Just Why DO Stories Bring Me Impact, Influence, & Income??

Inquiring minds want to know

In this post you'll find:

  1. What regularly happens in business today
  2. Who says stories are better
  3. How do stories work on the brain?
  4. Take Action
  5. Use the Building Storytelling Skills Map

By Karen Dietz, Just Story It

Stories are universal. They’ve been around for over 100,000 years. Reading and writing however, has only been around a few hundred years. We think in stories. We talk in stories. We live and die for our stories.

Yet here’s what regularly happens in business

A businessman went to a networking lunch to hear a bigwig CEO talk. The CEO had spent days preparing his presentation which was full of beautiful charts, succinct bullet points, and cool graphics.  When the businessman got home later that day, his wife asked him about it.

            Wife: “Who spoke?”

            Businessman: “Some executive.”

            Wife: “What did he say?”

            Businessman: “Well, he didn’t say.”

Don’t let that happen to you! No one wants to be boring. No one wants to waste anyone's time.  No one wants to miss a slew of golden opportunities.

But in the business world, we do just that. We love to talk numbers or data: financial statements, sales figures, ROI percentages, KPIs, product features, spec sheets -- charts, graphs, bullet points galore! These have their place, but not as the main communication vehicle for communicating value, enhancing your leadership, and getting business done.

We have been taught to both ask for -- and give -- information. So when we present our case, our position, our new idea, or our products/services, we create presentations chock full of informational charts, graphs and bullet points. Snoresville.

But numbers are simply abstractions. And, bullet points are merely summaries. Both only reflect reality. 

Stories however, convey reality.  Stories PULL us into them.  Charts, graphs and bullet points may transmit information, but they don’t necessarily create meaning.  As someone once said, “No one ever marched on Washington because of charts, graphs and bullet points.”

This is the new reality:  storytelling and working with stories is now a core competency for businesses – whether you are an entrepreneur, small business, non-profit, someone looking for a job, or in the Fortune 500. 

Don’t miss countless opportunities to grow your impact, influence, career or business because you couldn’t effectively share stories about what you do, what you offer, or how you make a difference.  And don’t miss countless opportunities to enroll others in your products/services/talents or vision for the future.

Who Says Story is Better?

Kendall Haven in his book Story Proof cites over 350 studies across many different scientific fields.  The conclusion of these studies?  Hands down – stories are the most effective and powerful form of communication.

According to studies reviewed by author Benedict Carey of This Is Your Life And How You Tell It, “People tend to remember facts more accurately if they encounter them in a story rather than in a list.” In fact, they remember them for longer periods of time. In fact, John Medina tells us in his book Brain Rules that retention goes from 10% to 65% when stories and visual images are used. Wow!

It’s been demonstrated over and over again that stories:

  1. Can easily untangle complex information, making it understandable and meaningful 
  2. Capture and hold people’s attention and interest
  3. Connect powerfully with staff and customers
  4. Communicate information faster
  5. Make you or your business more memorable
  6. Cause information to be more believable.
  7. Can establish and strengthen relationships
  8. Builds trust
  9. Establishes authenticity

We are hardwired to think in story form. Stories are more powerful than other forms of communication because they are about emotional experiences. Emotion matters.

How Do Stories Work On The Brain? 

Let’s find out. Read this:

Years ago when the Marshall Field, the owner of the famous department store Marshall Field, was walking through his original story in Chicago, he heard a clerk arguing with a customer. He stopped and asked: "What are you doing?"

The clerk answered, "I'm settling a complaint."

Field said, "No, you're not. Give the lady what she wants."

Now read this:

In general, a customer trigger is a factor or an event that changes the basis of a relationship. Reactional triggers are those critical incidents of deterioration in perceived performance...When something out of the ordinary occurs, such as a decline in performance before purchase, during purchase, or during consumption, it redirects a customer’s attention to evaluate present performance more closely, which may put customers on a switching path.          

Both are about the same principle. But which piece would you rather read? Which is more meaningful and memorable? Why is this? Let's figure it out.

Here’s your brain on data activating only the 2 language centers of the brain (left image) and your brain on story where 7 areas of the brain are activated (right image): 

Here’s what happens when 2 people are story sharing:

Neural Coupling: 2 brains on stories

Neural Coupling: 2 brains on stories

Neuroscientists have now shown us what happens to the brain on stories – they couple or entrain together. This is called neural coupling. During simultaneous brain scans of someone telling a story to a listener, they’ve found that the same areas of the brain light up in both brains.  The only difference between the two brains is that in the listener’s brain, another area of the brain is also being activated – the area of the brain that is anticipating what’s next.

Well-constructed stories engage up to 7 areas of the brain and all of the senses. They are full of packets of sensory material. As a result, because stories are multidimensional and hook into our personal memories/experiences, they frequently are perceived as “more true’” than facts.

It means that storytelling is a whole brain/whole body experience, making it easier to understand, retain, and remember what is being said.

In contrast, sharing information is only a very narrow channel of communication. Left-brain data only reaches the 2 language centers of the brain. That's it. When data or information is shared, our brains have to work really hard to make sure we understanding what is being said, make it meaningful for ourselves, and can remember it. Our brains quickly tire and we often forget most of what we heard.

Used carefully and told well, stories can make a clear difference. Because story conveys our knowledge, values, wisdom; because stories ignite our imagination and create neuro-coupling; because stories generate empathy -- stories create power for people, a business, and in the marketplace. Having the ability to share your powerful stories and then deliver on your promises—now that’s a winning combination!

Take Action

  1. Start listening for stories that others tell. Pay attention to what you like about them and what they inspire you to do or not do.
  2. Notice how you feel when you listen to presentations or conversations that do not contain stories—and what you are able to recall.
  3. Pay attention to how often you insert stories into conversations or presentations and the reactions that you receive from others when they hear them.
  4. Make a list of the stories you tend to tell most frequently.
  5. Notice when you do not use a story and what keeps you from doing so.
  6. What are you inspired you to do more of?
  7. Define two to three action steps for yourself, along with dates for reviewing your activities.

Use The Building StoryTelling Skills Map

How do you build storytelling skills? Here’s your map for building your storytelling skills:

  1. Find Your Stories – Chapter 4 in my book “Business Storytelling For Dummies” on where to find your stories.
  2. Craft Your Stories – what stories do I need to tell in my work?
  3. Hone Your Stories & How You Deliver Them – learn how to tell your stories in compelling ways that move people to action (the kinds of stories we want in business). Practice delivering them so you can tell them really well.
  4. Apply Your Stories to your business
  5. Renew Your stories – so they stay fresh
  6. Mine Your Stories – for multiple meanings, metaphors, key messages, & ways to tell them

Now get out there and story on!