“Storytelling is the game. It’s what we all do. It’s why Nike is Nike, it’s why Apple is Apple, it’s why Walt Disney built Disney World, and it’s why Vince McMahon makes a billion dollars.”
Gary Vaynerchuk (Entrepreneur)
“People have forgotten how to tell a story. Stories don’t have a middle or an end any more. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning.”
Steven Spielberg (Movie Director)
“You’re never going to kill storytelling, because it’s built into the human plan. We come with it.”
Margaret Atwood (Canadian Novelist)
When I first started speaking in front of people, I would get extremely nervous.
15 minutes before going on stage, my heart would begin to pound in my chest.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
10 minutes before, I would start to sweat and get light-headed from breathing irregularly.
Sometimes, I would have to go to the bathroom and do jumping jacks or wall pushups.
This would help me stop consciously thinking about each breath and give me an outlet for all of my nervous energy.
(It did nothing to help me stop sweating, though.)
5 minutes before speaking, I would splash cold water on my face over and over again in an effort to cool down.
Eventually, I realized that my body was not the problem.
The problem was in my head.
I was telling myself a bad story.
I had recently started a new career in a field that I did not have a lot of experience in.
I gave meaning to this fact by telling myself the following story…
“You do not have enough experience. You are not qualified for this job. Who do you think you are fooling? If you mess up or don’t know the answer to something, you will be exposed. It’s only a matter of time before everyone knows you’re a phony.”
Of course, I was nervous.
How could anyone living out the above story not be terrified of speaking?
That’s when I realized the power of stories.
I realized that stories strongly influenced the way that I saw the world, and they influenced how others saw me and the world too.
Why Storytelling Matters In Business And Life
Person-to-person connections are at the center of any successful business and any successful life.
Interpersonal relationships and connection are basic needs.
Even in business, we need to know and feel that we are dealing with a real person.
No matter what business you’re in or what kind of personal goals you have, your pursuits will involve dealing with people.
And you’ll be more successful, personally and professionally, if you’re able to create meaningful connections that bring value into people’s lives.
One way or another, your business and life will involve solving problems, alleviating pain points, and providing happy customer experiences.
Storytelling is a powerful strategy for building personal relationships, as well as building relationships with your customers and potential customers, and for providing these customers with positive experiences.
Storytelling is an age-old concept that brings people together and keeps them engaged.
As humans, we first did this through paintings on the walls of caves.
Then we used PowerPoint and a projector.
Now we use webinars, FaceTime, and Skype video calls.
We tell stories in our social circles and in our businesses to build rapport, increase our network, share knowledge, and build trust.
Stories share our humanness and increase our relatability to one to another.
We can’t live without the connection — the stories just make things interesting and act as a bridge for that.
When it comes to business, it doesn’t matter where in the world you’re based or how much funding your business has, good stories give big voices to small ventures.
That’s why you must spend time upfront developing and mastering your approach to storytelling.
How Storytelling Creates Positive Connections
Telling a strong story is the first and most important part of connecting with someone.
Whether it be with a family member, friend, or potential client.
People identify with stories.
They engage emotionally with stories — and this is how people will start to engage with you personally.
When it comes to professional growth, you are your brand.
The “you” part of the equation is the only thing that differentiates your service or product from anyone else’s.
When it comes to your personal growth, stories are an important part of your psychological development.
If you graduated from the original Escape Plan, you’ll remember learning about how telling someone a story activates their entire brain, while telling them statistics and facts only activates quarter-sized regions of their brain.
The way the brain lights up when it bears witness to a story enhances learning retention, the ability to be present, and builds trust.
Stories are powerful.
Our own stories can create a strong self-image and sense of confidence, or be a crippling burden.
This is why there is an entire field of psychology, called narrative therapy, devoted to changing people’s lives through telling stories.
When people read a story, they automatically step into the role of the story’s protagonist.
They see themselves as the hero and actively learn from whatever the hero does as if it’s actually happening to them.
This makes storytelling a powerful transformational tool for people to find personal breakthroughs, and it also makes storytelling a very powerful marketing strategy.
In business and in life, your success is linked to your ability to create a connection and build trust with people.
This is how real relationships are developed.
Storytelling is a strategy you must incorporate to do these things and it’s less happenstance and more science.
Harvard Business Review published research out of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University on how storytelling impacts the brain.
“We discovered that, in order to motivate a desire to help others, a story must first sustain attention — a scarce resource in the brain — by developing tension during the narrative. If the story is able to create that tension then it is likely that attentive viewers/listeners will come to share the emotions of the characters in it, and after it ends, likely to continue mimicking the feelings and behaviors of those characters.”
Sustaining attention and creating tension create a sense of connection because they cause a release of the neurochemical, oxytocin.
Commonly known as our bonding or love chemical, oxytocin increases the sense of connection, not just between couples, but even through advertising to mass audiences of people.
The Greater Good out of USC Berkeley discusses how storytelling creates connection and resonance through stimulating an emotional response — this includes the release of the oxytocin in the brain which increases bonding, empathy, and attunement.
Storytelling increases engagement and builds trust through oxytocin.
Your stories need to be purposeful and intentional because whether we are a part of a story or witnessing one, the experience increases memory retention and stimulates emotion.
In other words, the stories you share should be more than just gossip.
Here’s the key — most of these stories are nothing more than gossip.
Research cited in the Monitor on Psychology by the American Psychological Association shows that up to 65% of our dialogue with others is in informal storytelling, primarily in the form of gossip.
That’s right — 65% of all stories are meaningless gossip.
You have to do better than this because people and businesses who master the art of storytelling create lasting relationships and, in the case of business, returning customers.
3 Keys To Becoming A Master Storyteller
Creating a narrative, whether in storytelling to an audience or in creating a new story for your own personal growth, is an important skill for your life and your business.
The right story can motivate and encourage positive behavior change, within yourself and others.
Your stories create connection with your target audience, but also tells them why they should care about what you’re doing, or in the case of business, what you’re selling.
Storytelling is also the most effective way to differentiate yourself from not only every other business in your market, but from everyone else in the world.
A lot of people assume that they could never compete with all the other people out there in the world for friendships or for business relationships.
If you’re thinking like this, you’re exactly right…
Why would anyone feel a connection to you or what you’re saying if you’re just regurgitating a collection of facts and how-to lists?
You’ll never be able to create strong connections with people just by sharing facts.
You’re never going to be better at sharing facts than Google.
The only way to make a strong connection in today’s world is to share YOUR story.
Here are 3 ways to become a master storyteller and start creating strong connections…
1. Be the flawed hero of the stories you tell.
No one wants to hear about how much of a rock star you are.
No one cares.
They want the authentic dirt.
They want to hear about the real challenges you’ve been through and how you’ve overcome them.
Everyone has experienced negative circumstances, negative people, and negative emotions.
But how did YOU deal with these things?
This is the story you need to tell.
This is the story that will connect you to other people.
Most of the negative things that you believe about yourself, or that you believe are holding you back, are not true.
You, just like everyone else, replay your losses over and over in your head, reinforcing them into a belief that you’re not good enough.
You believe you’re unworthy, or that you don’t deserve success.
You’ve become indulgent in your excuses, tossing them around like valid reasons for why you aren’t living the life you want.
This is normal.
What’s abnormal is being willing to talk about it.
What’s unusual is being willing to open up about your doubts and flaws and use them as teaching points to help others.
The reason sharing your story with others can be transformational is because it allows you to rewrite those old stories and patterns of belief in yourself.
It also helps other people rewrite their old stories and patterns of belief too.
Storytelling helps both you and your listeners regain control.
It also helps stimulate your imagination and other people’s imaginations for what’s possible in the future.
By stepping into the role of a flawed hero, you help yourself and others get passed their flaws.
You help yourself and others reframe negative experiences and limiting beliefs.
Don’t know where to start?
Start by asking yourself these reframing questions…
- What if you weren’t lazy and unmotivated? What if you just needed to find something you’re passionate about?
- What if you weren’t a failure that didn’t deserve happiness? How would you behave, how would you stand, if you were the person that you always wanted to be?
- Where have you been successful in your life in the past? When have you been proud of yourself? When have you had glimmers of excitement and purpose in your life that made you feel good about yourself?
- We all have those experiences — we just have to intentionally direct our attention to those places and then build on those.
- How can you be the hero of your own life? What would that look like if you were to write it like a movie script?
- How could you achieve victory if you were writing a story that could change how you feel, what you do, and where you’re going?
Use the above prompts to start creating authentic stories that support what you want and where you want to go in your life.
Then, start sharing these stories with other people.
2. Share your story with others as a teaching point.
The key to becoming a master storyteller is grabbing other people’s attention.
This isn’t done with data and facts.
Data is important, but it doesn’t tell people why they should care.
It doesn’t motivate or change behavior.
Your facts will only communicate what is or what has been — people are moved by hope and the possibility of what could be.
You need more than data to capture and maintain other people’s interest.
You need a personal story.
Start every conversation, presentation, or pitch with an engaging story that creates personal resonance.
I don’t mean pouring out overly private details of your life.
I mean using discretion to tell personal stories that will motivate people to change.
Sharing personal stories is not about you — it’s about the people you want to help.
This means no gossip, no blaming others, and no ‘look at me’ crybaby rants.
It also means no approval-seeking.
Instead, the goal of each story you tell is to provide value to the listener.
Remember, people hate pompous know-it-alls that seem to have an easy life with no journey to get there.
They want a tale — one that includes some personal struggle, some interesting details, appropriate humor or irony, and a win.
Grabbing their interest by creating tension and taking them through a story of personal experience will have them engaged and paying attention.
They’ll feel connected to you — like they know you.
Over time, this will build into trust… and loyalty.
Tell your audience, whoever they are, why they should care about what you’re saying and then tell them how what you’re saying will help them solve their own problems.
3. End your story with an actionable takeaway.
Master storytellers don’t just blab about things that happened to them.
Instead, they tell stories that have a point.
They tell stories with actionable takeaways.
You had a challenging time and came out the other end okay — big deal.
What’s the point?
How is this going to help the person listening to you?
Look — everyone has a bottom line.
Everyone is thinking, “So what? What’s in it for me?”
Even if no one wants to admit it.
So address it.
What problem are you solving for the person listening to your story?
What value are you adding to their lives right now — THIS SECOND?
If you’re not adding value, or solving a problem, or helping relieve pain, or providing enjoyment immediately, you will absolutely be seen as a waste of time.
You’ll be seen as nothing more than a gossip.
Start using your time in front of others for positive results.
Start sharing meaningful stories of triumph that have solution-focused takeaways.
Do your work and be a legitimate expert that can solve pain points in people’s lives for the area that you focus on.
Be consistent in your messaging while giving people both immediate relief from their minor problems and long-term relief from their major problems.
No matter who you are or what you do for a living, there are a lot of other people who work in your field, but there’s only one YOU.
There’s only one person who’s ever gone through YOUR life story, so start telling your story in a way that captures people’s attentions and improves their lives for the better.
This will attract the right kind of people into your personal and professional life while turning you into a thought leader that other people trust and respect.
Storytelling makes you interesting and relatable. It captivates people’s wandering attention and creates whole-brain engagement, building a sense of connection and trust. It makes you and your business memorable. Being the hero of your own story has powerful personal transformation potential and then translates into a shareable experience that builds community and a network of like-minded people. Be discerning and selective, but transparent and solution-focused. Be the expert of your life, and provide value and results to those around you. In a busy world full of a lot of useless chatter, use storytelling as a way to set yourself apart.
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