Anyone who has ever seen and heard me speak (or perhaps even merely conversed with me) knows that I use stories to illustrate my points. In a typical keynote, I’ll use about 10. The “story index” I maintain on my computer (so that I don’t repeat any for the same client or group) is now at 126.
Stories help people to identify with you and with your point. They enable the listener to think, “I’ve been there and done that, I know exactly what he means.” They may add humor, or pathos, or texture—but primarily they add understanding. They are the short cut to comprehension, avoiding dreary narrative and explication.
However, they also create something more subtle and surprising, in that they slightly “rewire” the listener’s brain.
At Princeton, neuroscientist Uri Hasson posits that the patterns in one brain are often matched by another. Think speaker and listener. After the speaker tells a particularly engrossing and relevant story, the brain patterns in the listener tend to match those of the speaker. His research validates his point.
I’m not quite talking about Spock and Vulcan mind melds, but I am suggesting that effective stories create an empathy and even synergy between listener and speaker. We’ve all seen fascinating works about influence and persuasion, and the techniques and tactics to create them. Perhaps, however, the real secret of influence is a carefully crafted story.
That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
© Alan Weiss 2014Print This Post