories with the world and create value for people. Inspire, educate and connect online whilst motivating other storytellers to do the same.