The Power of Storytelling
Take a moment to think about your favorite story. It could be a movie, TV show, book, a play, or perhaps a personal experience.
Think about what makes it your favorite. Is it the humor, the adventure, maybe the characters? Undoubtedly, part of the reason you love that story is because it makes you feel a certain way on a very deep level.
Hold onto that thought.
When you share this story with others, you likely attempt to impart that same feeling to the listener, because you want them to share in that experience too. The story made an impact on you, and you want to spread that impact to other people.
Of course, some of us are better storytellers than others (hard to beat Morgan Freeman’s narration voice!) But thankfully, anyone can learn how to be a better storyteller.
Even so, I have good news for you.
Science has shown us that you can, in fact, create a quasi-shared experience for others when you tell a story.
Uri Hasson, Professor of Psychology of the Princeton Neuroscience Institute and Co-Director for the Program in Neuroscience (how’s that for a work title?) gave a fascinating TedTalk called This is your Brain on Communication, which gives an overview of the ways that storytelling aligns the brain waves of the teller and the listener.
We can literally get on the same wavelength with other people. And storytelling is the key to doing so.
It’s no wonder then, that storytelling has been used throughout the ages to keep historical accounts, to spread ideas, and to influence the masses.
Think back to your favorite story again, and consider: How did it change you?
Did you consider new perspectives? Gain confidence in yourself? Were you inspired to take action? Did you start to think differently or examine your personal values?
Chances are high that you were not the same after experiencing the story you have in mind.
Now imagine if you used the power of storytelling to promote and grow your business. You could experience an increase in brand recognition; stronger collaboration and greater trust amongst your employees; improvements in customer loyalty… this list goes on.
How can business owners harness the power of storytelling to realize those benefits?
Here are 3 key tactics that every business owner can implement, and - bonus! - they won’t cost you a dime.
1. Share YOUR story.
Step one really is that simple. Think about how you got to your current stage in life, and share that with others. You already promote your business at networking events, online forums, etc. Now add in a personal element, your story, to create deeper connections with prospects, current clients and employees. As Uri Hasson proved through his neuroscientific work, you will leave a lasting impression by incorporating storytelling.
2. Invite your employees/colleagues to share their stories.
As the workplace becomes more intermixed with personal life, employees expect their bosses and coworkers to care about them (at least to some degree) on a personal level. For owners in particular, you are the embodiment of your company and so the degree of trust that you build with your employees directly correlates to the level of dedication, loyalty and commitment that your employees have for your business. You set the tone. Numerous studies have found a clear link between an employee’s engagement and their feelings of inclusion/belonging in the workplace. So if you want a highly engaged workforce - and what business owner doesn’t? - one of the best things you can do is to cultivate an environment in which all employees feel comfortable bringing their full selves to work.
3. Seek out information about those who have stories that differ greatly from your own.
As a transplant to the San Francisco Bay Area, I was immediately struck by the high degree of diversity that saturates the area. Every day I have the great privilege of interacting with someone whose culture, language, experiences - their life - is very different than my own. I LOVE it! Beyond the friendships made, thinking purely from a business perspective, this deep understanding of other cultures is priceless. If you are serious about growing your business, you must understand not only your core clientele, but also your potential, untapped clientele. And what better way than to get out there and get to know them directly?
The more you develop your ability to share your story in a compelling way, and the more you work to draw out the personal stories of others, the greater your results will be. Of course it takes practice, but eventually you will find that you can use your storytelling skills to inspire action.
Because, as science has now proven, people cannot help but connect to stories. And, my fellow business owner, doesn’t that sound like a superpower worth working for?
Ashley Harris, Co-Founder of UnifiedStories, Chapter 140
Ashley earned her MBA in Project Management and began her career in the financial services industry, with the majority of the time spent in leadership roles before co-founding UnifiedStories. She has extensive experience in Diversity & Inclusion, serving on Ethnic Diversity Steering Committees, leading Women’s Roundtable Diversity Dialogues, and producing inclusion-focused video series. Last year her husband got a job offer in the Bay area so together with their 2 daughters and 2 dogs, they relocated from Colorado. She recently began an independent study of psychology as it relates to Diversity & Inclusion and aspires to one day earn her PhD.