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#134 – 5 Reasons Stories Move You
Five reasons (guesses) why we as humans respond to stories
This is Adventures in Storytelling your weekly note with resources, insights, and actionable tools for better communication through storytelling. Enjoy. And read to the end, I have a special invite for you.
Why stories? Why are our brains wired to receive them and respond to them more than facts? Why have we shared our histories, and lessons, and ideas through stories over almost the entire course of human history? TED Talks have become the phenomenon they have because of the power of stories. Entire industries have been built around the idea of creating and sharing stories. Yes, capitalism, but also the recognition that we as human want them and maybe even need them.
More and more people are recognizing and starting to leverage storytelling in their communications and in their lives. A few days ago I was meeting a potential client for the first time and caught myself sharing a list of my accomplishments, clients, and expertise—I stopped partway through told them my story of burnout and how it led to the way I built my business and the work I do with Re-Work instead. It gave them a sense of me as a person and familiarized them with my business.
So, why stories? Why are they the thing for us as human beings?
Short answer, I don’t know. But I still think it’s a question worth asking and exploring. Here are five guesses that will hopefully also motivate you to start to share more stories in your life and work instead of facts and lists.
They connect us in a way that defies definition and categorization. By stirring emotions like wonder, and love, and even faith. Sort of like magic. We can’t quite explain it, but when a couple tells us the story of how they met, in the telling and the details we understand them and their dynamic a little more. We maybe even start to feel a part of that story in the sharing. It moves and motivates us.
They open us up to the novel and potential of life. There’s something exciting and stimulating about a good story. They help us see beyond our own lives and own experiences. They widen our lens and our understanding of the world. They help evolve how we define ourselves, the world, and our place in it.
We’re just born this way. There’s some region of our brain, yet to be fully understood (like much of the brain) that was wired specifically for story. As part of our evolution and tied to survival.
To answer the important questions of human life and existence. According to professor Angus Fletcher, an authority on narrative, stories when they were first invented could answer big questions, ‘where did our universe come from?’ or ‘where will we go when we die?’ they help provide a map to life. They help answer the question of why. “To be human is to wonder Why? A in, Why are we ehre? What’s the purpose of our hours? Does this life mean anything?” explained Fletcher in his book, Wonderworks. They solve the problem of having a brain which asks big questions that it cannot answer.
Because they soothe of uncertainty and create purpose. Stories help us answer why in large and small ways. We can turn to them when things are difficult; to escape or to find answers. They are a safe haven in a world that can sometimes feel unsafe. When things get particularly challenging for me in life or work, I tend to turn to fantasy novels. To spend time in a world with clear boundaries and rules even if they aren’t real. To be soothed by the lives and struggles and triumphs of others. I do the same with television and movies. I allow myself to be caught up in the drama of The Avengers for a little while and give my brain time to process or integrate the hard stuff. Then sometimes, after I’m able to move forward with renewed energy and purpose.
I think what I’m saying is, it’s elemental and evolutionary but not fully defined why stories are so important and motivating to human beings. It’s worth continuing to explore in each of our lives by diving into stories and asking what they bring to our lives and understanding and perhaps why they do that.
What would you add to this list? How might these five help you better leverage stories in your own life? Let me know in the comments or reply to the email.
A Story Well Told
It took years, but TikTok has finally captured my imagination (and a small bit of my time each day). It started with this series: https://twitter.com/Maladroithe/status/1653171968336707597?s=20
Watch them. They will fill your heart with wonder and appreciation AND make you laugh (or cry). TikTok is a storytelling medium I find fascinating, and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get into it. Exploring stories is part of my job, so scrolling TikTok is working, right?
Don’t Miss Out
I have a new storytelling webinar coming up on Thursday June 8. I’d love for you to join. You’ll learn live from me how to leverage storytelling to communicate with impact in your career and/or business. Learn more here.
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