The power of a story to communicate ideas or persuade a person to take action is through connection to heart and mind that drives the listener’s attention, which, according to studies into the way the human beings receive and processes information, is a scarce resource in the brain. “Scientists liken attention to a spotlight. We are only able to shine it on a narrow area,’ writes neuroscientist Paul Zak in “How Stories Change The Brain.” “If that area seems less interesting than some other area, our attention wanders.”
This is a significant creative challenge in today’s world, when most of us are walking around with our own personal computer and communication device that is continuously streaming information and distractions. To get our own message out to people in this environment it must be memorable and meaningful. Ideally, we need to attract and sustain attention by making it into art.
We will always stand out from our competitors by telling our own story well and with authenticity. Well-crafted stories can frame and explain important concepts as well as engage listeners in ways that add color, imagination and emotional significance to important information and in this way make the content memorable and meaningful. “The story is actually just a delivery system for the teller’s agenda,” writes Jonathan Gotschall in Harvard Business Review’s “Why Storytelling Is The Ultimate Weapon.” “A story is a trick for sneaking a message into the fortified citadel of the human mind. Research shows that our attitudes, values, hopes and fears are strongly influenced by story…The more absorbed readers are in a story, the more the story changes them.”
The craft of storytelling is key to engaging listeners’ rapt attention. “When people are presented with facts and figures, smaller areas of the brain are activated which indicates that information is being processed. However, when those same facts and figures are packaged in a story, the entire brain becomes engaged,” according to Inc magazine in “What Science Can Teach Us About Capturing An Audience’s Attention.”
“When you tell your audience a story, the brain lights up like a freaking pinball machine,” says communication expert Leslie Ehm, who uses the principles of neuroscience in her leadership and presentation training with executives. “Motor cortex, sensory cortex, frontal cortex — the whole thing just goes nuts.”
The elements of story that maximize its impact:
- Sensory details;
- Emotional details and energy;
- Story structure;
- Narrative sections mixed with in-the-moment scenes
To deliver a story that has impact, we must believe that our stories matter.Through working on a story for the purpose of sharing it with our clients or community we may discover gifts and meaning of which we were not even aware. And it is the creative process of crafting it that elevates life into art.
This guest post is courtesy of Jude Treder-Wolff.