The Seductive Power of Story Telling

“Story story?”…… ‘Story come’

“Once upon time Lion and Hare lived in a certain jungle. They were great enemies and they always looked for a way to trap each other. Of course ‘sungura mjanja’ always won. Lion devised a plan and said to himself that this time round hare was not going to escape.
He timed hare when he left his cave and hid inside it so that when hare came back, he would kill him. Hare came back later and noticed that something was off with the door. So he called out to the cave and asked if someone was there. Lion with his stupidity thought that maybe the cave usually talks to hare in return so he answered back that there was no one.”
Of course we all know what hare did. And that is why we refer to hare as the cunning one.

Why all these stories when we were growing up? There is this irresistible power in story telling that good stories can be told for many generations.
Remember when we were in primary school back in the 90s and all the textbooks used for English and Kiswahili subjects were all full of stories. ‘Hekaya za Abunwasi, Mbogori cooks Lunch,Tom and Mary, Rukia and the Jinni’ and many others. We are able to remember which class a certain book belonged to because of a certain story.
It’s no surprise. We humans have been communicating through stories for upwards of 20,000 years, back when our flat screens were cave walls.

And for those of us who studied The Merchant of Venice as a set book in High school, we know how Shakespeare had mastered this structure, arranging his plays in five acts to include an exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and a dénouement—or final outcome. I still remember the love between Portia and Lorenzo.

Storytelling evokes a strong neurological response. According to a research by Neuroeconomist Paul Zak, our brains produce the stress hormone cortisol during the tense moments in a story, which allows us to focus, while the cute factor of the animals releases oxytocin, the feel-good chemical that promotes connection and empathy. Other neurological research tells us that a happy ending to a story triggers the limbic system, our brain’s reward center, to release dopamine which makes us feel more hopeful and optimistic.

Why do you think people donated money towards Zawadi Nyongo’s fund drive to support Jadudi? People donated money to a stranger. This is because after listening to Jadudi’s story, both oxytocin and cortisol hormones were in play, those who had the higher amounts of oxytocin gave out the money. Let’s just say, they were touched.

The most successful storytellers often focus listeners’ minds on a single important idea and they take no longer than a 30-second Super bowl spot to forge an emotional connection.

Storytelling may seem like an old-fashioned tool, today — and it is. That’s exactly what makes it so powerful. Life happens in the narratives we tell one another. A story can go where quantitative analysis is denied admission: our hearts. Data can persuade people, but it doesn’t inspire them to act; to do that, you need to wrap your vision in a story that fires the imagination and stirs the soul.

Good stories are challenging for many brands because it takes creativity, agility and resources. But if a brand can become a good storyteller, they can establish a sustainable competitive edge.



About the Author

Sharon Adisa
Sharon is a writer and editor who strives to continually further both the depth and breadth of her skills as a writer so as to contribute superior work and deliver client and customer satisfaction.

2 Comments on "The Seductive Power of Story Telling"

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