Home > Learning, People > Stories help our talks work better.

Stories help our talks work better.

Why do we love stories so much?

Rich details, intriguing people and interesting outcomes, these are some of the reasons why we love stories. Plus, stories connect the new things we learn with the old things we already know. The next few headers cover the theory of story making and telling; if you want to run straight for the practical pointers, you will find story telling tips at the end of this post. And here’s the point of the post: stories help us relate much better to each other by connecting our experiences on the way to improving our understanding.

Stories meet the demands of our unique learning style

Stories help us process and learn things because they meet the demands of our unique learning styles: visual is most common; then auditory; and finally kinesthetic (or doing and feeling). Mostly we use all three to different degrees as we experience and learn things.

What makes stories help us learn so well?

Stories let us feel like we know what’s happening, why, and how it affects us directly even when we weren’t there when the events happened. When stories are told in present tense we can put ourselves in the story to see it, hear it, and feel it. That sense experience makes the things said in the story stick better for us. And a big part of learning is whether the stuff we hear sticks or not.

Are we hard-wired to tell stories?

You betcha. We are hard-wired story makers and tellers. In fact, our brains store information best as stories. We decide most of what we do based on stories. And another thing, we remember and call things up better when it’s in story form.

Do we tell ourselves stories?

Of course we do! We tell little stories to ourselves all day long. Will I get the sale? Is he ok with what I said? Will this plane get me home tonight? To answer these self-asked questions, we tell stories. As we do that, we connect stuff that we already know with stuff we make up. That’s right, there are always some gaps in what we know and to finish our stories, we fill those in by, well… making stuff up. We mup it, short for make stuff up.

Why do we tell ourselves stories?

We tell ourselves stories to make us feel better. Mostly. So the good news: the stories we tell ourselves usually help us feel ok about things because we are hard-wired to do just that! We naturally tell stories that tend to put us in the best light (researchers call this “memory bias,” which is a nice way of saying we consistently mup up things, it’s our way of filling in the gaps).

Are they always good stories, the ones we tell ourselves?

Of course not! Sometimes we tell ourselves not such good stories, about ourselves and our worlds. When you figure out you’re doing just that, stop it! Or at least, know you have found a great opportunity to change the story! After all, you are in charge of making up the stuff that fills in the gaps. Next time you catch yourself telling a not so good story, just give those “fill in the gap” facts a spin in your favor. Why not?

Do stories help us pass along things so they will stick with others?

You betcha. When we bundle important facts and information into a story it’s much easier for those listening to connect the new information we offer with the kind of things they already know. Story telling puts the information we want to share on the fast track to mutual understanding. Story telling is one of the best tools we have for sharing what we know in a way that compels the other person to pay attention, listen, and recall what we said.

What do stories do?

Stories let others feel out who we are and what goals we have in mind. They make things personal for us and for those with whom we share them. They also help folks remember things better because they frame the facts and events in a narrative structure. Story telling is our main way of sharing information. For example, gossip helps us build trust for others, or reevaluate it as needed. Stories are a critical decision making tool for us and we rely on them to help us decide things. And as mentioned, stories improve the listeners’ learning abilities because they experience the story in ways that help them learn, whether they prefer visual cues, auditory ones, or want to feel out things, as if they are directly participating in the story.

Any suggestions on best practices for making and telling stories?

Sure. To build your next story, consider the following steps: (1) identify all the key players; (2) list the critical facts; (3) clarify the conflict, climax, and desired resolution; (4) decide where the story begins and ends; (5) create the hook, headline and burning questions; (6) fill in details of the scene, mood, and plot; (7) and practice telling the story in present tense, scene by scene, so that as the action unfolds the listeners can understand the unfolding moral or point of the story.

To tell your story, use this tried and true formula: (1) set scene and time with mood and emotion; (2) introduce folks; (3) tell what happened as the story unfolds, with sense expressions in present tense scene by scene, and sprinkle in reflection that helps connect the action with the bigger point or moral of the story.

Do you have some tips on how to tell stories?

Sure. Here’s a list of tips to consider when next you tell a story:

Tip: set the scene, mood and feeling to form quick emotional connections

Tip: vary the tone, pitch and speed of your voice

Tip: stress the important words and downplay the stuff in between them

Tip: emphasize the first and last things, slow down when you share them

Tip: plan out the first and last things carefully because they are most important

Tip: break commonly perceived patterns to increase attention

Tip: use present tense to help the listener feel involved

Tip:  describe how the people in the story emotionally relate to the facts

Tip: offer the story in bits or chunks of digestible information

Tip: use lots of pauses

Tip: allow time to process what is being said

Tip: loop key points several times during the telling in slightly different ways

Tip: offer no more than three things at once if you can help it

Tip: if more than seven things are told at once all of them might get ignored

Tip: appeal to all learning styles with visual and verbal cues and action verbs

Tip: describe what someone in the story sees

Tip: explain what someone in the story hears

Tip: let the listener experience the touch, taste, and feel of what is happening

Tip: repeat key sentences verbatim

Tip: use rhetorical questions

Tip: ask a question and wait for the listener to offer his or her answer

Tip: plan out the plot, actors, scene and circumstances

Tip: offer things that are unusual, strange, or curious as hooks to get attention

Tip: use metaphors

Tip: use analogies

Tip: focus on people

Tip: use active verbs

Tip: use small words and simple, everyday language

Tip: use popular songs, poems, proverbs, and wise sayings

Tip: encourage emotion

Tip: foreshadow the moral of the story

Tip: ask questions during the story about how it’s unfolding and what comes next

Tip: use questions to build enthusiasm, mystery, and energy

Tip: let the listener figure things out, understand and learn on their schedule

Tip: use non-verbal cues to keep the listener engaged

Please comment back with any story telling tips of your own. Cheers!

Categories: Learning, People Tags:
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.