The Power of a Story

by Terri M. Gilbert

Gilbert_Terri_MG_2945 (1)On a daily basis, every person is impacted by a story that has been told or heard. Since the advent of social media, there is now a platform for everyone to tell what’s going on in their life, with their family, their work, etc. As we go through our lives, stories become the way we connect with each other and share in the highs, lows and in-betweens. Whether it is in the classroom, living room or the boardroom, the power of a story is what connects us to each other in a rich, meaningful way. Often, however, we are so busy that we don’t take the time to share a story.
A few weeks ago, I was running errands and needed to make a trip to the bank. Until this time, I had not noticed that the bank was charging for each deposit transaction. With bank statement in hand, I walked up to the counter and explained my problem to Linda, the bank teller. After hearing what was happening, Linda walked me to her desk and proceeded to search for my account on her computer. Being all about business, she dove into her computer to look up my account. I noticed that she had a beautiful engagement ring on, so I asked her if she was soon to be married.

I then began to tell her of my daughter’s wedding and how they had recently celebrated their first anniversary. I shared with her how my daughter said the week of her first anniversary that, “If the first year of marriage is the hardest, then we are in for a really good life.”

At that moment, Linda, who had been busy searching for the answer to my problem, stopped what she was doing, leaned over the desk and locked eyes with me to tell me that this was the best thing she’s heard in a long time. Instantly there was a connection made between us that went beyond what I came in requesting.  Meeting Linda and sharing a story with her created an instant connection between the two of us.  She finished locating and correcting my account so that future charges would cease. Without me even asking, after completing the paperwork on my account, she looked at me and said, “I am also going to delete the fee that was charged to you last month.”  The simple power of a story created a connection between us while gaining favor for me on my account.  Next time, I would already have a trusting relationship established when I enter the bank. This is just one example of why you should incorporate stories in your work, your meetings and throughout your day.

In the past, storytelling has been understood as a way to connect effectively by great minds such as  Aristotle, and later, even Dale Carnegie had a “knowing” that stories are powerful.  Even the Bible is written in mostly story form. But today, scientific research has proven that there is a powerful connection that happens when we hear or tell a story.

Through placing fMRIs on the speaker and the audience, Dr. Uri Hasson, a neuroscientist and associate professor of Psychology at Princeton, has helped us to understand what happens in the brain when we tell stories. During the story, the speaker, and the listeners’ brains meld or “align” with each other and light up in the same areas; mirroring each other. Interestingly, Dr. Hasson’s research further shows that when a person hears stories, the higher order sectors such as the frontal lobe begin to align as well; the brain gets turned on in more areas than it would if the listener hears only information or facts. The story could be about yourself, someone else or even a product’s success.

A story opens up a listener’s heart to help them hear what you have to say. Being a good communicator and a confident speaker is important whether you have an audience of 1 or 500. Stories lead to richer relationships both personally and professionally. Whether it’s favor in a meeting, increased sales in your business or presenting on a stage:

            Tell a story + connect with others = success!

About Terri: Teaching busy professionals, entrepreneurs, and people with a message how to be less anxious and more confident while speaking and communicating. LearnToSpeakWithConfidence.com.