How To Tell Powerful Stories: Part 1
Story: A narrative with a beginning, middle, and end.
Why tell stories?
Why would a children’s fiction author have more influence than a monarch who has spent her entire life leading a kingdom?
Because Rowling is a powerful storyteller.
I’m not crazy. Academic research has proven that, “Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic, rather they are set up to understand stories” (Robert Schank, Cognitive Psychologist).
Data + Story = Credibility
Most leaders focus their energy on presenting data (statistics & facts) in order to influence others. While its true that data allows a listener to respect your point of view, respect is very limited.
Stories allow people to connect to your ideas.
Neurologically, when our brains hear data it triggers a very small area of our brain called the Broca’s Area. This brain activity is what causes us to feel the emotion of respect.
Broca’s Area is a small area on the left side of the frontal lobe
But it’s not enough for someone to respect your ideas, they need to believe in it. When you can make someone believe in your ideas then you truly have influence and lead them.
When someone hears a story, the entire insular cortex (the portion of the brain that connects the temporal and frontal lobes) is activated. This allows someone to emotionally connect with the idea.
While data is helpful in gaining someone’s respect, stories make your followers trust and believe in your ideas.
Data + Stories will maximize your credibility as a leader (Stanford GSB).
Make your followers the hero.
The best storytellers design for empathy. Leaders too often make the mistake of telling stories of un-relatable protagonist, almost superhuman people that are one in a million: The Elon Musks, the Steve Jobs, the Mother Theresas, the Churchills.
In contrast, the most powerful stories depict an ordinary person (someone your followers can identify with) as the protagonist (hero/heroine). Someone who is exactly like them. Someone human like them.
What does this look like in real life? How does this help us tell powerful stories?
In 2008, Google Chrome (google’s web browser) officially released and struggled to gain influence amongst competitors such as Safari, Internet Explorer, and Mozilla Firefox. As big as Google was in the internet business, they only had 1% of the user market.
In 2015, anti-trust laws were thrown at Google because they almost monopolize the entire web browser market with approximately 37% of global users (that’s over 1 billion users).
What increased their influence? They made their user the hero in their story.
In 2011, Chrome had a major spike in their users after a significant Superbowl ad that showed how an ordinary person could use it to do extraordinary things. Watch below:
Google Chrome Superbowl Ad
Powerful storytelling is a game changer. As emerging leaders, I hope you do everything you can to learn this incredible craft and achieve the influence you need to lead your followers well.
Eddie Park is Teaching/Assistant Exec Pastor at EvFree Fullerton and host of NexGen Leadership Podcast.