What Makes Storytelling So Engaging?

There is great power in stories.

Whether you’re using carefully constructed tales to sell, to inform or to achieve some other purpose, there’s no doubt in our minds that presenting information through storytelling is one of the most effective ways out there to ensure that your point is understood and retained.

But what is it that makes the storytelling process so engaging?

We’re conditioned to learn lessons from stories.

As we grow up, we often learn important lessons through stories. We’re taught not to lie based on the tale of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” and not to stray from our parents as the unfortunate “Hansel and Gretel” quickly learned.

Throughout our lives, the lessons told in these stories were reinforced through real world experiences and information, conditioning our brains to respond strongly to this particular format. As adults we often overlook the role stories play in our lives. The reality is that when stories are used, we’re more likely to listen. Past experiences have shown us that good things come to those who pay attention.

Our brains prefer that patterns be completed.

In addition to understanding these mental reinforcement patterns that occur, we need to look at the school of Gestalt psychology – which focuses on pattern recognition – to understand what makes the process of storytelling so compelling.

On a basic level, our brains love to identify patterns – but when we do so, we want to see them completed. In the case of storytelling, once a story begins, it is this part of our brains that encourage us to sit still until the ending is resolved, as leaving the pattern uncompleted produces a sense of cognitive dissonance.

“Transportation” makes our thought processes more flexible.

Besides these two psychological processes, social scientists recognize something called “transportation,” which occurs when we become involved with a storyline.

Essentially, when we’re “transported” into a story, we become more amiable to new thoughts and less likely to question details that don’t match up with our past experiences or real world knowledge. If a presenter says something we otherwise wouldn’t agree with, we’ll be more likely to let the discrepancy slide when listening to a story than we would be when presented with the same information conveyed in a different style.

For sales professionals and educators, “transportation” is critical.

Too often, initial resistance – whether seemingly justified or not – derails message delivery before it can even begin. In the case of sales pitches, being able to overcome the skepticism potential customers often bring to meetings is an absolute must when it comes to connecting with buyers and closing sales.

As a result of these factors, the power of storytelling makes prospects and listeners more willing to engage with and accept the message being delivered – ultimately increasing the effectiveness of the overall story and the person sharing it.

TruScribe visualizes words, ideas, and stories to change how people see, think, and act. If you have a project in mind or want to learn more, get in touch.