Stories help us feel connected, understood, inspired, moved, and most alive.
Stories are the easiest, humblest and most powerful way to speak from one heart to another, from soul to soul and say: You are understood, you are not alone, you have experienced pain and so have I, let’s heal and learn and grow together even if we never meet.
As long as there have been cave drawings and language, campfires and wisdom, humans have gathered together to tell stories. To share their ideas, to pass on knowledge, and to inspire change.
Deep inside of ourselves we all value learning through stories most of all. “Telling a story … is very humanising, it’s very connecting. We are literally wired to appreciate stories,” said Chris Anderson, TED President, in issue 35 of the Collective Hub.
Recently I read some fascinating neuroscience research that explains what happens to our brains when we read a story. While simple bullet points (Ten reasons to exercise outside) will activate the language centre of the brain, a narrative (How walking in nature helped me find myself) will activate many other regions, which is why hearing a story feels so real to us.
The more alive our brain is while we’re reading, the more aware, interested and involved we are. The more we feel. The more we remember.
If a story includes a description of a fragrance or smell, the area of the reader’s brain that processes smells will become activated.
And if you’re able to use metaphors in interesting and unexpected ways – especially with the use of textural words, such as “he had leathery hands” – the sensory cortex becomes active. Read more about this research here.
Engaging others in stories is a powerful way to get your message across, even (and especially) if you aren’t an expert in your field.
Through stories, you’re able to inspire others because their brain is literally lit up while reading about your experience. They’re experiencing it with you in so many ways.
The reader is left moved, motivated, encouraged, understood because they’re now able to turn your story into their own experience. They’re able to understand their own life by reading about yours. It’s so powerful.
And importantly, you didn’t tell them what they should do with their lives, you told them what you did with yours.
How to tell a great story:
+ Know what you want to say and keep it simple… not too long (unless it’s a book!) and not too complicated.
+ Be honest and from the heart. Let your true emotions spill out onto the page and your reader will feel them too.
+ Use unexpected words and ideas. Keep it fresh. If your metaphors have all been heard before, you won’t engage your readers as much as if they were surprising and new (and easy to understand).
+ Excite your reader… tell a story that’s fun or interesting, and deals with drama, humour or conflict.
+ Centre the story around you or one main character, so the reader is able to relate and follow the story clearly.
+ Finish with a simple and powerful truth, idea or message.
Stories have power. They delight, enchant, touch, teach, recall, inspire, motivate, challenge. They help us understand. They imprint a picture on our minds. Want to make a point or raise an issue? Tell a story.
~ Janet Litherland
Your story matters; it’s a gift. Tell it. Release it to the world. Not for their opinions, but for your own healing and the possibility that you might just help someone else along your journey.