We all know a person who tells stories really well. Their anecdotes aren't necessarily even that good, but somehow they command the attention of everyone in the room. People want to listen to them, and laugh, and cry, and hear more.
These storytellers have tapped into the key to happiness, according to new research in the Journal of Personal Relationships. Storytelling, the study says, is one of the most appealing aspects of someone’s character. The results show women rate men who are good storytellers as more attractive as potential long-term partners.
But the power of a good story goes far beyond success in romantic relationships. Jennifer Aaker, Professor of Marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, says, “Stories are up to 22 times more memorable than facts alone." So if you want to make your audience remember you, take them on a journey. Aaker explains there are three main reasons for this:
1. They shape how others see you.
2. They’re tools of power. They make people slow down, and listen.
3. They persuade, and they move people to action.
Think about advertising—are you going to be moved to donate to a charity by a bunch of facts and figures? Or by a story anecdote about a child who can't afford to eat? Stories give us a reason to care about the facts. It's all about an emotional entry point.
So how do you get better at telling stories?
Aaker says we all need a signature story, the type that changes the way people perceive you after you’ve told it. The first step to being a good storyteller is to look at your life as one long narrative. When someone asks you, “What’s your story?” when you first meet, it’s more than just a cliche: they’re asking for a reflection of your personality.
“Life stories do not simply reflect personality. They are personality,” writes Dan McAdams in the APA Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology. They are crucial to the way we communicate, and so they play a key part in building our relationships.
In this , Carma Agra Deedy highlights three essential lessons for good storytelling.
1. Be concise. No one cares about your story as much as you do, so remember the basics, and keep it simple. It forces you to pull out the best bits, so you’ll hold people’s attention.
2. Don’t show off, show your humanity. Of course it isn’t interesting to hear about your greatest achievements. We want to hear stories of strife, and embarrassment, frank confessions that show you’re a human being. It might mean showing yourself in a less than flattering light, but it's worth it.
3. Find the turning point, and highlight it. You need to have a character facing some sort of pressure, facing it, and changing as a result.
Telling a story gives your listeners a window into your personality and a look at your life from a distance. It shows who you are and what you’ve been through, and most importantly, gives them a way to connect with you.