Story: The Drug We're All Addicted To
To say storytelling is like a drug, isn't too far-fetched. Storytelling produces chemicals in the brain, just like a pill. Knowing how to tailor your stories to produce specific chemical responses will help ensure you have an enthusiastic and active audience.
As much as we all like to believe we are carefully calculating individuals who base our choices on sound logic, stats, and reason - this simply isn't the case.
People act on emotion. And psychologically, emotion is a chemical reaction.
If you want to prompt your audience into action, you need to tell stories that produce the following chemicals...
Dopamine is everyone's favorite party guest. When Dopamine is released, our brain's learning systems are activated and often, arousal or pleasure is experienced. I'm sure your familiar with the term Dope. The nickname comes from Dopamine. Dopamine causes your audience to really feel something... which will help with:
To produce Dopamine you need to tell a story that peaks interest with a hook or twist. Do this with an interesting question, suspenseful statement, cliffhanger, or plot twist - especially during the beginning of your story.
This chemical command the brains attention. Cortisol is the stress hormone. It is almost like a warning saying,
"Listen up, there is something to be learned here."
This chemical can be beneficial when used in small doses but, fair warning, you want to produce it only in small amounts. Too much Cortisol can cause your audience to feel uncomfortable and put up their defenses. Stories with danger or intensity will make your audience feel this.
Oxytocin is the same chemical that floods a mother's body after the birth of her baby. It's powerful stuff. Imagine what stronger bonds would do for you personally and professionally. Oxytocin is the key to evoking empathy in your audience. Empathy will help your audience trust you more and become more generous. To produce this chemical, you will tell stories that tug at the heart strings and make your audience feel more human. Being vulnerable and honest in your stories will be a major factor in triggering Oxytocin.
You've probably heard that exercise produces endorphins, the feel good stuff. Endorphins make you laugh. They make you feel happy.
"Exercise gives you endorphins; endorphins make you happy, happy people just don't shoot their husbands!" Any Legally Blonde fans in the house? See. Storytelling can literally save lives. All joking aside, telling funny stories and silly anecdotes can help put your audience at ease and make them more receptive to what you are saying.
Putting it all together!
Create a cocktail of these chemicals by adding interest, excitement, comfort, arousal, and bonding to your stories - and you, my friend, have a captive audience ready for action.
Dr. Uri Hasson has studied the impact of story for relationship and impact. He is quoted saying, "By simply telling a story, (a person) could plant ideas, thoughts, and emotions into the listener's brains. A story is the only way to activate parts in the brain so that a listener turns the story into their own idea and experience."
Fascinatingly enough, just thinking about an action or experience in this way activate the neurons associated with the act. Not only that, but research tells us that this activation in the brain can stay with us for several days. That is how stories stick.
Aside from a story "sticking" with your audience, telling your story can help you remember and understand the events of your life better, as well. Brain science tells us that when someone is sharing their story, six or more neural pathways are activated. This increases brain activity and our memory retention by seven times.
See, from a brain standpoint, story activates the tellers and the listeners brain in a special way that creates attachment and loyalty. It's a win-win approach to communication.
If you are looking to create better communication and connection in your personal and professional life, it's science. Story is your answer.