Why Do Our Minds Love A Good Story?
Storytelling is commonly used at events to share an experience, deliver a presentation and also forms part of our everyday life. From telling friends and family stories of what just happened, to movies and television and now to social media, this is all storytelling at its best, and it continues to captivate the human race. Harvard Business refers to it as ‘One of the most powerful means that leaders have to influence, teach and inspire.’ But why is that so?
What is it about storytelling that captures us and can completely change the message we are either delivering or receiving? What is the relationship between storytelling and our mind?
When we tell or are being told a story, our subconscious mind is triggered, bringing with it access to all of our emotions. The impact doesn’t stop there.
Here are 5 key reasons why stories are so effective between people and our minds:
The strength of human interaction and connection is how we develop trust, respect and relationships. The sharing of something personal coming from our subconscious mind and in particular our memories or driven by our values and beliefs speaks directly to the receiver’s subconscious mind. In addition, the message from our subconscious mind is coated in our emotions at each step which we know can be highly contagious. It’s no wonder that a great story can affect us so deeply.
When the story is relatable, we are feeling a connecting to our memory. This connection can then develop a feeling of acceptance or ‘normality’ with us thinking “If they have the same memory or thoughts as me then my mind/memory must be right”. That’s when we find ourselves agreeing, nodding or even laughing saying “YESSS!”. It gives us things in common and a sense of belonging that as people we often crave.
Vision is one of our 5 senses and one of our core modalities, with it being the most common default modality in many people. This means that we learn and make decisions based on visual imagery. When we experience a story being told, our mind starts to create the visual imagery to go with it and this image is embedded in our mind. Research says that when we create a visual image in our mind, our mind can then get confused and finds it hard to determine whether it is a real memory or whether it has been created. That image becomes a part of us and our emotions also attach themselves giving us that sense of connection like we too are living that story.
A great story takes the chemicals in our brain on a roller coaster ride looking to activate as many as possible. While we have the chemicals that make us happy and excited; dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins, also activating stress chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol give us the ebbs and flows of the story leaving us wanting to know more. These are often used to capture the audience at the beginning, create a stir of emotions midway through and a strong ending. While this roller coaster ride of our chemicals triggers our emotions, we become hooked in the story wanting to know the ending.
While it is the relationship with our subconscious mind that creates the excitement of the story, our conscious mind and our logical/thinking brain receive satisfaction through the learning experience. Feeding our neocortex with answers or growth also aids the chemicals in our brain. That feeling of comprehension along with the creation of new neuro pathways as we expand our knowledge simply from the experience of storytelling.
Knowing the impacts of great storytelling and what the relationship is with our mind is the first step. It’s now time to take this information and becoming a great storyteller for others.
The key to delivering a great story is to tick as many of the 5 areas listed above as possible.
In order to do this:
The type of story that you deliver should align to the interests of your audience. Telling stories, much like communication, is not about us. It’s about the people receiving it. Do your homework and know what their interests are. Find the right platform and communication medium to deliver the story. A great story told to the wrong audience is no longer a great story.
When I say language, I also mean words. To create alignment, make it relatable and in order for people to visualise the story, they first need to understand the words and story being told. The same words can have a totally different meaning to each audience. Equally the same meaning can be described by totally different words across different industries, cultures and people. Adapt your story using the words and language of the receiver.
How do you want people to feel once they have experienced your story? What is the emotional driver that will guide the story and what is in it for them? Everything we do in life is based on an emotional driver, what is the purpose of your story and what is in it for me. Remember, this is a feeling not something tangible. How do you want them to feel when you are finished? This should be where you start when bringing together a story.
A common saying of ‘don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story’ make reference to the story being about the emotion experienced than necessarily the facts. While honesty and transparency are high on my most important skills to have, I really do love a good story!
There is nothing better than getting swept into the story line, feeling like I am there and letting my emotions and subconscious mind ride the roller coaster rather than trying to predict when and how the ride will finish.