If you are an entrepreneur, a designer, you have to start telling stories. Why ? Because a well-told story about business & Users can build your brand, get even more customers, up business credibility, increase your customer confidence and can even get you investors, venture capitalists, and great associates who can grow your business.”Our brains value stories over anything else,” states John Bates who coaches CEO’s and executives at big name companies like Motorola and Johnson & Johnson, training 100’s of TEDx speakers and “is considered one of the best communication trainers working today.”
Storytelling evokes a strong neuro-response. Neuroeconomist Paul Zak‘s research indicates that our brains produce the stress hormone cortisol during the tense moments in a story, which allows us to focus. Characters in the story creates Oxytocin, a hormone that makes us all empathetic, generous and feel for others. While Happy ending to a story triggers the limbic system, our brain’s reward center, to release dopamine which makes us feel more hopeful and optimistic. Also read why dramatic arc is such a great way to elicit the above neurological response.
Stories trigger Mirror neurons, those brain cells that fire both when you do something, and also when you watch someone else do it. In his famous Stanford speech, Steve Jobs said “I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford…I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out…It wasn’t all romantic”. Steve jobs continued “I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned Coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with” and explained how he ended up taking classes in calligraphy which helped him create beautiful typography for Macintosh computers. Through his narration Steve Jobs takes you on a journey that resonates with every individual who goes through hardships and failures in life. Suddenly every person in the audience identifies themselves as the hero of the journey in which the hero goes through the failures, endures, finds a way out and comes out successful in the end.This applies to emotions too; mirror neurons fire when we see or hear expressed emotion, which is partly what allows us to recognize and empathize with how the person feels.
In his speech, Steve Jobs also relived how had a biopsy and came to know that his cancer was curable. He narrated “..they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that was curable with surgery. By describing the scene visually, he engaged the audience through the all possible senses. Studies have also proven that Listening to a story activates the same brain areas that are involved in imagining scenarios* and imagining a visual scene activates the same areas of the brain as when we actually see the scene. Also “Just verbally describing an intense situation is enough to activate areas of the brain that deal with emotional responses”*. So when you write your business story, try to make it detailed enough to emotionally charge the audience.
With stories eliciting such powerful neuro-biological response, next time you try to come up with a story, make sure that there is a dramatic arc to the story that builds the tension to get attention, one of the scarce resource brain has to offer these days, build through characters and their emotions that your audience can easily identify and experience and finish the story by satisfying the age old urge of human mind – a happy ending. Stories from your business, weaved with the above understanding about human brain, cognition and social connections will help you get more engagements, connects and eventually more leads and potential clients.
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Sivaprasad is an experienced User Experience Consultant, mentor, thinker, blogger and works with his growing number of global clients to solve their business and user experience challenges. He also connects and manages best-in-class freelance technology specialists with businesses to address their challenges. If your business faces any challenge related to product/service experience, design, technology, he can be reached on [email protected], or on +91-9895841280
*Listening to a story activates the same brain areas that are involved in imagining scenarios (Abdul Sabar, N. Y., Xu, Y., Liu, S., Chow, H., Baxter, M., Carson, J., & Braun, A. R. (2014). Neural correlates and network connectivity underlying narrative production and comprehension: A combined fMRI and PET study. Cortex, 57, 107-127.)
**Imagining a visual scene activates the same areas of the brain as when we actually see the scene (Kosslyn, S. M., Alpert, N. M., Thompson, W. L., Maljkovic, V., Weise, S., Chabris, C., Hamilton, S. E., Rauch, S. L., & Buonanno, F. S. (1993). Visual mental imagery activates topographically organized visual cortex: PET investigations. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 5, 263-287.)
***Amygdala and heart rate variability responses from listening to emotionally intense parts of a story. Wallentin, M., Nielsen, A. H., Vuust, P., Dohn, A., Roepstorff, A., & Lund, T. E. (2011).