The Positive Impact of Story Telling in the Workplace

As a child, I always loved stories.  One of my favourite TV shows was Jackanory where a celebrity would sit in a chair and read out a story to us, avid listeners.  I was also enraptured by listening to weekly tales of Finn McCool and the Fianna being read by a teacher while I was in Junior School.  My weekly trips to the library were one of the highlights of my week and in fact, still are, as I’m still an avid reader.

So why are stories so effective?  Well they ‘stick’ with people and are easy to remember.  They take people on an emotional journey with the Story Teller as the listener can relate to the trials and challenges of the character in the story.  When a good story teller uses emotion in their stories and invokes emotion from their audience, the audience becomes involved in that emotion as if they were going through the challenges and trials themselves. Why is this?  Well our brains don’t make the distinction between what is real and what we read and hear, the same neurological regions are stimulated.  People buy into emotion over logic. I heard this saying a number of years ago and it stuck with me ‘logic makes you think, emotion makes you act’.  You can enhance this emotional buy in by using words that ‘light-up’ the brain.  Emotive words that relate to the senses; movement, smell, touch, taste and sound.  Words such as grasped, pungent, acidic and murmured are examples of words that light up our brains and help invoke the emotions of your audience.

To prove the above point, Neurosceintist, Anne Krendl, conducted a study to show that the stories we hear actually feel real to us.  To test her theory, she scanned the brains of an audience watching a Clint Eastwood Western.  Whenever Eastwood seemed very angry or sad, the viewers’ brains responded as if, too, they were angry or sad.

Story Telling is not just for fairy stories.  Stories are used in business too.  Organisations such as Microsoft, Fedex & Nike have a Story Teller in situ.  Steve Clayton of Microsoft’s title is Chief Story Teller.  He joined Microsoft in a Technical role and for 8 years, he told stories as a hobby.  His job for the past 7 years is finding stories to tell in the organisation. A good Story Teller can relay key messages to staff without being overbearing, long and tedious to listen to.

A simple structure I use to create stories in my Story Telling events and workshops is CAR – that is:

C = Context(The background – an overview of the problem /situation)

A = Action (The action you took to rectify a situation or fix a problem)

R = Result(The result of the action)

So for example, in a work situation, you could record the outcome to a challenge or difficulty you or the organisation have overcome – R.  You can then define the backstory – the challenge / difficulty /problem – C and then define the actions – A you took to rectify the problem / issue and then, you have your story!  This is a good way to work out your story but you need to relay your story in the CAR sequence so you build up to the actions and result and keep your audience hanging on your every word.

You can Tell your Story in a meeting, in a networking situation, in a Town Hall, I relay stories when training – the opportunities to use Story Telling are endless.

One last piece of advice is to use passion when telling your story as it will ensure higher retention and recall on the listener’s part.  Using passion in your verbal and non-verbal communication engages the listener and makes you more interesting to listen to.

So good ahead and give Story Telling a go, you’ll be surprised at how effective it is and how much you’ll enjoy relaying your story.