The art of story-telling is extremely difficult to master. But it’s also very rewarding to have as an arsenal the next time you’re trying to win over your boss, entertain your friends, or effortlessly spend an enchanting evening with your family. The ability and propensity to tell and hear captivating stories is hard-wired into our psyche. We absolutely love a good hero’s journey, don’t we? Our ancestors used it to create trusting bonds with one another. It’s helped humanity to remember that we’re all connected. Stories help all of us to find bits and pieces of ourselves buried within.

Last week, we talked about the potential of power language. This week, we’re going to learn about an even better approach to influence in the land of communication. If you want to connect with others, influence those around you, and make a significant difference by getting others to act, the power of storytelling can’t go untold [pun intended!].

The Many Gifts of Story-Telling

  1. Love and Empathy. Oxytocin is released when we hear stories. Oxytocin is the powerful hormone that’s released in our bodies when we’re engaged in activities like sex, hugging someone, or when you’re giving birth. But oxytocin is much more impactful than the short, blissful moments. Oxytocin is required and critical for things like empathy, love, connection, and cooperation. So the next time you want someone to donate to the charity of your choice, or go to your favorite restaurant for dinner, tell a compelling story.
  2. In Your Shoes. In our brains, we have cells called mirror neurons. Also important for empathy, they allow you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. My husband loves watching extreme sports. I can tell when he’s fully engaged in watching someone rock-climbing on screen when I see him rubbing his fingers up and down his palms – classic sweaty palm reaction. I know his mirror neurons kick in high gear because he’s just watching someone climb outside and he gets nervous with them! These neurons may explain why we’re compelled to yawn when we hear someone yawn, why our mouths salivate watching someone slurp up a delicious bowl of noodles.
  3. Drive, Focus, and Concentration. When we hear powerful and emotional stories, our brains create and release dopamine. Dopamine (full transparency: it’s my favorite hormone!) is released by our brains when we feel motivated. Specifically, it’s incredibly powerful in helping create that sense of pleasure when we achieve goals. Cortisol is also present in effectively crafted stories. A bump in cortisol levels are present as we feel the tension and suspense of any good story. Through these physiological changes, we increase our focus and concentration. We feel driven to accomplish something bigger than ourselves. It helps us to plan a strategy for success. So the next time you feel unmotivated, go listen to a powerful story.

To tell a really good story, you need the following components: (1) a hero/ine, (2) many descriptors (see how many of the five senses – sight, smell, sounds, taste, and touch – you can use to transport your audience into your world), (3) a struggle, and (4) victory. Be relatable. Through all of your stories, your goal should always be to inspire others to do better, give more, and grow bigger.



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Photo courtesy of @roadtripwithraj